"There are many difficulties, but it is a thousand times worth while," is the remark often heard as search is made again and again in the time table for a spare quarter of an hour when all are free to hold a meeting. It is worth while, and College life is worth while now that it is possible to meet together for the much valued prayer meetings, and times of conference over the Bible.
The Union began, without doubt, at God's distinct direction; for, in May, 1932, a second year woman student became very troubled by the lack of interest and consideration shown in the things of God among the students. At that time she received a set of [UCCF] booklets and a letter from three different people one of them was entirely unknown to her, and all three wrote independently of one another.
She could not but obey this three-fold call to witness. During the last week of that term, after thoroughly investigating the Word of God, she approached a few women students as to the possibilities of forming a Union, but only two responded and one of these did not return the next session.
During the vacation, however, another girl, who was to come up as a fresher the next term, agreed to help form the Union, and it was decided to send out individual letters to freshers telling them of the new movement. As a result of this a keen witnessing Christian joined them.
They seemed to be going out 'not knowing where they went' yet the positive statement that 'greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world' kept them following the call. As the second meeting (the first being a short one for prayer), they drew up a constitution and appointed officers; then, after a fortnight, which seemed like six months, Miss J.B. Strain came down to tell them about the [UCCF] and how to set about the great work so graciously entrusted to them.
In addition to the initial four, they persuaded another friend to come to Miss Strain's Coffee Squash, and she afterwards attended all the meetings, and finally joined with them as a keen, living witness for Christ. For the rest of the term they carried on with a weekly Prayer Meeting and study circle.
Having been almost solely occupied during the previous two terms with self-preparation, they began the summer term with a new realisation of the need in the College and of their own responsibility with regard to it.
This was almost entirely due to the new vision which was given to their leader at the annual [UCCF] conference at High Leigh, and which she shared with the Union on the first Sunday evening in College, when several hours were spent in prayerful preparation for the coming term. This meeting marked a definite step forward in individual lives and in the history of the Union.
Soon after this Prof. Rendle Short very kindly came to give the Union's first lecture, for which invitation card were pushed into every building and department of College. A good number came, and the interest was considerable. Though the membership was not increased, interest remained and several contacts were made privately, when Mr Mercer's booklets, the kind gift of Miss Mercer, were very useful.
The Epistle to the Romans was eagerly studied all that term. Members found out how they were to set out on this hitherto untrodden path of service - that of personal work; and God graciously gave his inexperienced workers a number of opportunities.
With the College porter doing his best for them, and the student council not wishing to be worried further, a notice board was put up at Whitsuntide, 1933, which at once gave the Union official standing. The first notice to appear was a signed testimony and declaration of beliefs and aims, which remained there til the end of the term.
During this term also members were helped and encouraged by our two corresponding Unions, Sheffield and Southampton.
At the end of this term, those who had not been at the [UCCF] conference made a wonderful discovery - they found out the meeting of Fellowship in Christ Jesus. Member from the Bristol CU came over in extremely difficult circumstances as regards roads and weather, and laid plans for running the fresher's squash. Besides gaining much from them in the matter of E.U. organisation, members began to realise in a new way to what an immense family they belonged, that they were one in Christ Jesus with numbers of other students with one object before them.
Thank God for leading His three servants to send those [UCCF] booklets to Exeter.
Report from Exeter CU in Christ and the Colleges (Donald Coggan, 1934) by their first President, Miss E. N. Ireland.