She knew of no one who sympathised with her in this, so during her second year she arranged a Scripture Union Meeting, to which five men and two women came. She was wondering whether to repeat this, when she saw in the press an announcement of the aims and work of the UCCF.
She now began to pray even more earnestly that God would open the way to form an evangelical union in her own University.
The same year a medical student, C.F. Stott, returned to college filled with a desire to make a definite stand for Christ among his fellow students. By a coincidence, as it might seem, he had been given the UCCF Summer Term Prayer leaflet. This he felt to be a confirmation of his idea of starting an evangelical union.
To do this, he prayed that he might be put in touch with just one other student in sympathy with him; and shortly after term started he met the Arts student mentioned above. So the first few days of October 1927 saw the formation of the Evangelical Union.
Two other students, Miss Hollis and Miss Smith, joined them almost immediately, and application was made to the University for a room for meetings. The first set back they were told that only the S.C.M., which was broad enough to include all shades of thought, ad the right to use rooms in the University buildings or to put notices on boards.The Union buildings were open to them but were not suitable for weekly meetings.
However, the Rev. E. Brammall helped the members by placing at their disposal his parochial room which was only seven minutes walk from the University. At the first meeting notices outlining proposals were drawn up for the for the boards in the Union buildings. As a result, the members were joined the next week by another student (H.Wroe) and by a member of the staff, the Rev. W. Thomasson. The Union was launched and the first committee elected under the presidency of C.F. Stott.
A rather stringent basis, which from time to time met with criticism, was adopted. It was, however, a source of strength in those early days, before the Union had acquired a definite tradition and was small in numbers. During this first term, numbers slowly increased as members were brought into touch with one and another who were in sympathy. Weekly meetings were always followed by united payer, while at least three always met for prayer during the week. It was marvellous for those who had known college without any fellowship in the things that matter most.
In March, Manchester was represented at the UCCF conference at High Leigh for the first time. The Union had been much encouraged at its commencement by a visit from Mr. Hugh Gough, who explained the activities of the UCCF. The second year was one of advance in many ways. Although only three women members were left from the term before, about fourteen freshers came to a women freshers' squash. During the summer term a mixed squash was held in a private house. About thirty came, a large proportion of whom were unconverted. The speaker was a former president of the S.C.M. who was converted during his term in office.
During that year three evangelistic meetings were held. About fifty came to hear Bishop Taylor Smith (Chaplain-General of the British Army), and a good number when the Rev. Samuel Chadwick spoke. The third meeting was of a different type. The subject was "Social Work in Manchester slums." and two members of the staff of the Manchester City Mission and their Deputation Secretary emphasised the spiritual basis and aim of all their social work. During this session the first missionary tea was held, when Miss Horwood of the S.U.M. was the speaker.
From October, 1929, to October 1931, the Union continued to progress in numbers and in the knowledge of God and of his Word. There were morning prayers and weekly meetings addressed by visiting speakers and missionaries. A ramble each year and a weekend with the Liverpool E.U. at Parkgate were among the activities. Most important of all was the personal work.
During the Summer, 1931, University recognition was granted, and there was a growing feeling among a section of the members that reform was needed, and that wider principles should be adopted with regard to admission of members to the Union. So with the commencement of the session, 1931-32, the name was altered to the Manchester Inter-Faculty Christian Union, and the clause about belief in the Bible was erased from the membership card, but as an essential qualification for members of the Committee. At this point certain members, to the sorrow of others, felt they were unable to proceed with these new methods and resigned membership.
During 1931-32 a number were able to meet for prayer each morning before lectures. There was a freshers' quash addressed by the Rev. B.S.W. Green, and other discussions and addresses with outside speakers were held.
Then came the visit of Dr. Howard Guinness during the Lent Term. In preparation about twenty eight members had three days of real fellowship in a quiet house in the country, and went back to the University thrilled with the message of Abundant Life. The Campaign took the form of midday meetings in the big debating hall, two or three meetings at 4.30pm and evening squashes. On the Sunday Dr. Guinness preached at an evening service at a church in the centre of Manchester.
All the week students had been going to see Dr. Guinness in his room in the university and talking things over with him, in many cases as the result of a conversation with some member of the M.I.F.C.U. When the Campaign was closed with a testimony meeting, there was abundant evidence that God had been working in many lives. To help those who had begun to follow Christ during the Campaign, a series of talks on 1 John was given, and most of the work centred round the Bible. Another striking result was the opening of work in both a women's and a men's hall, where keen interest was aroused and several were worn for Christ.
The next year was one which called for mingled praise and self-criticism. The freshers' squash was postponed rather late, as again Dr. Guinness was visiting the University. When he came in November interest was aroused, especially among the men. The climax came on the Sunday, when we "made history" by organising a Students Service which was broadcast from a church in Manchester. Dr. Guinness spoke on God's wonderful love; and, though only a few reports have been received of what that service meant to those who listened, one can praise God for the influence brought to bear on those whom one can never meet.
One of the brightest features of the year's work was the groups which met to discuss Bible characters. Even the youngest Christian felt at home in this, and the hours proved very helpful and most practical. During the Christmas vacation many took part in a campaign among the young people of Manchester. Though it must be admitted that the planning used much energy that might have been devoted to University work, members could not but be helped by the experience.
During the summer term, Prof. Rendle Short addressed a meeting in the debating hall which was filled almost entirely by men - only half a dozen or so women members and one outsider turned up. It is noticeable that men famous in their own subject do attract a crowd. The problem is the personal work afterwards. Some other plans did not materialise.
As we look ahead and realise the many problems which will have to be solved, our hearts might fail us, but when we look to the One who is able to overcome all obstacles we may well press on into the work which He has for us in our University.
Presidents: 1927-29 - C.F. Stott; 1929-30 A.P.L. Blakely; 1930-31 F.M. Braithwaite; 1931-32 C.G.Bridge; 1932-33 W.F.Nicholson; 1933-34 Miss M.I.Williams.
From Christ and the Colleges (Donald Coggan, 1934)