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News from Durham CU: Then revival came

Durham University is divided into two sections. The Durham Colleges, eight in number; they are residential and grouped around the Cathedral and Castle, near what is certainly one of the finest river views in any English city, forming a kind of miniature Oxford or Cambridge. Then there are the Newcastle Colleges (Armstrong and Medicals) which are non-residential and most modern. The E.U. were separate until June 1933, when they were united, in the belief that official recognition and other benefits would accrue.

There are fourteen miles between the two sections, and apart from the sports club the E.U.'s are the only societies which have had any real fellowship and joint work. The present report considers the Durham section.

Its history begin in the early twenties and a somewhat shadowy institution known as the Durham University Bible Union. It did not last long. Durham is very religious. Its theological degree is widely known. In such an atmosphere the Bible Union seems to have died out. It has, however left relics of real keenness in a number of tracts and copies of Hymns of Consecration and Faith. We have evidence too, from the people in Framwellgate, a poor quarter of the town, that its members did a glorious work in connection with St. John's College Mission there. The Union seems to have been only in existence at St. Johns.

The next attempt was made in 1929. Two keen men had been in St. John's for a year together. They gathered others around them from their own college, and were joined by a Fresher from Bede, who was in touch with the [UCCF] through a God-guided meeting with Norman Grubb during the summer.

Weekly prayer meetings began, a Bible study circle was held each Sunday, and occasionally speakers came from the district for extra meetings. But the ardour of the Union began to fade in face of the atmosphere of merely formal religion, and it began to be regarded as a sub-section of the S.C.M. There was little witness to the saving power of Christ, and less to Bible truth.

At this point, March 1931, the former Bede Fresher wrote to the UCCF about a separate Union in his own college, where there were now some more keen men. The result was for him a visit to the national conferencce that year, and for Durham a new Union. Many were for remaining as a branch of the S.C.M. but there was no big storm, rather an agreement to differ. A few men banded themselves together for soul winning witness.

It was hard going for almost a year. Then revival came, and it was followed by renewed attacks of the adversary in trying to create division. Rather did his attacks prune out those who were not keen, and serve to create an especially fine branch in the women's colleges.

On one Saturday night in October 1932 we had the joy of seeing over twenty women trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The men's side at Durham needs special prayer. Men who came up keen and take theology, usually develop into merely nominal members, if they do not become avowed Modernists.

The great work of the Union outside the University has been a trek on the lines of the Missionary Training Colony and the Methodist Friars. The first trek was in 1932. It lasted for six weeks and covered five hundred miles of the Northern Counties. The trekkers did not count the number of those who decided - they always appealed for public decisions, and God gave them to them! - but there must have been almost two hundred.  They are still in correspondence with many of them, and it was their joy to see some of them this summer still on the Lord's side.

In 1933 an eigh weeks' trek was arranged with men from the E.U.'s at Durham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Liverpool. It may seem that this is not definite Varsity work. But it has been the means of many definite conversions in the Durham O.A.'s and of better personal evangelism in the colleges by those who have been on trek.

The latest event in the joining of the Unions at Durham and Newcastle. May it be used for the bringing down of the Holy Spirit's power on a Varsity which sorely needs it.

Presidents: J.H.Stringer (1931-32), W.F. Jenkins (1932-33) J.C. Willcox (1933-34). Report in Christ and the Colleges, Donald Coggan (1934)


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