I came to the UK in 2006 to start my PhD at York University, not knowing anyone. Thankfully, in my first week there, the Christian Union distributed a leaflet in the college accommodation where I was staying, and I quickly became involved in the CU’s postgraduate small group. It was great to meet people who were also pursuing research, and together we grew in our faith and made small steps towards understanding the place of our scholarship within the larger picture of God’s kingdom.

The situation in York is somewhat different to that at most universities. The CU has a small group in each college, and one of the colleges, Wentworth College, is a postgraduate college. The CU felt called to start up a small group there, just a year or two before I arrived, and have supported the group ever since, although it has always been free to tailor its meetings to the needs of postgraduate students.

The group is still going, and one of the current members, Carine Tsimba Nsangu, writes the following:

The Christian postgraduate group at the University of York consists of postgraduates at different stages in their academic careers, mature undergraduates and even post-doctoral staff. I joined the group many years ago while doing my Masters. Although I wouldn’t define myself as a postgraduate student anymore, having finished my PhD, I still belong to the group.

The York group meets weekly on a Thursday evening. Just like any other Christian group, it provides a place for spiritual support and the deepening of Christian life through informal questions, rigorous debate, or listening to the experiences of committed Christians. But this postgraduate group offers much more as you don’t just get to meet your fellow Christians, but rather you get to meet like-minded people, familiar with research, the postgraduate daily life and challenges! This unique combination is what makes the group stand out and is why it presents a clear advantage to belong to one.

The York group engages in flexible discussions that have varied widely over the years. The format of the group discussion, as well as different topics have indeed evolved and changed based on current members’ views of what the group should be! The group discussions have been for example based on article by Nigel Biggar on “What are Universities For?”, on “time management as a researcher” to topics on Christian life such as, “life in the Holy Spirit as a Christian”…

I have, over the years, met some of my closest friends and shared within the group some of my many challenges as researcher!

I can testify to that too, and although many of these friends have now moved to different countries and even continents, many are still in contact with each other. If you’re starting your postgraduate degree at York this autumn, why not drop us a line, and we can put you in touch with the group. Highly recommended!

Eline van Asperen
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