This week we return to our series on local Christian postgraduate groups with a contribution from the Nottingham group. This group has been running for quite a number of years, with ups and downs. Alison Woodward and Esther Mokori tell us what they are up to at the moment:

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF) is a Student Union society at the University of Nottingham which serves postgraduate students, but has also had a fourth year language student and post docs/visiting academics attending in the past three years. We meet weekly during term time, with some holiday socials. Our meetings are open to all.

We openly discuss various topics and we build a Godly support network for each other based on our common study and open minds. Although we all go to different churches and have different cultural and academic backgrounds, that makes us a more open-minded group and we don’t set limits on each other or the Spirit of God. We are more of a family than a small group.

When GCF members reached turning points in their lives, we organised seminars to benefit them, such as our ‘I Do’ night, which discussed marriage and parenthood, and was a great evening of sharing and discussion. We have also hosted talks on whole-life discipleship and discipleship in our research.

We also aim to reach out to non-Christians. We host an International Food Night every year where we serve food from our cultures to postgraduate students for free and host a world-themed quiz. From that, we have had two people seek God at GCF, one coming to our Bible studies on Ephesians every week. We also hosted the Pais Project, who came onto campus and reached out to students with the message ‘Because You’re Loved’.

It is great to hear of the diversity of local groups, but looking back at previous posts (see here and here), some patterns are emerging. One of these is the importance of fellowship with others who are pursuing research to the glory of God. Although your church may be very supportive of your PhD studies and your daily life as a Christian, there may not be anyone who can really enter into the joys and struggles that you face. Being part of a local group makes you realise that you are not on your own. You can share these joys and struggles with others, and you can encourage and challenge each other.

Two years ago at our Faith-in-Scholarship leader’s conference, one of the speakers suggested that local groups could play a role in marking special occasions, like the Nottingham group has done with regard to marriage and parenthood. But maybe the defining PhD rites of passage are submission, the viva and graduation. Maybe we could think about a way of celebrating these in our local groups?

Speaking of the FiSch leader’s conference, there is another one coming up in February…

Are you a Christian postgraduate but not in a local group yet? You can find out if there is a group in your city. And if there is no group yet, why not get something going? We would be more than happy to support you! Do get in touch!