One of the aims of Faith in Scholarship over the years has been to support groups for Christian postgraduate students – sometimes actively, sometimes through providing networks and resources. Most of the FiSch bloggers are or have been part of these groups in various universities across the country. Today I want to spotlight the group I’m currently involved in at Oxford: the Graduate Christian Forum.
The GCF is the official postgrad Christian group of the university, and came into being in 1993, making it one of the older extant groups of this kind. It’s mainly a lecture society, hosting talks each week during termtime (see the website for details of where and when). Subjects vary widely – in the last year there have been talks on everything from Shakespeare to Quakerism to beauty in science.
Our aim is to be a place of dialogue, fellowship, and inspiration, linking up Christians from different disciplines and churches. Oxford is generally a good place to be a Christian postgrad, with organisations like the Oxford Pastorate and some of the large churches’ targeted ministries working with our specific needs. The GCF aims to sit alongside these pastoral groups and help postgrads think more deeply about the links between Christian faith and all different kinds of academic work.
If you’re in Oxford (or are about to arrive) and you’ve never been to a meeting – do come along in the autumn term! Anyone is welcome, at any stage of their graduate career, and from any faith background. For readers elsewhere, you might be interested in the recorded talks which are free to listen to on our website. Some of my personal highlights from the last year:
- Historian and theologian Sarah C. Williams on ‘The Spirituality of Time’
- The Oxford installment of Richard Middleton’s Thinking Faith Network-hosted tour, on ‘A New Heavens and a New Earth: For God So Loved the World’
- Poet and academic Christine Perrin introducing and reading from her new book Bright Mirror, on ‘Memory, Narrative, and the Mirror of Companionship’
There are talks from all kinds of disciplines, from a variety of really interesting speakers – a great resource if you’re looking for up-to-date thinking on faith and your subject.
I’ve got involved in the GCF this year and am now serving on the committee. As I go to a church which doesn’t have very many postgraduate students, it’s really good to be able to make connections to others who are balancing and integrating academic work and faith in different ways, and share the particular experiences that brings.
If you’re a Christian postgrad and not connected to some kind of specific ministry or group, can I encourage you to try one out? If you’re in Oxford there’s the GCF and several other options; or the list at cpgrad.org.uk can direct you to groups in other places. Community is really important to the academic, and Christian communities with real insight into our opportunities and challenges can be a lifeline.