Of all the discipleship opportunities open to Christian PhD students in the UK, perhaps the Cambridge Scholars Network offers evangelical thinkers the most sustained and intense mentoring experience you could easily apply for. This year’s event runs from 12 to 18 July, and I’d like to encourage eligible readers of this blog to apply.
I went on the very first CSN when it ran in 2006. I enjoyed an intense week of seminars, Bible study, discussions and one-to-one mentoring in the company of a small, energetic group of doctoral students passionate about following Christ. Only a couple of us were British; the others came from across Europe and from the USA. Outstanding memories for me include scholarly morning devotions, supportive mentoring sessions and Jeremy Paxman -style media training with Dr David Cook!
The academic team (faculty, as they’re called) has largely changed since 2006, although a couple of them remain in this year’s list of nine. But the objectives of the CSN are as important as ever; these are (in my words): to help evangelical PhD students strengthen the biblical worldview foundations of their thinking, to develop an apologetic for the intensely secularist environment in which they typically work, and to develop their critical thinking skills for academic success in general. This is a bold set of aims, well aligned with those of FiSch, and in my experience the programme is well set up to achieve them, with its mix of activities and residential nature. I’d have liked to see a female tutor among the team, especially given that its members will serve as role models as well as teachers, but their scholarly and ecclesiastical credentials can hardly be faulted.
Participating in the CSN is by invitation only, reflecting the intention to build a trusting community of gifted and highly motivated evangelical doctoral students. As an interested student, you’re encouraged to apply (nominating referees), and an invitation may then be given regardless of whether you already know anyone connected with the CSN. The diversity of its participants is a great strength of this event and I would encourage anyone who’s seriously interested to apply.
The bulk of the CSN is held at the beautiful Moggerhanger Park centre. CSN itself is an initiative of the European Leadership Forum and the Forum of Christian Leaders. Those are initiatives to talk about another time (I went on the ELF a few years after the CSN). But for more information, you’re invited to go to foclonline.org/initiatives. There you can follow a link to full details of this year’s event and a registration button to apply.