23 January 2012
Christianity alive and kicking in London’s universities
by Tim Wyatt
Christianity is dead in the UK. At least, that's what we're told, on an almost weekly basis. Whether because of further decline in church attendance, or supposedly outdated and irrelevant teaching, Christianity is a faith that seems to matter less and less in 21st Century Britain. Despite 70 per cent of the population in the last census claiming to be Christians, a survey in 2005 showed that only 6.7 per cent of the country goes to church regularly. "We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so," said David Cameron in December. However, in a 2008 poll, just 17 per cent of people agreed with him.
The picture is even more striking when it comes to the young. According to the Church of England's own research in 2010, the average age of a churchgoer was 61 and 59 per cent of churches had no members between 15 and 19 years old.
But in universities across London hundreds of Christian students are telling another story. Almost every university in the capital has a Christian Union or CU - a group of Christians who try to give every student on their campus a chance to hear the message of Jesus. And these CUs are coming together this month to put on a week of events tackling life's big issues and the relevance of the Christian faith to them.
So what are these 'big issues'? In a unique London-wide survey, each CU spent a week in December trying to find out what their fellow students thought. They asked two simple questions: 'What's your favourite film' (not one of life's big questions, but bear with me) and 'If you could ask God one question, what would it be?' And they got some interesting answers.
Students most want to ask God why He allows suffering to exist, followed by 'What is the meaning/purpose of life?' Perhaps showing a slightly morbid streak, 'Is there life after death?' was third in the list and the simple 'Do you exist?' was also a popular choice. In among these comparatively straightforward enquiries were more profound philosophical questions such as 'Do you have a beard?', 'Why is my hair falling out?' and 'What is your favourite film?' London students' favourite films were less esoteric, with the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy topping the poll.
Using these results, CUs in London are holding Uncover: The London CU Project from the 23-27 January. During the day each CU will host lunchtime talks and other events such as debates or 'Grill a Christian' panel discussions on their campuses. On the evenings of the 24-26 January there will be a central event at All Souls Church, near Oxford Circus, presenting the Christian faith with opportunities for discussion via three of the most popular films: Lord of the Rings, The Shawshank Redemption and Inception. The sessions will be led by the Evangelical Alliance's Krish Kandiah. Starting at 7pm, these events will include a café and chance to ask any question. For more information, search for 'London CU Project' on Facebook.