Thursday, January 31, 2013

News from Newcastle CU: Definite Interest Created

Durham University is divided into two sections. The Durham Colleges, eight in number; they are residential and grouped around the Cathedral and Castle, near what is certainly one of the finest river views in any English city, forming a kind of miniature Oxford or Cambridge. Then there are the Newcastle Colleges (Armstrong and Medicals) which are non-residential and most modern. The E.U. were separate until June 1933, when they were united, in the belief that official recognition and other benefits would accrue.

There are fourteen miles between the two sections, and apart from the sports club the E.U.'s are the only societies which have had any real fellowship and joint work. 
The present report considers the Newcastle section. 

When in 1932, Dr. Howard Guinness addressed over two hundred students at one of the City's most fashionable restaurants, it was a strange contrast to the modest beginnings of the Newcastle Christian Union.

For, only seven years previously, the Union had been born. Drs Tait and Vernon, then medical students, had followed the example of many undergraduates in other Universities at that time, and had decided to meet for prayer once in each week. For two years a handful of medicals composed the Union, whilst Armstrong College of nearly 1000 students remained absolutely untouched by evangelical witness.

In 1928, the writer when up as an arts student, at the weekly Prayer Meetings there were three, and often only two who met in the secretary's room, and there were often disturbed by noisy intruders during their few minutes stay.

One might perhaps mention here that the University College at Newcastle is non-residential. The members of the Union had many outside activities; but they longed to be able to touch the College for God. He wonderfully opened the way in the following year (1929), when Sir G.B. Hunter, very kindly entertained at his home some sixty medicals, and Professor Carless spoke.

From this time, the ambition of the Union was to hold one united evangelistic meeting each term; and, whilst there was little visible result, yet there was a definite interest created. In March 1932, taking advantage of Dr. Guinness' presence in the North, the Union arranged a weekend House Party with the Christian Union at Durham, when two undergraduates were brought to Christ.

Following the weekend, early morning Prayer meetings were held each day and a weekly Devotional Meeting, at which numbers were very encouraging. Occasionally one of the members led the meeting in the form of a Bible Talk; but more often there were addresses on a set topic by outside speakers.

The Daily Prayer and Bible Reading Meetings meant a great deal during those months. An engineering student brought to Christ at one of the meetings remembers that they made life entirely new for him. The spirit of fellowship and liberty forged a living bond between the members.

In the Michaelmas Term of 1932, the Lord Mayor entertained about one hundred Freshers. The interest was keen, and four were won for Christ. Mention has already been made of two "At Homes," when nearly four hundred students were brought face to face with the Challenge of the Lord Jesus. The Union is deeply indebted to Christian business men of the city, through whose kindness such large numbers have been reached.

The Union remains small - but we know that many have heard the call of Christ, and the day shall declare what has been done.

Presidents: J.Tait (1926-27), H.K. Vernon (1927-31), R.Whitehead (1931-33) from Christ and the Colleges, Donald Coggan (1934).

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