As part of our Christian Union’s wider Thought Festival, the Cambridge Theology Network group wanted to put on an event to reach out to our coursemates. Working together with our friends from the History and Classics faculties, we tried to come up with an event that would appeal to as many of our coursemates as possible, and settled on the idea of looking at the claims the gospels make about Jesus.
In order to reach out to as many people as possible, we used a variety of means: printing out physical posters and putting them up on noticeboards, making use of faculty newsletters and mass emails, and even boldly standing up to give announcements after lectures (with the lecturer’s permission). Of course, there’s no substitute for personal invitation, so we tried to engage everyone to personally invite as many people as possible. We also had people stationed at the main lobby of the faculty to invite in people who were just passing by. In the end, we had around 40 people come, which was a real blessing from God (and more than we expected)!
We chose to focus on this idea of the historicity of the bible because the topic often comes up in our course, particularly within the compulsory first-year modules. We were also privileged to be able to invite Dr Peter Williams, the Principal of Tyndale House (one of the foremost biblical research centres) and author of Can We Trust the Gospels? to give a short talk on the uniqueness of the gospels. This was especially conducive because it coincided roughly with the release of his newest book, The Surprising Genius of Jesus: What the Gospels Reveal about the Greatest Teacher. We were able to give out copies of both books during the event, so that those who were curious would have the opportunity to read and find out more for themselves afterwards.
In terms of handling logistics, we were able to make use of our contacts within the faculty, and book out the faculty common room for a Friday lunchtime event. We decided to hold it at roughly the same time as our usual biweekly Theology Network meetings, to ensure that as many of us as possible were able to make it, and invite our friends as well. We also decided to provide a simple lunch of sandwiches, chips and drinks, which a few of us prepared in a nearby kitchen and transported over to the faculty building.
The programme of the event itself was quite simple: we had some time for lunch and mingling at the start, followed by the talk itself. Peter Williams prepared a handout for the session, which was really useful to help people follow along with the content of the talk, and served as a good starting point for conversations later on.
After the talk, there was time for a Q&A session, during which it was really great to see many of our friends asking tough questions and reflecting on what they’d heard. We closed by providing some ways of following up on the talk, and an invitation for another main outreach event held by our Christian Union. The entire event was able to be officially wrapped up within an hour, although people stayed around to chat and mingle afterwards as well.
It was very encouraging to see Christian theologians uniting to share the good news with their friends, and so many of our friends and coursemates who were willing to come along and hear as well. Highlights of our follow up conversations included a Classics student who requested to come along to church! Overall, it was really lovely to be reminded of distinctiveness and genuineness, even in the academic context, of the God whom we serve.