Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year in Review: 2006


It's nice to be home. We had a great time in Switzerland - beautiful scenery, lovely town to stay in, great weather too! My brother and I weren't too keen on the lack of snow, but we were still able to ski every day.

Anyway, it's nearly a year since I started blogging, and 2006 has been pretty eventful. It struck me, for example, that October was the only month when I didn't go abroad! Here then are some of my unashamedly hedonistic highlights, month by month. Some of the pictures have been on here before.


I flew to Canada on the 2nd, and spent the first week or so settling in to life at York University in Toronto. At first everything seemed pretty normal and not as extraordinary as people had led me to believe. At least, that was until I started meeting Canadians...


Still in Canada. Still freezing cold. In our "reading week" - ie. week off - Kate, Nat, Jay and I (all exchange students) went to Quebec, Montreal and Ottowa to have a poke around. Quebec was great, very French in some ways, very Canadian in others. Montreal was quite nice... more like Toronto but with a French accent. Ottowa was just cold.


Developed some great friendships in a surprisingly short period of time (for me). I enjoyed attending GFC nearly every week, despite the early start and overly tall preacher! The international student office organised a day trip to the Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival - a very odd little town about two hours away. I bought some syrup.


The term at York finished early in the month, and after my one exam (!), a week or so of exploring the city more, going to the pub with hall-mates and frenzied packing at the end, I left Toronto (sniff). For the next four weeks I was in the USA - starting in New York City, then flying to California where I rented a car and drove all over for a week... (continued in May!)


(from April) Still in the USA, I took a 57 hour train journey across the country, and then a succession of buses to visit friends in the Midwest. On the 23rd I finally made it back to the UK! Seeing family and friends again was very nice!


Southampton uni finished at the start of June, and I went away with some of the lads from the CU to Italy for a few days of basically bumming around and playing board games. Good fun!


England crashed out of the World Cup, and I spent four weeks on short term mission in Poland as an English teacher-cum-general summer camp dogsbody. It's exhausting stuff, but very worthwhile and I think some of the kids were spiritually impacted by the talks and Bible studies.


A relatively quiet month... started working on my dissertation but had to stop soon afterwards; worked for a week at the university on the admissions hotline; evangelised at the Reading Festival; oh, and spent a week in France with my parents!


Away for two weeks in Europe (yes, again) firstly on a fieldtrip in Berlin: I got to know some coursemates a lot better than I'd had chance to before, and discovered the true face of "cultural geography"! Straight afterwards my friend Steve and I went driving around Europe for a week. I set a new land-speed personal record of 203km/h on the Autobahn (while listening to John Piper!) amongst other exploits.


Started doing something called "studying" again after 6 months off. It was rather strange, as was moving back to Southampton. As you can see, the marks of Canada are still with me...


Working hard at uni, both on academic and CU grounds. One day three of us went on a jolly to France to buy vast quantities of cheap wine for the CU carol service. It was also my 22nd birthday and 7th birth-again-day (is there a term for this?) during November.


Lots of coursework deadlines to meet in the first two weeks, along with the CU carol services, which were a great success. I've just come back (today) from a week skiing in Switzerland over Christmas, which was both very enjoyable and rather foolish given how much work I still have to do!

All the best for 2007. I don't imagine I'll be doing quite so much travelling, but the year could turn out to be pretty interesting. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Big money

Saas Fee, Switzerland

I've made it to the mountains. This is just a post to say that the Swiss are rather silly. Yesterday I trumped my previous record of "most ludicrous denomination of banknote to dispense from ATM" - 1000 Czech crowns, which is worth about £25. I asked for 200 Swiss francs, and low and behold I got it - in one note! That's about £70 worth of paper in one fragile sheet. Yikes. Yet it seems you can get a 1000 franc note, worth even more than €500 in one go.

Long live Mastercard...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Off again

Winter is (nearly) upon us in temperate England, and so is Christmas. I have three weeks of holiday - in which I need to write 5000 words, half a dissertation and start revising for exams. But most importantly, it's started snowing in the Alps! So today my family and I are off to Saas Fee for a week. While I'm there I'll be investigating the effects of modernistic tourism on a dynamic landscape; also studying the impacts of post-holocene climate change on glacial features.

In other words, I'm skiing for a week. Bye, and happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

School's out for winter

The carol service was a great success! We had over 2900 people attending, who consumed 2800 mince pies, 230 litres of mulled wine, took over a thousand gospels and tracts, sang carols and heard the Gospel preached faithfully - praise God!

Since Sunday I've been very busy catching up on all the work I should have been doing while organising the carol service... never mind. As of this morning I have no more deadlines this term - just two essays to write for January and a dissertation to get on with.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Many a mince pie

Tomorrow the CU is hosting our annual carol service(s). This year there are four services through the afternoon and evening, at a church near campus. We're hoping for about 700 people to each of the services! This week we've baked 2700 mince pies, given out 5000 flyers, stuck up 150 posters, and invited thousands of people. Roger Carswell will be preaching on "Away or a manger or here with us now?" (his title not ours!) at all of the services, which should be a faithful gospel presentation.

I've been involved in the organisation of this service since September, so it will be both a blessing and a relief when it's over tomorrow night! Please pray for the services - that many people will attend, that the message will be relevant and impact people, and that there will be effective follow-up of all enquirers (starting in January/February, in tandem with our Events Week).

Of course, celebrating Christ's incarnation is always worth whatever we put in! We sang "Hark the Herald" last week and the words of verse 2 struck me again:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Consider it pure joy

Things are just beginning to heat up for students in the UK. Christian Unions have existed for ages - 75 years at Southampton, more like 150 at Cambridge... and of course the Wesleys set up the "Holy Club" at Oxford in the 18th century! In the last couple of months four CUs have seen varying degrees of backlash from their student unions/guilds, or their host universities, for a variety of reasons:
  • There have been criticisms that CUs should rename themselves as "Evangelical Christian Unions" because leaders, committee members and speakers have to agree to the UCCF Doctrinal Basis. The DB that all CUs adhere to is deliberately written to be both Biblical on all primary issues, but silent on most secondary issues, in line with the UCCF conviction that 'CU is not a church'. In that sense it is 'evangelical', but only in the true Gospel sense, not the pejorative sense.
  • Another problem for some student bodies is that CUs are not subscribing to equal opportunity policies in terms of gender, faith and sexuality. For example, most CUs don't have women presidents, there are in general very few GLBT members of CU - especially in leadership - and not a Muslim in sight :o)
  • The issue of sexuality discrimination came to a head in Edinburgh recently when the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) society wanted to ban the CU from running the UCCF's "Pure" course, because it recommends literature that believes homosexuality can, and should, be "cured". They set up a protest group on Facebook, which attracted some 1500 members, some of whom have called for the CU to be thrown out of the Student Guild for apparently suggesting such things. The University - on whose premises the course was to be run, eventually allowed it only if alternative literature was provided.
The Times has a good mini-section on its website with various articles about most of the issues above.

Overall, CUs still enjoy a good relationship with their university. Certainly here at Southampton, we are able to use facilities of both the SU and the University without charge and without opposition. Individually, too, nearly everyone we meet is supportive of what the CU does. Some of the CU's activities - especially giving out hot drinks to students leaving the Cube nightclub on Friday nights, have resulted in both good evangelism and good relationships. Only when we run mission weeks or do extensive tracting and questionnairing do students begin to resent the CU's evangelism.

I think the challenge facing us as a CU in Southampton - and more widely - is to learn how to speak the truth in love. Unfortunately, many members of the CU see their responsibilities starting and stopping at attending the weekly meeting. How can we engage with the student culture to share the Gospel with those around us? Surely we have to speak as well as act - and with our friends more than with "randoms"... I know this is true for my own relationships.

Maybe in the next 10 years there will be a wider backlash against religion in universities. That would be a great shame - university is supposed to be a time of learning and widening one's horizons, and the opportunity to explore Christianity has been crucial in the conversion of many a student.

Let's pray for CU members, that we may be bold in our lives and actions. Pray also for student unions and non-Christian students, that we might not offend them with anything except Christ crucified, and especially for sensitive situations as I've outlined above.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Are you a heretic?

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant.
Congratulations, you're not a heretic.
You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin.
Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

HT: Matt Hewling