Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. (1 Chronicles 16:34, NIV)
Did you know that this week is the 140th anniversary of the founding of CICCU, the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union?
For some time Christian students had been meeting to pray; in 1876 a week of preaching by a visiting speaker called Sholto Douglas was followed by a gathering of college representatives in Whewell’s Court, Trinity College. In their fascinating history of CICCU, From Cambridge to the World, Oliver Barclay and Robert Horn take up the story:
Finally on 9 March 1877… the small Guildhall was filled with 250 men. Coote was in the chair and Sholto Douglas present. The letter signed by the college representatives and inviting all interested to be present described the object as ‘to promote prayerful sympathy between those who are seeking the advance of Christ’s Kingdom in the University, and a more entire self-consecration to God’s service; to give information generally concerning God’s work in the various colleges; and to make suggestions as to the best means of carrying on the work.’… Six days later the committee met to finalize rules of procedure and draw up a constitution… It was quite naturally called the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union.
How we should thank God for those 140 years of student witness for Christ! All down those years, CICCU has been student-led and has kept faithful to the gospel of Christ despite a change of leadership every year. Again and again students have organised events to explain Christianity to their friends – whether large “missions” such as the famous ones with D L Moody (1882), John Stott (1952,1977) and Billy Graham (1955, 1980) – or in small groups or reading through one of the four gospels with a friend. I myself first understood the Christian message via an undergraduate ‘discussion group’ organised by the branch of the CICCU in Trinity College – actually meeting in Whewell’s Court!
The influence of CICCU has extended far beyond Cambridge. Early in its history, in 1884, came the “Cambridge Seven”, a group of students (including an England cricketer, C T Studd) who shook the country by leaving a life of privilege for missions work in China. Over the years, many followed. CICCU was also a main engine behind the growth of the Christian Union movement across UK universities – nearly all of which now have a CU. This, in turn, spawned the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, with Christian Unions on campuses all round the world. Truly a mustard seed has grown into a tree!
On this 140th anniversary, join me in giving thanks to God for CICCU in the same way David did in the verse above – praising Him for His faithfulness. And pray for CICCU to be similarly faithful, and useful to Christ, in the years to come.