The Smith Christian Fellowship (SCF) is organized through a larger organization called Intervarsity, a Christian campus ministry with the vision “to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed.” For students who are abroad, Intervarsity coordinates weekend retreats and spring break pilgrimages, and provides information on getting involved in the Christian community. During the weekend of February 10-12, I had the opportunity to attend a retreat in London. I joined two Intervarsity staff members and seven other American students studying all across Europe at The Highbury Centre, a non-profit charitable organization that provides affordable Protestant Evangelical guest housing for those involved in missionary and church-building activities.
The weekend started off with introductions and stories about cross-cultural interactions. Perspectives were widely diverse with students coming from different schools all across the United States. Students were from University of Southern California to Colgate University and all studying in different places throughout Europe from Stockholm, Sweden to Edinburgh, Scotland, sharing their unique experiences abroad.
Intervarsity is well known for its inductive Bible study technique, which involves observation, evaluation, and application of the text. The group looked at Acts 8 as well as Daniel 1, using this inductive Bible study method to discuss and analyze scripture. The chapters were printed out for each student to write on and make notes as they studied the text. Every student participated in some way in making observations or discussing the text.
The group also took an excursion to Westminster Abbey for an Evening Song service on February 11. There were two lessons, the first on Song of Solomon 2:8-17 and the second on 1 Corinthians 13. The service concluded with a Hymn, “Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be; let us see thy great salvation, perfectly restored in thee, changed from glory into glory till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise!” I noticed on the lectern from which the clergy spoke, “attempt great things for God.” In 1949, the Baptist Missionary Society gave this carved English walnut lectern to Westminster Abby to honor the memory of William Carey, a missionary in India.
The following day, the group reflected on the weekend and shared its vision for its time abroad. Students discussed the opportunities that God has provided for them in their unique locations. Themes of investing in community and being willing to embrace all the challenges, lessons, and joy that studying abroad echoed in the room.