I came up to Oxford in 1985. At the time there was little in the way of charismatic, Holy-Spirit-filled life in the church. St Aldates at the time was led by Michael Green (now an elder-statesman in the church, who we are delighted is coming to speak at OCC in the autumn) - one had to queue for entry, such was the level of excitement as Michael led the church in the life of the Holy Spirit. There was a small charismatic house church somewhere in Botley, and an odd, itinerant and therefore hard-to-track-down group of Christians called Oxford Community Church.
A staff leader from St Aldates was travelling round the College CUs, preaching about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and praying with people. From a non-charismatic church background, I came to see the joy and empowering that comes with a full experience of the Holy Spirit, and (long story short) came to be part of OCC.
God was doing something in those days in universities across the UK. It was exciting. Revolutionary. Disruptive. New wine. And God was creating new wineskins for what he was doing.
In around 1998, a movement called Fusion started. Their motto today is 'training, resourcing and strengthening all those in church-based student mission'. Back then, we were one of the early adopters, seeing afresh that the church had a critical role in catalysing a student movement and starting to run 'cell groups' across the city's two universities. We say more about church-based student mission in another blog.
Our student team have recently been to the 2017 Fusion conference. It was good to reconnect after some years with less connection. Some names and faces have changed, but the Fusion movement retains the same passion, faith and innovative flair. We were provoked, stimulated and challenged. We heard stories of students seeking to reform campus culture, of equipping students to serve in every sphere of society, and of openings internationally to work with students. We are proud to be part of the Fusion movement!
Within the UK, there are 2½ million students. One statistic is that only 0.5% are active in Christian discipleship, substantially less than the population at large. That is a huge mission field, and that is why as OCC, we are committed to playing our part in reaching and discipling students in this great city!