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The University of Aberdeen Postgraduate Bible Study
Why it began
In October 1999, several post-graduate students new to Aberdeen began
their studies and the process of settling into new churches and other
Christian groups. They did this individually but when talking
together in January 2000, it was found that they had had similar
University Christian Union
While the Christian Union catered very well for the undergraduate
students and had a good program of speakers, it did not seem to meet
the needs of postgraduate students. There were a number of hall
groups including one for folk who had moved out of halls. These CU
activities only ran during undergraduate term time however and there
was a noticeable age difference. Maybe the most significant
difference noticed was that research is very different to
undergraduate programs in terms of the work, pressure, lifestyle and
University Postgraduate Ministry
A postgraduate Christian lunch was held weekly with a devotion from
one of the postgraduate students attending. This was a good
opportunity to meet other postgraduates and discuss issues over lunch;
with a strong focus on international students this often and rightly
had an evangelistic focus or people shared news on Godís work
overseas. This was the only official postgraduate ministry at the
There were many Biblical churches in Aberdeen ministering to the needs
of Christians although it was again hard for some postgraduates to
identify with either the student or working populations of the church,
in terms of specific needs or issues being faced.
It therefore seemed that postgraduate students wanted to be involved
with other students but students in similar situations to themselves.
What seemed to be lacking was a group for fellowship, meeting up for
Bible study and prayer and also being able to support and encourage
one another in the specific issues that they all faced.
How it began
Over the New Year period a church student worker suggested that if
there was no appropriate group at the university then we could start
one up ourselves and so those were the first thoughts of the group.
January was then spent confirming through word of mouth and email that
there were no meetings specifically for postgraduates either within
university departments or local churches, in order to avoid there
being two independent groups trying to achieve the same aims. The
suggestion of starting a group was also mentioned in order to bring
together other people who wanted to be involved with such a group. In
the middle of February four students met together to pray and plan.
The initial format decided upon was a weekly meeting at 7:15 for a
7:30 p.m. start with Bible study for an hour, followed by a time of
prayer for each other, to be rotated around different homes of people
in the group. A church had offered to provide copies of its own
leaders notes for Bible studies on various books of the Bible. It was
decided to use these at least initially and for different people
within the group to lead each week. We publicised the meeting
predominantly through the use of posters displayed in the main
university buildings on campus, the medical school and the
postgraduate hall of residence. An advertisement was also emailed out
to those people on the postgraduate lunch mailing list.
The first meeting was at the start of March, six postgraduates came
along and we started studying the book of Colossians.
What has happened since it began
The postgraduate Bible study group has been meeting regularly since
March. We met weekly initially but then students began to feel
pressurised with studies and other commitments and so it was decided
to meet fortnightly. This did not seem satisfactory however, in terms
of continuity in the Bible study and building relationships and
encouraging one another and so it became weekly once more, as it is
currently. We did not meet for a few weeks in August since all but
one group member were away from Aberdeen at the same time.
There have regularly been between five and nine people attending each
week and the group has been composed primarily of PhD students, but
also MSc and mature undergraduate students and international
undergraduates in Aberdeen during the summer after CU stopped meeting
for the year. With the end of the last academic year we are reduced
to six continuing students but will shortly advertise the group in a
similar way to invite new postgraduates along.
The format is similar each week; meeting on Mondays at 7:15 for 7:30
p.m. with Bible study for approximately an hour and a half and then a
time of prayer, followed by tea, coffee and conversation. Initially
we studied the book of Colossians and are now looking at 1
Thessalonians. Some weeks we have organised social events, going out
for meals, to the cinema or eating in together.
It is anticipated that this group will continue to meet for as long as
there are postgraduate students in Aberdeen wanting to meet together,
study Godís Word and encourage each other to be effective for
Christ where they are.
We are looking forward to seeing whom we meet with the new academic
year and although numbers are not important, there is potential for
the group to split if that seems to be an appropriate step.