Saturday, March 10, 2012


A year after my evangelical conversion all my new friends in the Cheadle Parish Church youth group went “up to university” as they say in England. This meant that they left Cheadle for various other places. Realizing that I had no Christian support at work, where the ethos was decidedly non-Christian, Peter Heyman arranged for one of his friends from the local Grammar, or in American terms elite High School, to take me to the Manchester Inter-Faculty Christian Union (MIFCU) which met in nearby Didsbury at Ivy Cottage Church.

Ivy Cottage Church, Didsbury, Manchester, England
MIFCU was entirely student run and attracted around 300 to 350 people every Saturday evening. The meetings began at 7 and ended at 9. Essentially they consisted of listening to a lecture by an invited speaker that lasted around an hour. Before the lecture there was a short service and after it coffee was provided while everyone socialized.

The speakers were a remarkable collection of people who visited MIFCU once a year on an annual basis. They included professors like the New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce, the archaeologist Donald Wiseman, his brother who was professor of medicine at Manchester University, the physicist Donald McKay, and well known British evangelical Christian leaders like John Stott, Martin Lloyd-Jonesm, and the lawyer Val Grieve. Together, in a well-planned program, that was like a university course, they provided students with a solid intellectual basis for their faith. Once again I have experienced nothing similar in North America.

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990)
 At that time I was the only non-student in attendance, but nobody cared. On my first or second visit I was looking at MIFCU’s excellent book table when a total stranger came up and asked me if I had read J.I. Packer’s Fundamentalism and the Word of God which he thoroughly recommended. As luck would have it I had tried to read the book and found it both difficult and uninteresting. After I ventured my opinion we got in to a long argument and became firm friends.
 This was my introduction to Trevor Watts who became a close friend. At the time he was studying dentistry. But, because he could not afford to do so as a normal student he had joined the British Army as a commissioned officer on a special program. The Army paid his fees and provided him with an excellent salary. In return he had to serve in the Army for five years after graduation. One consequent of his commission was that he could afford to build up an excellent library both of dental and other books. In fact, his theology and philosophy collections were outstanding.

Trevor lived in a decent apartment to which he invited a fairly large group of people after MIFCU meetings to discuss the speakers and their talks. There he provided a variety of drinks and snacks and played excellent classical records while we had intense discussions about the world, the universe, and everything.

Through Trevor I soon acquired a fairly large group of friends most of whom, like him, went on to academic careers in a wide variety of disciplines. Most importantly I eventually got to know a group of North American graduate students most of whom were working on their PhDs with F. F. Bruce. Of these the Canadians Clark and Dorothy Pinnock and the Americans Ward and Laurel Gasque played an important role in my subsequent academic development.

Next time: Walter Kaufmann's Critique of Religion and Philosophy

Clark Pinnock (1937-2010)

Ward Gasque

1 comment:

Len Hjalmarson said...

We had something similar here in Kelowna from 2008 to 2010 that we called simply a "theology cafe." At the close of 2010 we began celebrating the Eucharist at our meetings. I left town for two years and in my absence it has become something nearer a therapy group. Good time to start something new eh?