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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 1. March 1, 1946

Student Christian Conference at Dunedin

Student Christian Conference at Dunedin

Somewhat unenthusiastically I journeyed to the uncomfortable Polar region of Dunedin. It was summer time and what they say of it is true—it did rain both days.

I found it purely a student affair—not many of the superannuated variety. Mostly we were young and disgustingly active, squeezing into an overcrowded programme tennis, fives, baseball, table tennis and "rambles." There were the usual stunts and sketches (Extrav. choruses, especially the "Zombles," furnished useful material for us Victorians). Some of us with faint aspirations towards the life of the mind met for the first time the returning student generation seared by war. Some had fought, others had been imprisoned, most had acquired the wisdom conferred by suffering. As a result thought and feeling tended to be close to reality and free from superficiality in political, social, and economic fields, and from traditionalism in religious experience and theological study.

The study rudely disturbed many of my cherished preconceptions. What was more, its solid Biblical and historical basis provoked in me an aggressive desire to examine its truth by systematic Bible study. You have, I imagine, been excited, by the clash of idea with idea. I was, at any rate, as I sat listening to the open forums. There a pacifist flung down the challenge "that all Christians should be socialists," only to be taken up by a levelheaded opponent arguing that the present social order should be supported since, suitably modified, it provided stable social conditions necessary for religious growth. There, too, some argued against drinking while others believed that non-drinkers cut themselves off from their fellow students. In the discussion on war criminal trials I was pretty much of a mugwump. The majority, however, felt that the court was to be upheld as embodying the principles of international justice and outlawry of war despite its grave abuses inherent in the Allies' position of Judge, jury and Law in their own cause.

The prospect of listening to an address on "the Evangel" somewhat alarmed me. I was afraid of being deluged with the oversimplified 19th century individualistic attitude implicit in such pernicious phrases as "are you saved?" "accept Christ," and "make the decision." Far far different was the approach of H. A. Mitchell who had ministered to fellow prisoners in a German prison camp and whose thought had plainly been refined by "the irreducible and stubborn fact."

Finally, you may or may not hold with the validity of the spiritual life—what I label a quality of experience found in such things as deeply-based friendship and the un-selfconscious search for truth. I do. And I caught fresh glimpses of it at this Conference. Most of the services, I must admit, left me cold—not so the Jubilee Service in the wide arched unfinished Gothic cathedral. Filled with awe, feeling the universal church and the cloud of witnesses through the ages pressing about me, I knew that the word "movement" was no misnomer for the SCM so long as it retained its contact with the life giving power of the Spirit.