Welcome week and Michaelmas Term 2020
Welcome week this year was like no other we’ve experienced, and our Postgraduate Student Welcome (PSW) events were like none we’ve ever hosted before!
In line with the regulations in place during the first week of October, in partnership with local churches and Christian organisations, we hosted a socially-distanced worship service for new postgraduates in St Aldates Church (see pictured). Then, on Saturday afternoon of 0th week, a dozen simultaneous picnics, in socially-distanced groups of six or less, were hosted around the city centre by postgraduates and others from the Christian community. Restrictions meant that the events were much smaller in scale than those we have put on in recent years, but some hosts found that the smaller picnic groups enabled much better connection to be made with new postgrads, with many groups meeting up again later in the term.
Megan Buchanan-Smith, a new postgrad student studying for an Art History MA writes of her experience of the first few weeks:
“ I found both [PSW] events really helpful. The picnic in particular was a lovely opportunity to see some friendly (de-masked) faces. I think the most helpful thing … has been people like [Pastorate Associate Chaplain] Alissa being willing to meet up for a walk/coffee. This has allowed for deeper connections and a greater feeling of being rooted in a community.”
Despite the smaller turnout at PSW, there were enough students to launch two small groups of six for those exploring or wanting to go deeper in the Christian faith. ‘Postgrads on Purpose’ provided friendly and open discussions for postgraduates of any or no religious faith who are interested in considering the Christian approach to the human search for purpose and meaning. Weekly sessions, included a free lunch and addressed universal themes, such as: Ambition; Joy; Charity; Success; Wisdom; Prosperity; and Community.
As a ministry team we’ve had to think creatively how best to serve postgraduates amidst the restrictions of the pandemic and particularly try to facilitate community for new students, so much harder this term. Some of our activities are listed below.
- We introduced the work of the Pastorate by letter to Welfare officers at all postgraduate colleges and offered our support by flyering graduate accommodation blocks letting students know we could collect prescriptions or groceries, or offer a pastoral conversation as Lockdown 2.0 began.
- Associate Chaplains, Alissa and David, who also work closely with the Graduate Christian Forum, have been able to use their contacts in local churches to coordinate a ‘buddy system’ whereby second- and third-year students are ‘matched’ with first year students and encouraged by the offer of a free hot drink from a local independent coffee shop to go for a socially distanced walk.
- Associate Chaplain Bethan plans to run a virtual book group in the new year reading The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges.
- Travel restrictions mean many more students than usual will be staying in Oxford over the Christmas break. We will host online socials on 23 December and on Christmas Day and our chaplains will be available for one-to-one support. We value your prayers, especially that we would be able to reach those postgraduates who may be feeling isolated at this time.