Oxford Transformation Network
Keziah Stephenson works with the McDonald Chaplain, Revd Dr Christopher Landau, specifically on developing a departmental prayer network for Christian students and academics in Oxford. She has just completed an MPhil in Politics at Oxford University, having previously studied PPE as an undergraduate. The prayer network has developed out of a vision she received while studying, and a desire to see Christians in Oxford covering the universities, and specifically their subjects, in prayer. Keziah works for the Pastorate one day a week. She also works four days a week in Westminster as Parliamentary Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Since September 2019 we have been working on a new project called the Oxford Transformation Network. The vision is to see a network of Christians praying individually and collectively in every university department across the city.
The project began with a vision I received while in my fifth year of study at Oxford University. The vision was of a map of the city of Oxford, with each university department highlighted. Out of each department there were beams of light radiating and boring holes in the walls. The beams of light spread out first over the city, then over the UK, and then out into other nations. I felt God saying that each beam of light represented a Christian in their place of work, living their everyday working lives for Christ. I felt God calling us to invite him into our studies and places of work through prayer; to see transformation of individual lives, our departments, and, through his wisdom in our studies, the wider sphere of society into which our subjects speak. Just as God transforms us individually (2 Corinthians 3:18), he also wants to bring collective transformation – to whole departments, societies and nations (Revelation 21:5). And I believe he wants to use us, his people, to do this.
The aim of the Transformation Network is to connect Christians from different churches and levels of academic study in Oxford, and to inspire them to intercede for their places of work and study. We are aiming to encourage prayer for two specific things.
Firstly, we are praying for the Kingdom to come in our workplaces – in university departments. We long to see transformation of individual lives and of the departments themselves; a change in the culture of our workplaces, as God’s light breaks in. We sense God speaking Joshua 1:3 as a promise to Christians in Oxford: ‘I will give you every place where you set your foot.’
Secondly, we are praying for ‘Kingdom solutions’ - for God to release his wisdom to us in our work tasks and research. We believe that releasing wisdom and solutions in relation to problems we face is another way that God longs to reveal himself to the world around us: to show his love for people and for our societies, and to demonstrate his glory. During my five years of study in Oxford, I felt God saying that he wanted to meet me in the library, to speak to me about the specific topics and questions I was researching, and to give me wisdom about them. This ranged from big questions, like ‘What would it look like for the UK and the EU to move beyond crisis?’, to small ones, like how to get around a problem with my data sample. Some of the bigger topics and questions I prayed about in my five years of study have already been hugely relevant in my current role in Westminster.
The vision is to see prayer occurring at three levels. Firstly, prayer individually every day for our own research, department and colleagues (we are producing prayer cards to carry in our purses and wallets as reminders to pray). Secondly, regular prayer with others in our departments (departmental prayer groups). And thirdly, prayer with Christians from other departments (‘gathering-in’ sessions to connect with other departmental groups, to support each other and to share testimony).
So far this term, we have made connections with Christians from six departments who are keen to be involved: Biochemistry, Chemistry, International Development, Physics, History and the Business School. Prayer groups are starting in at least three of these departments. We are making plans to hold ‘gathering-in’ cross-departmental prayer sessions regularly on Fridays next term. We are also hoping to hold an event to formally launch the prayer network in the new year.
If you would like to be involved, the network is being run this year by postgraduate volunteers, Victoria Udom and Joy Choi. Email them at(firstname.lastname@example.org)