Studying and Celebrating Cambridge’s Mission History

A large crowd gathered in the Faculty of Divinity on Wednesday afternoon, 27 April 2016, to learn more about the rich history of Christian mission associated with the city and university of Cambridge.

The event was both a seminar offered by the Rev. Dr. Ian Randall, a research associate of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide, and the launch of a new occasional paper from the Centre. The subject? The Cambridge 70, a hitherto little-studied aspect of Protestant mission in the mid-20th century.

You can listen to the talk here: Part 1  Part 2

The Cambridge 70 took their inspiration from the long history of mission in Cambridge, looking back to Henry Martyn in the early nineteenth century as well as the Cambridge 7 of the 1880s. In 1955, scores of students associated with the Cambridge Intercollegiate Christian Union committed themselves to overseas missionary service. The students who answered this call found themselves in a wide variety of ministries across the globe. They were also part of the ongoing change in mission thinking and practice. Rather than seeing mission as ‘from the west to the rest,’ they were on the frontlines of mission ‘from everywhere to everywhere.’

“So much changed about Christian mission in the 20th century,” noted the Rev. Dr. Jesse Zink, director of the CCCW. “What is significant about the Cambridge 70 is how they were caught up in these changes and offered faithful witness to God at a moment of transition.”

The story is told inThe Cambridge Seventy: a Twentieth-Century Missionary Movement, an occasional paper published by CCCW and authored by Dr. Randall. The occasional paper has its origins in a series of ‘witness’ seminars that CCCW hosted in 2014 and 2015 in which members of the Cambridge 70 shared their memories and stories. Dr. Randall’s research used these seminars, as well as his own survey of Cambridge 70 members and the growing collection of archival material in the CCCW’s collections.

Conversation at the seminar and launch looked both back to the Cambridge 7 of 1885 and also ahead: if the Cambridge 70 followed the 7 by 70 years, would there be a Cambridge 700 in 2025? Some attendees noted that given the international nature of the student body in Cambridge now, any future Cambridge 700 would no doubt involve missionaries representing a wide diversity of the world’s cultures.

The research and publication were funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Maurice and Hilda Laing Foundation.

Copies of The Cambridge Seventy are available for £5 (including P&P) and can be obtained by writing to the Centre’s administrator Polly Keen.