We met with students of the final Birmingham University cohort together for the last time this week; a chance to reflect on the many changes we had been through together.
One of the students had made her regular trip from Hamburg (losing 10 degrees centigrade in process weather-wise), another appeared after a break of three years, having completed his MPhil in 2013 and in the meantime turning his thesis into a published book.
There were also members of the voluntary staff who made an appearance after some years absence, usually caused by back home demands.
I mention all this just to illustrate something of the commitment that UTU generates among those who get involved in its work.
Ian Duffield, Director of Research, rehearsed the changes that had taken place since the group had begun in 2008/09.
One of the big changes has been the shift of venue from the leafy Victorian suburbs of Abbeyfield Road to our present central location opposite the Crucible Theatre, beloved of all snooker aficionados.
Someone responded to this by saying how his fears, that this move might involve the possible loss of something of UTU’s unique ethos, had not occurred.
The whole thing had moved lock, stock and barrel – or should one say, book, shelf and laptop? – relatively seamlessly with much thanks to our administrative staff.
John Vincent reminded us of the theological ethos of UTU with his emphasis on addressing the actualities of our given situations in the light of biblical antecedents and the witness of the historical church.
He emphasised the centrality of the incarnation and the demand of the gospel to be realised anew in every generation.
The students themselves shared how much UTU meant to them as a place where they could share their interests and concerns, not only with staff but amongst themselves as they progressed along the demanding academic route required.
Probably the most outstanding feature the students appreciated was working together as a group over the years.
Currently UTU is working with Luther King House in Manchester with Manchester University providing validation, but UTU’s supportive and this collegial working style remains a constant and hopefully will prove attractive to a future generation of students.
Robin is a PhD Supervisor at UTU and retired URC Minister.