Merton College, Oxford

Peace and curiosity sending more students to college chapels

Wed 21 Aug 2019
By Tola Mbakwe

New figures have revealed students are more than twice more likely to attend their college chapel than the wider population.

The study by the Church of England published on Wednesday surveyed 54 college chapels in Oxford, Cambridge and Durham, with 40 responding.

It found that student attendance across the campuses jumped from 3,000 in 2017 to 4,500 last year.

Rev Canon Dr Simon Jones has been the chaplain of Merton College in Oxford for 17 years.

He told Premier he has noticed a positive trend over the years.

“I think many students come now with a more open mind to the question of the possibility of God, whereas 17 years ago I think many students had encountered the church already and decided whether it was something for them or not,” he said.

Canon Simon added that college chapels offer benefits that other church off campus don’t.

“I think one of the things that a college chapel does is it has a very close intimate relationship with the community it's part of.

 “I think a chapel can provide a place of calm and peace right in the heart of what's often a very busy community.”

In Oxbridge and Durham college chapels around 3 per cent of students attend Sunday services as opposed to 1 per cent of the English population.

Canon Simon said he believes the positive trend will continue as chapels offer much more than Sunday services.

“We offer discussion groups, opportunities to explore the Christian faith, there are opportunities to socialise with other people, often trips, pilgrimages and retreats.

“I think it's very encouraging and very encouraging for those of us who work in Oxford or Cambridge and Durham to see that that chapels fulfilling this this important role.”

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