As university students are set to return to the city, we hope that this will mark a revival of the Intergenerational Project that has been part of our church life over the past few years. Originally intended as a means of welcoming international students, particularly from Josephine Butler College, to the city, more recently UK students have also been part of the regular evenings in our church hall, when some of our church members have introduced the younger generation to life in the UK, and the city of Durham in particular.
We were able to hold our final session for 2019-20 (summer term being always too busy for such activities) just before lockdown in March. And now we know that last year’s students are calling for the Project to be revived, although in ways that are appropriate as we all live with the Pandemic. So we hope to be able to greet the new international students and make them feel welcome and less isolated than they might otherwise be, as well as Freshers from closer to home who have been coping with the very different world we’ve been sharing since last March. And of course many us from Waddington Street, who have been suffering the confines of isolation and reduced social interaction, will certainly benefit by making contact again with the younger generations.
Each year church members have developed a rapport with the core group of students who have supported the Project during their stay in Durham as undergraduates. With returning students we look forward to recalling earlier conversations and discussions about local history, wildlife conservation and local culture, and maybe more light-hearted events too. Some students have shared with us on church walks and outings, and in food or craft activities in church member households. And there have been memorable evenings when we have been guests of the students at Josephine Butler College.
We hope in the coming year to find ways of sharing interests together, even if face-to-face gatherings are not possible. Maybe students could connect further with some of the church’s support for abolition of modern day slavery and promotion of fair-trade, while church members might help students explore the background of their very own Josephine Butler heritage. And those of us from the older generations, perhaps uncomfortable or challenged by modern technology and the internet, will find that continuing the Project provides a means of building bridges and encouraging one another in the days ahead.