A Century of Influence – ASCM Book Launch

The Following is the text of Rev Alan Matthew’s speech to launch the Australian Student Christian Movement’s book “A Century of Influence –The Australian Christian Student Movement 1896-1996” by Renate Howe in Western Australia.acenturyofinfluence

Thank you for the honour of ‘launching’ in WA “A Century of Influence –The Australian Christian Student Movement 1896-1996”.

Of course it is a great pity that the author Renate Howe couldn’t be here, as intended.

However, Betty and I were in Victoria and were able to attend the launch at Melbourne University. This was at the Gilbert Building, Grattan Street, about a mile south of the Wyslaski Hall, Ormond College, where the Australasian Student Christian Union was inaugurated in July 1896. That, by the way, was just ten months after the World Student Federation was formed in Sweden 1895. John Mott didn’t waste time.

The book launch was chaired by the Rev. Wes Campbell, UC Chaplain at the University with Prof David Pennington speaking and Renate Howe responding. Some 50 attended, some known to us. And because we were there, Barrie put the hard word on me.

Barrie’s mailing to SCM Friends included invitation, a copy of the July letter announcing the book’s publication and the story behind it, and finally a University of NSW sheet telling about the book the author and John Langmore’s commendation; also how to order. Perhaps Barrie would be willing to place a collective order, for those interested, at the cheapest price for you.

Why is this book so important? Because it tells an exciting story of those 100 years to 1996. On the back cover “With Prime Ministers Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke, High Court Judges Ronald Wilson, Garfield Barwick and H.V. Evatt and educators David Pennington and Leonie Kramer all members, ASCM has provided a forum for exploring spirituality and social issues in the nation’s universities for over a century. Described as “A University within a University”, the ASCM was especially important for women, encouraging them to develop academic interests and leadership skills. With a national and international influence, including its exploration of Australia’s place in the Asia/Pacific region and opposition to racial discrimination at home and abroad the organization has inspired academics, politicians, public servants, business leaders and clergy to put their faith into action. (The author tells) the story of a movement whose influence has extended well beyond its formal membership.”

Western Australian readers may be disappointed that there seem to be no references to SCM in this state after the 1960’s – probably the time when it faded in the “God is dead” era. The good news is that in the late 1980’s Carolyn Tan held meetings to try to re-establish an area council in WA. From mid 1994,further meetings were held, initiated by Barrie Baker, Fr Nigel Mitchell, Anglican Chaplain at UWA ,students Matt Lamont and others plus Friends of SCM, which finally led to the re-establishing of the Council. In the book these are not mentioned, nor the leaders and workers, student and postgraduate, who have served SCM both in WA and nationally, no doubt because it was about this time that the idea of a centenary history was being mooted.

Though small in numbers, the resurrected SCM in WA is here today. So praise the Lord!

In the lower corner of the book is a symbol, the good ship OIKOUMENE storm-tossed on the sea of the world’s history. This ancient symbol so familiar to us is of course based in scripture – the Gospels, and Ps 107. In Part this says: “Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the wide ocean. They saw the deeds of the Lord; his wondrous works in the deep…….he raised the stormy wind …..they were tossed up to heaven, then plunged down to the depths, and their courage melted away. Then they cried to the Lord he made the storm be still …..and brought them safely to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.”
I hope CCWA and SCM together will ensure that this book not only is widely publicized and sold, but is placed in libraries in Universities and the Public Library System.

Reading history, our history, can be a catalyst to help us envision God’s better future for a fast changing world, and inspire us to begin to live it out, now.

“A Century of Influence – The Australian Student Christian Movement 1896-1996” by Renate Howe is available for Purchase by going to the ASCM National Website.