Our website says CTE Forum ‘is the broadest representative ecumenical gathering of Christians in England.
‘Forum is an opportunity to be encouraged by the diversity and depth of Christian witness in England, and to be enriched by forging new relationships and connections.’
Wow! That sounds like an event I’d want to go to, even if I wasn’t working for CTE.The packed programme is inspiring but, if I’m honest, a little overwhelming. Forum only happens every three years, so, how can I make sure I get the most out of the event?
I’ve sought advice from a number of people who’ve got multiple CTE Forums ‘under their belts’. Thank you to my interviewees Joe Aldred (JA), Philip Brooks (PB), Doral Hayes (DH), Elizabeth Joy (EJ), Anna Nugent (AN) and Victoria Turner (VT).
So, what’s special about the CTE Forum?
‘Forum is an opportunity to come out of our silos. If ecumenism is going to work, it works on relationships, zoom can maintain those, but its not as easy to foster or develop them.” PB
‘I enjoy being around people who you wouldn’t normally encounter. Having breakfast with an Orthodox bishop on one side and a Salvation Army person on the other. It’s a great opportunity to ask all your ‘stupid questions’ with no agenda.’ VT
‘There are some great speakers. If I’d not been at past Forums I wouldn’t have had the chance to hear from church leaders and great theologians.’ DH
Who’ll be there?
The programme shows who are the speakers and workshop leaders.
‘There’ll be people in senior leadership in our denomination, some young people, new leaders – real cross section’ PB
‘Even though there’ll be people with grey hair, fancy hats and titles under their names it doesn’t mean that they have more right to be there than you. All of our voices are equally valuable in that space.’ VT
How should I prepare in advance?
‘Go with an open mind and be prepared for anything – to meet all sorts of people and to learn lots’ AN
‘Think about what you are bringing to Forum. Bring yourself generously, your life journey, your church responsibility, your sense of the world’ JA
‘The programme is really important but don’t underestimate what happens at the margins. This is equally valuable – over breakfast or in the bar. You can get a lot of work done and have some meaningful conversations.’ DH
I’ve chosen my workshops and worship, but what’s a Forum homegroup?
Be part of it. Don’t spend the time in your room. Its an opportunity to get to know a few people well. This (a homegroup) gives you another space to talk with people, to receive and to share. Especially for those who are quieter. What you have to say quietly is just as important as those who are shouting loudly’ JA
And why should I visit the marketplace?
The Marketplace is set up in the Butterley Hall throughout Forum but manned on Tuesday afternoon from 1.30pm to 3.15pm. CTE’s Bodies in Association and partner organisations will have stalls with information and resources to share.
‘In record time you’re able to broaden your horizons about Christian organisations in England – its a real opportunity’ EJ
‘Go; don’t think this is free time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. People aren’t going to try and sell you something, they just want to talk about what they’re passionate about.’ DH
What if I am coming to Forum on my own? I don’t think I’ll know anyone.
‘Anyone who is an ecumenist generally loves to talk people beyond the four walls of their institution. There’s no need to be nervous’ PB
‘Everyone wearing a badge is such a relief. Striking up a conversation based on the info on a badge is a great start’ AN
‘I’ve made some lovely friends through Forum. Through meeting at a workshop, sharing a meal, still talking, then having breakfast together or having a drink in the bar. And I still see them. We spent a special time together.’ DH
How can I share the Forum experience more widely?
With my ‘comms hat’ this is really important to me. I’ll be looking after the CTE Facebook and Twitter so please follow us, share and retweet. Please look out for and use the hashtag #CTEforum2022.
‘It’s a real danger that you just go to Forum, absorb and keep it absorbed. I would say to newcomers and Forum old hands that it is essential that as well as you having a great time that you take that back an broadcast it’ Think how you can do that, keep a diary and when you get back write or record something.’ JA
‘What we experience is not just for us; the whole purpose of coming to Forum is to share that enthusiasm, ecumenical endeavour with the wider church’ PB
It is a privilege to be part of the 300 people there. So, think about how can I bring the energy of Forum to my church or organisation. Keep the energy going.’ VT
Other things I didn’t ask but I wanted to know and have found out…
- There’s no need to take a towel. The Hayes provides those. Don’t forget your toothbrush though!
- The rooms are comfy. Think Travelodge or Premier Inn without a TV.
- Yes, there will be WiFi. The signal is pretty good in the main areas.
- No, you don’t have to dress up. You can go exactly as you are. It’s really friendly. Wear your clerical collar if you want to.
- The food is very edible…and of course you don’t have to cook it (which is a treat for many of us)
- It is tiring, however there will be lots of free coffee, Maybe get a few early nights before it starts?
I’ll see you in the coffee queue, dining room, home group, workshop…and the bar. Do say ‘hello’.