Sarah: A Forum first timer

Church of England member Sarah Finch was a CTE Forum 'newbie' in 2022.

Sarah shares her memories of CTE Forum 2022…

I somehow found myself in Swanwick as part of the Church of England delegation at this forum, this gift was due to someone else not being able to go! On the CTE website it claims that the forum ‘is the broadest representative ecumenical gathering of Christians in England’. Having experienced it I would vouch for the veracity of this statement. It was diverse in almost every way you can think of, and this diversity was celebrated! Where else might you find yourself at breakfast with the Archbishop of Canterbury, at lunch with Pentecostal Bishop Mike Royal (the new General Secretary of CTE) and at supper with Cardinal Vincent Nichols! The representation of young people – from all churches – was impressive, as was the age range and cultural mix, with worship of all flavours!

On the first evening we had an inspiring talk from Archbishop Justin Welby. He started off by saying that the first question we must ask is not WHAT we follow, but WHO we follow; affirming that we find our unity in the fact that we follow the same Jesus Christ. He asked how can we talk to the world about reconciliation when the church is so divided. He talked of the need for reparation, repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness. A great acronym was used: WWJD – What Would Jesus Do. How does Jesus look on diversity?

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in his response to this address, talked about acknowledging, accepting and celebrating difference, and that ‘on this prayerful journey we can be transfigured – into the likeness of Christ’. We are called to rejoice in our diversity, there is diversity in the Trinity. The essential truth is that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Climate change and our reconciliation with the earth was also covered in an inspirational talk from Canon Dr Ruth Valerio, who challenged those present to teach awareness, pray, give, speak up and take action.

A long journey was made in a short time (just two and a half days). The difficult questions – the elephants in the room – were openly faced and talked about: these being primarily race and gender issues. At different points during the day we met in our ‘home groups:’ Each group comprised of about eight people, so there was a chance to share in depth, and continue the conversations started in the main hall. As time went on one could palpably feel the unity grow.

I think above all we were left with a sense of our oneness. We are mosaics coming together to build the bigger picture. It is up to us to get out there and make a difference in the knowledge that we can achieve more together!