Musical Forums - RNCM's Story

Nathan Fenwick 04 Mar 19

Recently, the Christian Unions across the various higher institutions in Manchester hosted their annual citywide mission week: Story 2019. Exploring this theme through some of the seven basic plot lines of great stories (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Basic_Plots if you’re not aware of these!), as well as the Mark Drama, there was a focus on encouraging people to share their personal stories in order to fuel discussion about the gospel.

The CU at RNCM, the Royal Northern College of Music, for the second year running hosted some “Musical Forums.” For these, friends and colleagues of all backgrounds were invited in advance to present a piece relating to a given theme: in this case, suffering or identity. Over the course of an hour, three students had the opportunity to perform their piece, as well as talk about its relation to both the topic in general and/or them personally. Given that we study in a place where people are engaging with music on an hourly basis, it seemed obvious to utilise this medium in an interesting and thought-provoking way. After all, not only were they “merely performing” the piece, but they were also obliged to think about their connection to it. This provided an open path to discussions on the topic at hand, and gave the speaker material to relate to in their response, for the three performances were followed by the speaker (in our case Music Network Co-ordinator Tom Chevis) doing a similar thing – responding to the theme personally (though without music, due to time constraints), in which he was able to share the Christian perspective on it.  

My initial impression at the end of Story 2019 is that momentum grows throughout the week. From a reasonably small informal Q&A session (a ‘Grill a Christian’), to a better attended Musical Forum on suffering, to a Musical Forum on identity to which a good number of people came with real engagement and honesty, it was a wonderful surprise to me to see how much events can grow through a week. It was great seeing each CU member engage in their own personal evangelism by bringing friends along and discussing with them. Particularly encouraging was one CU member bringing a friend to two of the three lunchtimes, where he asked questions and engaged so well in the topic of the Musical Forum, that he ended up going to some of Story’s citywide evening events, where the gospel was engagingly and clearly presented from Uncover Mark. As a result, he is now going through Uncover Mark with his CU friend, and attending church. Please pray that he will continue to engage and eventually come to salvation!

Musical Forums are a fantastic resource for any music department or conservatoire, and I would highly recommend them, both as a challenge to your non-Christian friends to think about their music, but also to you in terms of your personal evangelism and discussion. The main logistical difficulty is notice rather than resources; make sure to give people plenty of time to sign up and prepare (they may need an accompanist too of course)!

Of the second Musical Forum, on identity, our speaker Tom said:

'In some ways it was the most beautiful evangelistic event I’ve ever been involved in: the honest engagement from all the performers meant I could share the Christian standpoint in a way that was authentic, biblical and distinctive.'

As a result, he recommended that the Musical Forums become a more regular part of RNCM life rather than an exclusive Events Week item. I am very excited to see how this idea develops in the future, and the implications for those in Manchester.

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