My Forum experience: the university music student

Josh Venables 17 Sep 18

If I were to sum up my experience as a music student at Forum 2018 in a couple of words, it would be inspiring and practical. Forum is basically a massive get-together for a few days every summer of about 1000 Christian students from all over the country who share the same vision of reflecting and spreading Jesus in their places of study. As a student coming along to Forum for the first time, I was honestly just excited to spend time camping together with Christian friends from my university and to get to know them better. After all, camping is undeniably the dream bonding activity and I had a feeling that Forum would mainly just be about having a class place to hang out, play a bit of football and have a good time with Christian friends. By the end of the time, I had realised that Forum was far bigger than that. The benefit of Forum is not merely one of spending quality time with friends, but also the inspirational atmosphere and talks, accompanied with several practical nuggets for Christian Union witness.

"The epic and active nature of the Saviour"

The first aspect of Forum which hit me most was the way it inspired me in realising the epic and active nature of the Saviour we follow today. One of the things that particularly stands out in my memory was seeing the release of Uncover Mark, UCCF’s most recent student-aimed discovery edition of the gospels. The realisation that the same documents which fuelled such radical excitement and change those 2000 years ago in the Near East, was now excitedly being lapped up by students across the country as we opened the books for the first time was epic. The accompanying piece of theatre, The Mark Drama, was another memorable experience for me, driving home the emotional experience of Jesus in his pursuit of his mission to save, all the way through Gethsemane to the cross.

The other side of Forum which made it special was the practical goodness that spoke directly into the reality of being a university student. I went to a seminar series on prayer which had so much deep truth to teach on how we should be prioritising our prayer lives for our spiritual growth rather than our circumstances. I also went to an awesome seminar on using music within the Christian Union, which made me think about the possibility of themed open-mic nights including a talk when back in Oxford.

"A God-glorifying creative pursuit"

However, the most valuable things for me as a music student were the Music Network seminars. Here, we were able to dig into how we should approach our music studies and the way that music interacts with Christianity as a God-glorifying creative pursuit. We also thought through how we could creatively use music in evangelistic ways (one of the ideas that hit me was running a concert with the theme of sharing music which means a lot to your life). All of this juicy material aimed at a music student was inspiring as I could not only see the practicality of it but also the excited energy of others around me keen to use their music studies, whether at university or conservatoire, to glorify God, as well as using their particular roles around other music students to share the gospel in different ways geared towards their particular needs.

Coming away from Forum and soon heading back to university, I’m looking forward to seeing the way that it changes my attitudes and witnessing opportunities and how I can use the encouragements and advice that I have received. The experience of going to the main meetings, music seminars and other events across the week have certainly a massive impact on encouraging and inspiring me to be a witness in my university.

Although there may be several other big Christian camps and conferences up and down the land throughout the whole year, I doubt anything comes close to Forum in its uniquely valuable ability to bring together, inspire and practically equip students who are keen on shining the light of Jesus within their universities.

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