‘Following the Flame’ could not be of an more ideal theme for the 2012 URC Holiday Forum. Besides ‘playing’ with the Olympic and Paralympics theme and an invitation to discover the presence of God in the midst of the ordinary things of life, the theme nicely locates the story of the Holiday Forum.
It is a story that began in the post-war period with their first meeting in 1950 in Swanick (initially the Congregational Forum) and ever since the Forum has met yearly at the same place. It is an event that we should support, participate in and be proud of. Following a theme, the programme for the Holiday Forum always includes a variety of activities such as worship, singing, games, workshops, speakers, dancing, outings, walks, talent shows, quizzes and plenty of free-time.
I have never been to the URC Holiday Forum so I gladly accepted the invitation to visit and share in a “meet the moderator session” at the 2012 gathering. What struck Leonora (my wife) and I was the warm welcome that we received from the reception point to every encounter during the time we spent there. While there were a few familiar faces, most participants were people I have never met before, all eager to have conversations, tell their stories, share their photographs, show us what they have been doing and ensuring that we were not left on our own. Every person we spoke with shared stories of the warm welcome and inclusive spaces that the Holiday Forum creates for all. People were not only eager to tell us how much they enjoy the Forum: Leonora and I felt and experienced an atmosphere that flowed with much goodness and positive vibrations. We felt as if we were being part of an extended family on holiday. This was quite a change from the negative stories one encounters regularly!
From the stories we were struck by the number of years people have been attending, including children and young people, the friends they have made, and the conversations they pick up where they have left off the year before! According to a very long standing member of the forum, his advice to those interested in coming to the Forum is: “Don’t come with your children. You will never be able to miss another Forum!” In Guyana we use a different expression but with the same sentiments: “Once you drink crick (for Creek) water, you are stuck to Guyana”!
During my “meet the moderator session” I had an opportunity to introduce myself and share some of the impulses that have shaped my faith. There were also quite a few questions around which we shared in engaging conversations. Some of these conversation points included the future of ecumenism, concerns about GA becoming only a business meeting as we wrestle with costs, affirmation that we need to do more together (our collective responsibility) rather than be separate parts of one family, how we can become a movement again (as against an institution), and the renewing theology to accompany this. I was heartened by the affirmation of my “triad” regarding the urgent need to reframe our questions, re-author our conversations and make generosity the orienting habit of all of our conversations. Our session was brought to a close with all singing a hymn “People of the Jesus Story” that Colin Ferguson wrote based on my address to GA 2012!
May we continue to walk the talk of the way of Jesus, with overflowing joy!