Each year, in the first week of September, around 1,000 student leaders from across the UK don their wellies, pack up their tents and bring their Bibles, notebooks and enthusiasm to the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) Forum conference at Quinta Hall in Shropshire. The conference aims to equip Christian Union (CU) leaders for their role in the mission to take the gospel to all students. With around 2.5 million students in the UK this is a huge task. CMF shares in this mission, and this year UCCF invited us along to share in the training.
In the main meetings, Becky Manley-Pippert (author of Out of the Saltshaker) (1) encouraged us to think missionally when with friends, and shared her experience of reading the Bible with non-Christians. CMF and the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship teamed up to host a seminar track looking at how our studies and faith interact. We looked at the role of faculty sub-groups of CUs and particularly at how CMF groups can work better with CUs. Giles Cattermole (Head of Student Ministries at CMF) led a training session for the CMF leaders whilst I went tent-knocking to get to the bottom of why there is sometimes a divide between 'CMF-medics' and 'CU-medics'.
At some universities there is confusion about the roles of CU and CMF and how they can work together synergistically. CMF was founded in 1949 and grew from UCCF's graduate ministries at the time. UCCF and CMF still share a doctrinal basis, and a heart for sharing the good news about Jesus. CUs are fantastically equipped for mission on campus, but CMF may be better placed to understand medics' concerns, and invite them to events.
Beyond this, CMF aims to prepare medical students for life as a Christian doctor, considering ethical issues, discussing faith with patients and supporting medical mission. This clear role for CMF's student work shouldn't deter campus-based medical students from getting involved in CU. I was challenged to think carefully about 'meetings for the sake of meetings', and to consider how CMF's local groups can work alongside CUs. Wouldn't it be fantastic to see all the Christian students working together for the glory of God?
The week was a great opportunity to meet students from across the country, hear about plans for CMF groups and be reminded why we should be so excited about mission. With my foundation programme application submitted, I'm now coming to the end of 'studentdom'. Whilst I wouldn't say I'm 100% prepared for the working world, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities for learning and encouragement that I've had over the last few years via the medium of conferences like Forum. It's certainly one to look out for next year!
Clare Bird is a clinical medical student in Leeds and chair of CMF's National Student Committee