Forum for Change Christmas Dinner in Bristol, 5 December 2012
Forum for Change (F4C) is an excellent initiative facilitated by the Evangelical Alliance (see www.eauk.org/forumforchange) which is being expressed regionally, through gatherings like this.
The Christmas Dinner was held at Hope Community Church, in Hotwells, Bristol, which was decorated with a Christmas theme. This was the seventh Forum for Change gathering in Bristol since March 2009, bringing together key Christians from each of the eight spheres of life in the Bristol region (Sport, Health, Education and Young People, Family, Politics and Social Action, Arts, Media and Business and Workplace) plus also some key prayer people and a couple of church leaders, a total of about forty in all.
The idea was to encourage networking and dialogue both within each sphere and across the spheres, in order to spark fresh relationships, to encourage working together and more strategic action, to help bring transformation to the Bristol region.
There were a couple of speakers. First of all Marvin Rees, who came second in the recent election for Mayor of Bristol, spoke about his vision for Bristol, his experience in running for Mayor and challenged the Christian community to raise its game, to think bigger and more strategically and to get more involved (for example in politics) to bring change to Bristol.
Sheena Tranter, who is part of the Facilitating group of F4C and the Health sphere, updated us on progress since the Arise Bristol! gathering in Bristol City stadium in May 2012, which she co-ordinated. At that time, representatives of the eight different spheres publicly repented for not working together more, to have a greater impact on society. They declared their intention to do so more strategically in future and so, in the Autumn, Sheena has hosted, with Roger Allen, who facilitates F4C in Bristol, dinner parties of key people in seven of the spheres to start to discern best ways forward. A facilitating group is growing, which so far also includes Grant Sheppard (Sport) and Tim Simpson (Business). There will be more small Food and Drink gatherings in early 2013, with wider gatherings in the summer.
Sheena explained that on Pentecost Sunday May 19th 2013, there will be another city wide gathering in the open air, probably at Castle Park, when there will be a celebration of ways the Christian community are impacting Bristol for good. There will be activities where people from the spheres will engage with the public, for example, with a Sports Zone.
In the Autumn, there will be a large indoor event in collaboration with Churches Together in Greater Bristol, with a chance to engage more deeply with the spheres, for example in seminars, as well as at exhibition stands and in a service for everyone.
Clare Fleming, who is part of the Health sphere and also involved in praying with Lydia Fellowship, read Ephesians 4, verses 1 to 16 and led us in five minutes of silence, to help sense what are the best ways forward.
Everyone then enjoyed a delicious two course dinner, cooked and served by Des and Candace Francis and their team, from Wick Court. People sat with others from the same sphere for the first course, then mixed with others across the spheres for the second course. Many ideas and strategies for 2013 and beyond, were exchanged in the dinner discussions, some of which were fed back to everyone. A final prayer was said by our host, Chris Bond, and everyone went out into the cold December night encouraged and envisioned.