By The Revd Holly Newton
Attending this was an incredibly valuable experience. The week with people of another faith was a mix of learning, studying the scriptures, attending worship and enjoying fellowship together. There were lectures, tutorials, workshops, creative activities, discussion and visits to Mosques and churches. There was also plenty of delicious food, some silly games, punting and lots of laughter and fun.
Being together for a week meant that we got to know each other very well and were able to discuss things in depth. We were able to dig deep into some of the challenging questions. We discovered many points of connection and came to a deeper understanding of one another’s faiths, whilst recognising points of real difference. The group came to a point of genuine mutual respect and a shared appreciation of one another’s life of faith and spiritual practices. There was a sense of shared enjoyment in being able to engage so deeply in discussions of faith and belief. There were some profound shared moments and lasting friendships were formed. The group will remain in contact, with joint inter-faith projects and resource sharing. The chance to establish these links between leaders from the different faith communities is one of the real advantages of this programme.
Personally I felt that the week was not just educational but also formational. There were times of real challenge and times of genuine connection. There were also lots of opportunities to reflect deeply on our own beliefs. Reflecting on some of the challenging questions which were posed was very helpful in strengthening my own convictions and also helpful in building my own confidence. This was an affirmation of the immense value of my time training at Sarum, which has been a wonderful preparation for facing some of the big questions which will inevitably be encountered in the course of Christian ministry.
The experience also helped me to reflect on how I would engage fruitfully in dialogue with other faiths in the future. This would include being more aware of the need for careful use of language – making sure that words used were being understood in the way intended, being sensitive in approaches to interpreting the scriptures of another faith, and having increased confidence in working on inter-faith projects.
I would highly recommend this summer school to anyone interested in inter-faith dialogue, or to anyone with an interest in challenging the tendency to ‘other’ those from different faiths, cultures or backgrounds to ourselves. The experience was hugely enjoyable, constructively challenging, formative, transformative and full of joy!
The summer school runs annually with a re-union weekend in the winter. For more information visit the CMCS website at https://www.cmcsoxford.org.uk/
The Revd Holly Newton is Team Curate of The White Horse Benefice and a recent graduate of Sarum’s Centre for Formation in Ministry, shares her experience of the Oxford Muslim Christian Summer School run by the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies.