Photograph of IOCS Conference Group

Archbishop Michael Ramsey warned in his lecture at the launch of the Federation that, ‘if we like things to be tidy, we shall be very discouraged’. Nevertheless, the ecumenical encounters of the 1970s have proved enduring. At first, the Federation’s students met over meals and increasingly in worship, then in studying together. In later decades, the diversity of the Federation’s ecumenism has been broadened with the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies becoming members. Our inter-faith research and encounter is developing especially through the Woolf Institute. The Federation has since 1972 been a daily sign, in the heart of the university city of Cambridge, of the message from Pope Francis to American Pentecostals in 2014 that, ‘The miracle of unity has begun’. One way of symbolising the yearning for greater understanding and unity is the gift by two Christian women of a bowl, offered as an expression of their faith, and found in Cambridgeshire soon after the Federation’s launch but dating from the early fourth century, well before the universities here or the divisions we know in Christianity today. It is held now in the British Museum. An abstract representation of the spirit of this bowl is featured on this website and in FedLife, our Virtual Learning Environment. Students consistently value highly the opportunities for ecumenical encounter across the Federation, from classes to our fortnightly Federation Worship.