It's been a full few days on my English 'tour' - with much to enjoy and think about.
On Friday, I caught the train up to Derby for a combined conference of the UK national community and Meditatio Seminar on the theme of Contemplative Christianity. The main speaker was Professor Bernard McGinn from the University of Chicago. He is a well-known and extraordinarily learned scholar of the mystical or contemplative tradition in Western Christianity, and his talks were rich and yet evidently grounded in the lived experience of prayer. Unfortunately, I have no photographs of this part of the trip, since I was inside a conference centre for most of it!
I gave two workshops on the Saturday on the theme of Being a Contemplative Church, and was able to share in some detail about our life at Benedictus and what we are learning about the vocation of a contemplative church. People were very interested and engaged - lots of questions and wonderings about the possibility of developing like communities in different ecclesial settings, and so that was encouraging and thought provoking.
I returned to London on Sunday afternoon, and then on Monday caught the train to Brighton on the southern coast. Here's the sea-front merry-go-round just off the rather grey shingle beach!
I came to visit Rev. Philip Roderick who is the founder of another contemplative group called Contemplative Fire - established under the auspices of the Anglican church's Fresh Expressions movement in the UK about 15 years ago. Contemplative Fire describes itself as a 'dispersed community of Christ at the edge, inviting us into transformative awareness', and it runs events and services in conjunction with churches (I think mostly Anglican) throughout the UK. We arranged to meet to talk about the whole notion of contemplative Christianity and had a great conversation and sharing of perspectives.
Afterwards, I met with a friend and member of the WCCM who lives in Brighton and who showed me some of the sights, including the famous Brighton Pavilion - built by the Prince Regent (later George IV) in the 18th century as a kind of folly for himself and his court.
The outside looks Mogul influenced - apparently the inside is more Chinese inspired!
We wandered a bit in the Brighton lanes, where there are lots of jewellery and antique shops, as well as an over the top (perhaps inspired by the Prince Regent) chocolate shop. These, would you believe, are highly decorated chocolate cakes - with a rather improbably tropical seaside theme - octopus, mermaid and flamingos!
After that, came a walk along the promenade,
with views of an extensive windfarm out to sea,
and of course, the appetising looking Brighton beach itself!
Back in London last night was the Meditatio event called One in Christ: Why do LGBTQI people feel rejected by the churches, at which I spoke with James Alison. It was a great evening and a privilege to share the event with him. Here we are afterwards.
My time here is nearing its end - I've got one more major event to do - Silence in the City at Westminster Cathedral Hall on Saturday - and before that on Friday, I go up to Oxford to visit some old haunts. I'll keep you posted!
One last link - a picture of me walking on Hadrian's Wall 10 days ago, taken by Father Laurence and featured on the WCCM Daily Wisdom page recently!