It has been a very busy and intensive 10 days as clergy have gathered at St George’s house for a consultation designed to engage us all in a process whereby we might consider how we speak – and perhaps more confidently – about God.We have been blessed with some very skilled and knowledgeable speakers and explored each day the worlds of the church, law, medicine, social action, art, literature, finance and very much more.we have mined for wisdom and attempted to open ourselves up to new perspectives.
In a world that is ever more cynical about the church my heart has been hugely enriched by a wonderful quality of these women and men, some working in difficult and testing circumstances, to keep the rumour of angels alive, to listen and love and serve communities.
Much of the work has been done in small groups.we have read Scripture together and looked at novels, serious books about contemporary issues such as equality and finance, and a couple of DVDs – including the first series of the BBC sitcom ‘REV’ ! We have done some theological reflection together on a range of issues and questions and each member of the group has brought with them a paper to share with fellow participants.
We have worshipped together. We have eaten together. We have taken wine together. We have looked curiously at each other.we have made new friends and there has been much laughter!
Here’s a snapshot of my small group and for the record thank you to Joabe, Jeremy, Michael, Andy, Barbara, Patrick, Bernard and Richard for everything that you have so honestly and wisely shared.
I had the privilege of introducing the conference and its work 10 days ago and now I must offer some final reflections and these are the words and a piece of poetry that have emerged as I have reviewed these extraordinary past days:
God: Some Conversations 9th– 19th July 2012. Final Reflections
- Learning to listen and especially to voices and perspectives which differ from our own. Being prepared to live with difference and to change. We have all experienced that uncanny moment when a long familiar word becomes strange and remote. We have peeled away the facades of self- evidence and glimpsed the unaccountable otherness of what is there. Our listening has uncovered the difference, the uniqueness, the strangeness of this amazing life.
- Learning about our limitations, explaining the impossible, reaching the limits of our understanding. We have seen what happens when we allow ourselves space to ask questions. We have faced outwards and inwards as we look at who we are, what people expect of us and how much of ourselves we are prepared to show to others.
- Learning about our world and what shapes the way we look at the world. We a have seen some of the fragility of our reality and searched for creativity and empowerment. We have listened to the dark forces of sin that perpetuate fragmentation, inequality, unrighteousness, isolation and fear.
- Learning to share our faith, bringing people into commitment, enlarging their lives and hearts. We have been searching for where Christ might be found, and how we move people on and deeper in discipleship. We shall want to use all the opportunities of modern communication to talk about God but not forgetting the liberating experience ordinary eye contact between new friends. Theology happens wherever we are drawn together into the congenial and annoying labour of conversing, listening and disputing – in short, where we are drawn into a collective struggle for truthful speech.
- Learning about what difference we can make; how we exercise power with love as we share God’s vision of a world where all flourish through the spheres of law, education, finance, Parliament, health, community, family, literature and art. We strive to offer a theology that embraces the whole of reality including all dimensions of our living, our being human and humane. Allowing one another to tell our stories and to find our voice to keep on thinking aloud.
- Learning to love the church and rediscover our vocation – as we place ourselves within the presence of God and ask what is required of us. We might have the courage to take risks and discern new priorities for our ministry. We have helped each other to see the rich diversity of the church and the many colourful ways God claims us. The church exists not for itself but for the sake of a reconciled humanity. We are a laboratory of human possibility, human flourishing, human belonging. And our materials are not test tubes and chemicals, but a book, a chalice, and the broken body of God.
the poem lived,
lived, not written,
the poem spoken
by Christ, who never
wrote a word,
of received ideas
who rebuilt Rome
with the words he
himself a sunrise
of love enlarged,
of love, enlarged
– Extract from A Church in Bavaria by William Plomer
so – my gratitude and much more to think about and do!