Halfway up…. or possibly halfway down. Either way it’s the halfway stair that is not quite like any other. It’s a place to pause and reflect, to take stock and to breathe. In all the ups and downs of life, and the work we do, we are acquainted with sorrow and joy, with pain and goodness, with turbulence as well as calm. There is much that would throw us off balance, and it is those issues which we considered at this conference, taking time to gaze at the shadows and the light from a place of rest.
It’s an image that also speaks of childhood, and so we considered as well whether the simplicity, the wonder and the joy of that stage of life are necessarily lost to us for ever. Or do the holy fool and the playful-self offer us a way to maintain our sanity in the face of situations and stories that might often feel hard work and heavy going? Can innocence be transfigured and recaptured for an adult world?
Our 2018 conference explored our encounters with the world and individuals in church and therapeutic contexts. We looked at how we are impacted by others’ stories and what we end up carrying, often in our bodies as a result. We looked at whether the spontaneity and playfulness of childhood can be rediscovered; how we build resilience and how we can use ritual and our understanding of the temple as part of a healing process. Our speakers tackled the theme from theological/biblical, spiritual, psychological/therapeutic and social/pastoral perspectives.
This conference offered a safe opportunity for conversations with others, with our self and with God in a liminal place. It provided a chance to retreat from the busyness of life with a creative space for reflection, challenge, nourishment and fun. The conference included plenary sessions, workshops and small group work. In addition, each day had worship and opportunities for reflection, relaxation and sharing. As a special treat we enjoyed a comedy evening with Paul Kerensa.
Nigel Copsey has a deep passion for pastoral care especially the integration of psychological insights within Christian faith. He has taught pastoral ministry at Spurgeon’s for over twenty years. Currently Nigel is the Team Leader for Spiritual Care in two NHS mental Health Trusts where he is responsible for ensuring that spiritual needs are incorporated within Care. Nigel lives in East London where he began Christian ministry in one of the first Anglican / Baptist churches. He is an Anglican minister who is also trained as a psychologist and psychotherapist and is a Programme Leader in the psychology department of The University of East London.
Nigel Copsey Introduction
Nigel Copsey plenary session 1 – Too risky to be vulnerable
Margaret Barker is an independent biblical scholar who has developed a new approach known as Temple Theology, for which she was made a Doctor of Divinity. She has published 17 books as well as numerous articles and reviews. She was co-founder of the Temple Studies Group, and she is a past president of the Society for Old Testament Study. For 12 years she was a member of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s international symposium Religion, Science and the Environment. She is a grandmother, a Methodist preacher, and for over thirty years she was a volunteer at a women’s refuge.
Unfortunately one of our speakers, Mark Oakley could not join us for conference and so Margaret very kindly stepped in and provided two plenary session for us.
Margaret Barker Introduction
Margaret Barker plenary session 2 – Transfiguring the text and finding the Lady
Margaret Barker plenary session 3 – More about the Lady in the New Testament
Jennifer Kavanagh is a speaker and writer on the Spirit-led life, a retreat leader and an associate tutor at Woodbrooke Quaker study centre. She has published eight books, including The World is our Cloister and A Little Book of Unknowing. Jennifer worked in publishing for nearly thirty years, the last fourteen as an independent literary agent, and In the past fifteen years has run a community centre in London’s East End, worked with street homeless people and refugees, and set up microcredit programmes in London and in Africa. She has also worked as a research associate for the Prison Reform Trust and currently facilitates workshops for conflict resolution both in prison and in the community. Jennifer is a Winston Churchill Fellow, a trained singer and a member of a Community of Fools. Balancing an active life with a pull towards contemplation is a continuing and fruitful challenge.
Jennifer Kavanagh introduction
Jennifer Kavanagh plenary 3 – A sense of belonging