Next conference

21st-25th May 2018




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 want to consider 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 will consider 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?

The conference will explore our encounters with the world and individuals in church and therapeutic contexts. We’ll look at how we are impacted by others’ stories and what we end up carrying, often in our bodies as a result. We’ll look 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 will tackle the theme from theological/biblical, spiritual, psychological/therapeutic and social/pastoral perspectives.

This conference offers a safe opportunity for conversations with others, with our self and with God in a liminal place. It provides a chance to retreat from the busyness of life with a creative space for reflection, challenge, nourishment and fun. The conference will include plenary sessions, workshops and small group work. In addition, each day will have worship and opportunities for reflection, relaxation and sharing. As a special treat we will have a comedy evening with Paul Kerensa.

Introducing our speakers for 2018

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.


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.


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.


The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley is Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. Mark is responsible for the educational and outreach activities of the Cathedral through the work of its Schools and Families Learning Department and the St Paul’s Adult Learning Department. He also oversees the work of the St Paul’s Institute through which the Cathedral seeks to engage with ethical issues concerning the City, finance and human wellbeing. Mark is also responsible for the visual arts policy of the Cathedral which seeks to enhance the mission of the Cathedral through temporary art installations.

Mark’s interests are the relationship between faith and poetry, human rights and the language and place of faith in the contemporary world. He is the author of several books, including The Splash of Words and the Collage of God. He is a regular lecturer and broadcaster and is a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London. He is a trustee of the Civil Liberties Trust, an ambassador for Stop Hate UK and a Patron of Tell MAMA.



Quotes from previous conference participants

“A wonderful blend of mental, spiritual, and psychological stimulation, reflection, silence, worship and free time.”

“Enjoyed the variety, the vast experience, expertise and humour of the speakers.”

“The balance of worship, study and rest was very good.”

“Opportunity for most of the self to be used i.e. head, heart, spirit, creativity, humour, aloneness, relatedness, imagination and reflection.”

“The warmth has helped my spirit to start flickering again after feeling dead”