Continuing The Journey newsletter - May - 2023
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May  2023
Continuing The Journey


Continuing the journey conference is an open temporary community, creatively exploring continuity and tension between the world and church, nature and grace, psychology and theology.


Welcome to our latest newsletter in which we are delighted to introduce you to our new theme for 2024 and to all of our speakers. We hope you enjoy this introduction and we really hope you can join us in May 2024!

Booking forms are now avaliable here, book early to get a discount!

WTF... Navigating the shifting sands

There is much in life – in that of our society and our world, and perhaps in our own – that can leave us almost speechless, shocked, and wondering how to react and respond.  Upheavals and challenges and changes can leave us asking ourselves whether there is any firm ground left to stand on.

Whether we feel we are in the thick of things, or somewhere out on the margins, our conference will seek to provide a safe space in which to come together to explore, to reflect, to think, to feel, to worship, and to unwind, as we seek to navigate the shifting sands of our continuing journey.

Tim Haggis

CTJ Co-Chair


was on my mind when I foolishly peered into a smelly cave just outside of Bethlehem in November 2022. I leapt back with a squeal when a strange creature bounded up to me with excitable glee, my eyes widened; “That has got to be the ugliest goat ever.” I declared. “Surely there is something wrong with it!". My fellow travellers crowded round, and a photo was taken, then the learned clergy member of the group exclaimed “I know a Bible reference about this goat… Isaiah 34.14 - 'Wildcats shall meet with hyenas. Goat-demons shall call to each other.’" The moment felt profoundly weird as we realised this ugly creature was famous enough to be in the bible. From that point on our Goaty friend was fondly known as Goat Demon.

After a little more research it turned out that this goat was in fact a very valuable species found in the region, it is commonly called the Damascene Goat or the Aleppo goat and is worth several thousands of pounds. It is bred for its milk and believe it or not… its good looks! 

Life is full of surprises, and we are certainly in strange times, as we start serious planning for our conference in 2024. We are aware that things will continue to surprise us with the constant shifting of the economy, politics, and institutional provision in the UK. I believe our challenge as people of faith when we have a WTF moment is to explore with curiosity the 'wild cats, hyenas and goat demons' of this world rather than recoil in fear from them, this way we may be able to discover hidden depths and riches that are missed by those who turn their heads away. We hope CTJ 2024 will help us with this journey, and we hope you will be able to join us there as well!

Karen Stallard (Co chair)

(photo by Simon Woodman)

Meet our speakers for CTJ 20-24 May - 2024

Maggy Whitehouse is an independent sacramental minister, a lifetime student of Judaeo-Christian mysticism, the author of 20 books on spirituality, mysticism and Bible metaphysics and became a stand-up comedian at the age of 56. Maggy has worked in newspapers, radio, TV, for the BBC’s famed World Service and is half of the weekly podcast, Train Wrecks for Jesus. She made it on to Wikipedia after writing a sensible book about Opus Dei at the time of all the palaver over The Da Vinci Code.  She has been widowed, divorced, healed from cancer, worked as a hospice chaplain, she has ridden on a Bengal tiger and survived a barracuda attack off the Barrier Reef. Both Maggy’s mother and her Bishop think she should get a proper job.

Why did you accept the invitation to conference?  

The timing of the invitation was a beautiful synchronicity. I was reading Susan Howatch’s St. Benets series about a fictional healing ministry in London - and the books weave Christianity and psychology together so beautifully that the languages merge. The lady who recommended them to me did me the honour of saying that my own two latest novels reminded her of the series and although I wouldn’t put myself anywhere close to the league of Susan Howatch, it encouraged me to step up and acknowledge that I have skin in the game of exploring the roles of faith, therapy and laughter for people on the edges of belief, of society and of pastoral care. For the last ten years, I’ve been an unofficial chaplain on the UK comedy circuit where this kind of work has been both fascinating and much needed. How could I turn down such a wonderful invitation to the next conference on how pastoral practice can be enriched by discussion and exploration at a time when WTF can mean so many wonderful and necessary ideas?

What are your first impressions of conference? 

I suspect that everyone will probably say ‘a gathering of like-minded people’ and I also get the impression of spirited conversation and good hearts to challenge, console and teach each other. I’m really looking forward to learning a lot!

Our title theme this conference is - WTF. . . Navigating the Shifting Sand. What first springs to mind?  

The faces of my family when I first announced that I was being ordained … and again when I announced that I was training to become a stand-up comedian! If they hadn’t been so genteelly middle-class ‘WTF?’ would have been the first words out of their mouths both times. One of those was bad enough for a lineage of atheistic rationalists but the other, implying you could laugh at such a career choice was dumbfounding. I’ve spent ten years travelling all around Britain – and abroad - performing comedy in pubs, clubs, at galas and spiritual events. It has been terrifying, exhilarating—and it is a pastoral ministry not only to lift – and open – hearts but to sit with and listen to those with autism, Asperger’s, to gay folk, to transgender folk, to the lost and the broken who, away from the microphone, feel unheard and often unloved. They have found their way forwards from loneliness through being funny, but they often seem to appreciate a cuddle or an inclusive kind word from a putative comedy-vicar-grandma-spiritual director in the green room. The sands often show their initial need to shift very clearly on the comedy circuit – with comedians opening up their views on their reality and challenging audiences to think again and to look at life differently. I never stand up alone. Right with me is Thalia, the Muse of Comedy. She used to be known as the Angel of Mirth and her place was right by the throne of God. That is until is someone invented the whoopee cushion...

Do you have experience of venturing into shifting and unknown territory? 

You mean apart from being an independent vicar and a stand-up comedian? Yes! I was the second ever female radio breakfast presenter in the UK, the first person in the world to bring a dog, legally, into the UK from the USA without quarantine, I travelled around China by rail in the early 1980s meeting people who had never seen a Western woman before, including those who insisted on scratching my skin with their fingernails to see if I was covered in white paint – and two men who fainted when they saw my white midriff as I washed in the communal washing area on a Chinese train. I was on the first tourist trip into Argentina after the Falklands War and sat with people whose sons had been killed by my countrymen. I’ve been widowed, divorced, survived a failed emigration attempt to Montana, USA, directed live television, survived the dot com crash two weeks after my start-up was funded (and then unfunded!) and peeled potatoes in a pub to make the rent. I’ve been homeless and totally reliant on the kindness of strangers, and I’ve been in situations where the only possible way out was to let go and let God. I once had the opportunity to ride on the back of a Bengal tiger at a private zoo – so I did, and it was lovely. I spoke on holistic medicine in a teaching hospital in St. Petersburg in 1992, only to discover that the doctors and nurses all knew much more than I - because they had to. They had no medicine – not even anaesthetics - so they had to use what they called ‘spiritual magic’ to help their patients, including blessing books that they placed by a patient’s bed and blessing their surgical tools and bandages too. It has been a life of adventures and miracles. Seems like I was born to live on the edge of everything.

What would you like us to know about you before you come to conference?

I think you already know far too much! That my life is one of miracles, that I love to make people laugh and that it’s not my job to tell people what to think, but it is my job to make them think.

Alistair Ross  is a psychodynamic therapist, supervisor, and writer. With a background in social science, practical theology, ethics, mental health, counselling and psychotherapy, Alistair has been a Baptist minister and was an early attender at CTJ. Alistair now leads a master’s degree programme at Oxford University, where he is an Associate Professor of Psychotherapy, Senior Fellow at Kellogg College, and an Associate member of the Theology faculty. When he gets the chance, he loves going back to Scotland, the land of his birth, and climbs Munros (increasingly slowly), celebrated by a wee dram afterwards. 

Why did you accept the invitation to the conference?                                                              

I was very involved with CTJ in its early years and only stopped attending when I moved to a full-time academic post in 2002. I have been on the mailing list ever since. I still think it is a unique conference that offers different perspectives on how to be fully human and deeply engaged in helping others. What I valued most were the people, so it is a joy to be able to join you.

What are your first impressions of conference?

A difficult question to answer because of my previous connections. So I can only answer by saying that I want to meet the CTJ of 2024, not the CTJ of my past. It is a vibrant group of people, so I hope to be able to contribute to that and also learn from it.

Our title theme this conference is - WTF. . . Navigating the Shifting Sand. What first springs to mind?

The first thing is an image rather than a thought. It is of the shifting sands found in Namibia in South-West Africa. These sands are in continual movement and in some places deserted mining ghost towns have been engulfed, only to be revealed again when the sands shift again years later.

Do you have experience of venturing into shifting and unknown territory?

When I was 9 my parents moved from Scotland to Bristol. When I went to school nobody understood what I said and I recall thinking, “Och these English people are awful thick.” When I was 42, I moved from being a minister of religion (Baptist) to becoming Director of the Clinical Theology Association (it was an encounter at a CTJ conference that was influential in that) before becoming a Lecturer in Psychodynamic Counselling at Birmingham University in 2002. Navigating unknown territory appears to be part of my DNA.

What would you like us to know about you before you come to conference?

I love writing and in recent years have focussed on Freud (2 books), psychodynamic therapy (1 book and 1 chapter), and hope by the time of the conference to have completed another called Escaping the Labyrinth. For four years I have written a regular article in BACP’s Spirituality division journal Thresholds called “Real-world spirituality”. By the time of the conference, it will be my 10th anniversary of surviving a life-threatening fall down a mountain. It did change my life.

Simon Woodman is the Minister of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in the West End of London, and the Baptist Chaplain at King’s College London. He has previously been a market stall holder on Camden Market, a Baptist Minister in Bristol, a Tutor at South Wales Baptist College, and a lecturer at Cardiff University. He grew up in Sevenoaks in Kent, and has degrees from Sheffield, Bristol and Cardiff Universities. He is married to Liz.


Why did you accept the invitation to conference? 

Who could refuse a conference with the theme 'WTF'??? More seriously, I have known of the conference for some years, and have had it in mind to attend at some point. I am interested in the intersection of the Bible, theology, pastoral care, and psychotherapy. As someone who benefitted greatly from an experience of psychotherapy a few years ago (I describe it as the closest I'm likely to get to an experience of exorcism), I am curious to learn more from those who will be attending in 2024 alongside me.

What are your first impressions of conference?

It sounds fun! A good conference is only partly about having the right speakers, it's mostly about having the right people attending - and my impression of the CTJ conferences is that they attract the most interesting people as attendees. I'm looking forward to the after-hours conversations already.

Our title theme this conference is - WTF. . . Navigating the Shifting Sand. What first springs to mind?

By the time we get to the 2024 conference I'll have been ordained for 25 years, and the context in which I offer ministry now is in significant ways unrecognisable to that of 1999. We might still sing the familiar hymns in church (we do!) but advances in technology have created a social shift as significant as that of the industrial revolution. We stand on shifting sands, and it is destabilising. Yet I also believe that people are still people, driven by the same desires and needs as those who shaped the Christian scriptures. The task before those of us who stand in that gap between faith and world, is to bring the ancient insights to bear in new ways for our context, to help people live well in their lives.

Do you have experience of venturing into shifting and unknown territory?

On holiday in Egypt a few years ago with my wife and ageing parents, we took a day trip into the Sinai desert. As we trekked across the desolate lifeless sands, we just had to hope that our guide knew what they were doing. Then he told us we were going to walk the 'coloured canyon' which was, it turned out, not so much a 'canyon' as a beautifully coloured, very deep, and worrying steep crack in the ground.  As we squeezed our way through crevices, and were helped down impossible-looking drops, we were utterly reliant on our guide. If one of us had fallen and broken a leg, I have no idea what would have happened next. At the end of the journey we all agreed that it was one of the best things we had ever done, but if we'd known in advance what it involved we would have never done it. That's life.

What would you like us to know about you before you come to conference?

I am the Minister of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London's West End, and before that I was Tutor in Biblical Studies at the Baptist College in Cardiff and at Cardiff University. I love people (well, mostly), enjoy swimming (it's the closest humans get to flying), and have an ongoing fascination with the Book of Revelation (it's the SciFi end of the Bible).

Linda Woodhead is F.D.Maurice Professor at King’s College London. She researches religion, spirituality, magic and values in formerly Christian societies. Her most recent books are That Was the Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People (with Andrew Brown, 2016), Gen Z, Explained (with Katz, Ogilvie, Shaw 2021) and Unknowing God: Towards a Post-Abusive Theology (with Peter Harvey, 2022). She is a regular broadcaster on religion and current events.

Why did you accept the invitation to conference? 

Tim Haggis contacted me because he had read a book I recently co-authored with the former monk Peter Harvey. The book is called ‘Unknowing God’.  It is about how bad ideas of God drive out living spiritual awareness. Peter and I were both trained in theology, but I have had a career studying alternative spirituality and Peter has been deeply influenced by psychotherapy.  Tim explained that our book is working at exact same intersection of interests as the conference, so I had to say yes.

What are your first impressions of conference?Our title theme this conference is - WTF. . . Navigating the Shifting Sand. What first springs to mind?

There is a lot of pessimism and anxiety around at the moment. I am currently head of a university department, and students and staff are affected by it. I’ve studied and reflected on this generation of students – Gen Z – and what it means that they have lost faith in progress.  

Do you have experience of venturing into shifting and unknown territory?

I think we all do. That’s life. The idea of progress and moving to a modern world of untroubled peace and prosperity was always an illusion.

What would you like us to know about you before you come to conference?

I’m currently doing work with survivors of sexual abuse and my supervisor is a therapist who uses IFS (‘Internal Family Systems’) therapy. She is helping me get better acquainted with my unruly inner family members. Better late than never.

Comments from past delegates….

“Joyful but deep….full of treasures…. Healthy food for the journey.”

“It offers an inclusive, creative, ‘sacred space’, is extremely well (and thoughtfully) planned and is uniquely special – but in a way that’s hard to explain.”

“What is offered here is rare. Prayerful holding of all who come, satisfying worship, challenges and resources.  It is also a place where I feel less of a misfit in what I believe.


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We look forward to seeing some of you in May 2024.

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