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.
Autumn is here again. I love the familiarity of the changing season, the predictability of nights closing in, the rich and vibrant colours, the sound of crunching or - today - squelching leaves under foot. For me a reminder of the passing of time, in a positive way, and God’s presence within. Coming into autumn before conference for the third time though, is anything but ordinary. Having had to cancel conference in 2020 and 2021, I am approaching 2022 with more optimism, but inevitably changing dates has had an impact, and sadly Mark Oakley and Padraig O’Tuama are unable to be with us.
I am delighted, however, to say that Ian Adams and Peter Gubi will be joining us. In this newsletter we will introduce Ian; Peter will be familiar to many regular conference attendees - look out for more from him in the following newsletter. Also in this newsletter Karen from planning group will share something of what it has meant for her to be ‘lost’ and ‘found’.
We are delighted that most people who booked for 2020 are coming in 2022. Others joined the booking process in 2021 and so at present bookings are full and we are holding a waiting list in case anyone is unable to come. Do still contact Julie if you are interested. firstname.lastname@example.org. Kim Gooding
Chair of Planning Group
Date of next conference:
23rd - 27th May 2022
After 4 years of travelling we are really hoping that we will finally arrive in May 2022 and we hope you can still join us!
INTERVIEW with Ian Adams
1. Why did you accept the invitation to conference?
I am excited about the possibility of participating in a conversation exploring the confluence of practices of faith and practices of care, open to how each might inform and shape for good the other.
My personal experience is that the Judaeo-Christian tradition can bring deep healing. It also seems to hold out hope when whatever I perceive as healing seems elusive.
The idea of a conference that senses that the darknesses we face might contain within them traces of divine light and presence is very appealing.
I’m really looking forward to learning at the conference some of what I need to discover at this time.
And I try to say yes rather than no whenever possible - that seems to me to be a very good practice for life.
2. What are your first impressions of conference?
Conference seems to be a gathering of people who are both curious and faithful - a vital mix.
This is a place where those of us involved in counselling, pastoral care, therapeutic or psychological work can explore our calling in the context of the Christian tradition and experience. This is a unique opportunity.
I sense that this conference is a belonging place, and because of that can become for us a transforming place.
3. What are your feelings about the title 'Here be Dragons - Searching for Treasure’?
I love the title!
I’m looking forward to exploring the edges with others who sense that we might find there some great gifts for our human and pilgrim journeys.
I like the connection with the old practice of the Christian tradition - to go into the wilderness, the mountains, the wild places to seek to be present to God, and so allow ourselves to be changed.
4. What would you like us to know about you before you come to conference?
The Christian spiritual tradition that seems to resonate most within me is one of devotion.
I have a few go-to practices that seem to hold me: I run - not far, not fast, every two or three days. I have a simple practice of yoga. A body prayer. And the Jesus Prayer.
I have a melancholy strand to my being, which I am learning to befriend.
Tender(ness) is a really important idea to me, a good first and last word. And I love jazz.
Ian has given us the following poem to share with you:-
inside a dream
through which I fly, an eagle
in slow high circles
the cool clear space
between sleep and wakeful
in deep snow
are the tracks of one who has wandered
stopped and stumbled,
a trail of lost or discarded things.
They lead to a man
naked and foetal, settled
for death. Or for birth.
I recognise this man.
Ian Adams: Wilderness Taunts, Canterbury Press 2016
A picture of the “I AM” sayings of Jesus, by Anne Jones
How much further? I think we are lost!
Karen Stallard reflects on moments of lostness.
It’s turning dusk, legs are tired and the water bottles are empty. There is one biscuit left in the packet of Hobnobs, and this is given to the bedraggled, muddy-looking dog who, thank goodness, hasn’t sat down yet. There is no phone signal, so no Google maps or sat nav. The compass that someone had the good thinking to pop in their rucksack is still working… but no one has any idea of our actual location on the map. The woods are obscuring any landmarks and the trees are beginning to look like giant, shadowy statues rather than friendly warm huggable trunks. Not only that, but the map has got wet due to a down pour several hours ago: it has a slightly pulpy feel to it and the folds are now tears, only held
together by a thread of paper in the centre. Everyone is wearily standing around the flapping and now seemingly useless piece of paper. The youngest amongst us says, “How much further?”. The oldest admits, “I think we are lost.” Someone pipes up in a glum voice, “I didn’t want to go for this walk in the first place”. The dog barks as if to say, “Come on then, what are we waiting for?”.
I am sure most of us have experienced being lost at some point in our lives. If not, then I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Souk (market) in Marrakech. There you will get the full experience of wandering around in circles for hours on end, with a growing sense of hopelessness of ever finding your way back to the market square. The journey through the market stalls will take you past all sorts of strange and wonderful sights, along with some close encounters with roaring motorbikes, pick-pockets and gentlemen puffing shisha. I realised quite quickly in the Marrakech Souk that panicking would get me nowhere, the only way to survive was to relax, tuck my phone and bag safely away, and take in everything around me. The walk through
to the other side was going to take a very long time. After my frustration at realising my excellent sense of direction was completely useless, I began to enjoy myself. The unfamiliar smells, faces and objects began to change from being threatening to familiar. Three hours later I emerged from the market hot, smiling and with a number of little purchases for friends and family. I had survived being very lost.
The Souk, Marakesh
I am imagining, as we continue to journey through the pandemic maze and Brexit confusion, that there is a real sense for many that the UK is a bit lost. Also, if we travel inward into our own psyche, there may be parts of ourselves that also feel lost and are wondering how much further this shadowy journey is going to take us. In my therapy room often clients will say to me “I feel lost”, and I can hear my own heart resonate with that moment of lostness, that moment when we realise we don’t know the way forwards, we don’t have the answers, and we have no idea to how to make it home; all we know is that we can’t go back to how it was. I remember my own transformative moment of lostness vividly: I was
coming to terms with being a lesbian, I was still a Baptist minister and was totally lost as to how to move forwards. In my moment of lostness I walked to the end of the pier in Hastings and gazed out into the ocean. I knew I only had two choices: I could walk off the end of the pier into the sea, or turn around and walk until I found myself again. I chose to turn around and keep walking and, with the help of some wonderful people, found myself again along with a wife, a job, a home, and a new journey into the therapeutic world.
We so often want to jump in with solutions when someone else is feeling lost, as the lost feeling is not at all pleasant to be with. However, I have realised that we can never be found again if we have no true experience of being lost. Interestingly some folk still think I am lost, but that is because they have never taken the time to find out if I have found my way through the maze of sexuality and faith. Just like the lost son, the lost coin, the lost sheep, we all have to be lost in order to be found; perhaps that moment of lostness is the pivot, the turning point, the axis; perhaps it is to be held kindly, gently, without judgement and with interest. Perhaps it is OK to feel lost for a while, as some things take time to turn in
the right direction. My hope for the 2022 Continuing the Journey Conference is that we can all gather together around the map of life and have permission to admit lostness if we are feeling lost. Some of us may have a few hopeful Hobnobs to share around; others may just give an encouraging bark; but perhaps we can also make space for those who share a sense of hopelessness, feelings of being let down and also allow the space to finally admit we are lost in a place where there may be dragons and we have no idea of how to proceed.