The Journey

-- explorations in God and the human condition


My life has been one lived in the context of religion and spirituality. A religion which has been orthodox but liberal-minded, open-hearted and whilst in some ways radical always avoiding the doctrinaire and fanatical. The kind of religion which I virtually never see reflected in contemporary debates or in the mainstream media! Nonetheless it is also a religion which is deeply part of British history and is not the marginalized, persecuted minority which some people seem to imagine it is. We are all emerging from a long period of domination of European society by Christendom and this requires uncomfortable readjustments by everyone involved. Certainly there is an enormous amount of ignorance about the church and Christian belief and the voices of antireligious bigotry can be strident, but I believe this is inevitable as we disengage ourselves from the experience of Christendom where the church had a powerful hold on every aspect of people's lives. My own journey and my thoughts on spirituality and theology are inevitably affected by this context. But I do believe now is a time when we can, in fact, return to our roots and creatively engage with the way of Jesus as brought to us through Scripture and the traditions of the church.

 

These pages seek to record my own explorations of God, the way of Jesus and the human condition. It is divided into three sections, reflected in three personalities that have become iconic for me. I hope you'll find them useful as you embark on your own journey. I am gradually working on developing all these links.

 

Firstly there is the dimension of spirituality which is symbolized for me by the Desert Father Arsenius. Arsenius was the tutor of the Emperor's son in Constantinople but fled that existence to live with the peasants and hermits of Egypt who had retired to the desert in order to seek God. Arsenius sought silence and solitude and was, by all accounts, a difficult character but he earned the respect of his companions and pursued his path with a genuine humility. The Desert fathers have been an important guide for me on my spiritual journey and I return to them daily, particularly the tradition of discernment typified by the important but rather obscure character of Poemen. I treat this dimension through four lenses:

 

Struggle -- the quest for meaning and the experience of wonder

Feelings -- the exploration of the human heart

Prayer -- my practical framework of prayer and ascesis

Influences -- people and resources that have influenced my journey

 

Secondly there is the dimension of religion which is symbolized for me by the character of Jethro. Jethro was the father-in-law of Moses and came alongside him when he was finding the leadership of the people of Israel too much. He therefore symbolizes community and interdependence, he is also an inspiration for aspects of my work where I support and listen to community workers and others. I believe having a religion is a necessary part of the human condition even though it is now much derided it in the name of personal freedom. Certainly religion can be used for nefarious ends but this doesn't stop us needing to be part of a community which communicates a shared story, so enabling us to work together and be fully and interdependently human. I explore a number of different aspects of this in my life

 

My church communities -- my experience of church, especially English Nonconformity

Christian history -- including the Desert Fathers, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Christianity, urban churches

Evening Prayer for Stoke Newington -- an initiative I have been involved with to give fresh expressions of the Anglican tradition of evensong

Ministry -- reflections on my experience of exploring becoming a reader in the Church in Wales

Thirdly there is the dimension of theology. If spirituality focuses on the heart and religion on the body then theology is about using the mind in our spiritual journey. This is symbolized for me by the Old Testament character of Ezra who lead his people out of exile and was well versed in the Scriptures. Having taken my first degree in theology at Bristol University this intellectual side of the journey has always been important to me but I have remained suspicious of abstract Western theology and I've always tried to see my thinking as rooted in a particular context which both enriches and limits how I see the world. I explore a number of different aspects of my theological thinking

 

Contextual theology -- my reflections on the mainly urban context in which I have lived and worked

The theology of long-term illness -- this has become increasingly the context in which I have operated and forms an important part of my theological reflection

The Bible -- I have had a love of the Bible since adolescence and it remains the wellspring of much of my thinking

God thoughts -- I find myself often pondering on the nature of God and I collect together my thinking here

Ethics and other issues -- Some thoughts on ethical and other issues

Key influences -- some reflections on people and ideas that have influenced me


Storyman 


















Arsenius








Jethro

 



Ezra