I have just returned home from Sheffield and the first conference in the UK for practitioners in Mind Body and Soul Outreach. I really enjoyed the weekend, and enjoyed meeting up with old friend and other folk who have been working in this field in some cases for many years.
It was suggested on by a few people over the weekend that we should tell our stories, and probably in doing so tell the story of how the conference came into being. My story of becoming involved in this area began over ten years ago with a deepening dissatisfaction with who I was and where I was spiritually. I had come to know God through Jesus, when my son Chris was diagnosed with a severe heart condition just after he was born in 1985. I joined a pretty conventional church whose theology would probably be best described as evangelical- conservative evangelical, for someone from a chaotic background it gave a framework and order to life and faith, and I appreciated the support and encouragement of my new church friends.
As I grew in faith however I moved beyond acceptance and began to question, very soon I found myself knocking into boundaries and feeling constrained, spirituality was not a popular concept, but it was something I craved, something within me was empty, and I wasn't sure what to do with it/ how to seek the depth of connection that I felt I needed.
In 2001 I was invited to be involved in a team that was going to place a stall into a Mind Body Spirit Exhibition in Colchester, Essex and I was instantly both intrigued and suspicious, I wondered if we should be going into an area that I had been taught was spiritually dangerous, but at the same time wanted to know what these new spiritualities were and how they related to Christianity. To borrow a question from John Drane I wondered if I could ask; "Do Christians know how to be spiritual?" With this question burning in my heart and mind I decided to join what was to become the Journey Into Wholeness project.
John came and led a series of training sessions for us, alongside this Church Army Evangelist Penny Horseman taught us how to engage with our spiritual journeys creatively through Rob Frosts Essence Course. I was hooked!
From that point onwards discovering and engaging with people in the new spirituality movement went hand in hand with my own journey, I found that areas I had stayed away from because I had previously thought them to be no go areas became new ways of relating to God and catalysts for my own development and growth. My faith became more holistic, and I began moving away from the mind body split that had dominated my discipleship (although I still struggle in this area, especially when it comes to body image).
I was so challenged and encouraged by my first venture into a Mind Body Spirit Exhibition that I wrote a report ( this is a later report) that was picked up and published by a couple of magazines and the project took off, I was asked to help others place similar stalls to ours into other MBS Exhibitions, at that time they were growing in popularity and appearing all over the country. Between 2003 and 2006 a further seven Journey Into Wholeness groups were formed as more and more groups of Christians became interested in engaging with the thriving culture of new spiritualities.
The more I did the more I came to realise that other Christians/ Christian groups were also stepping into the new spirituality arena, many like me had found themselves dissatisfied with traditional church yet passionately in love with God through Christ, and this produced within them a burning desire to connect with other spiritual seekers. Others were joining New Monastic Orders of forming New Communities/ Expressions of Church. I think we would all say that the journey we find ourselves on has opened up an awareness of the expansiveness and creativity of God, and we have begun to breathe more freely. The Exhibitions themselves have changed in size and shape and frequency over the years and I will write more about that in a later post. My journey has taken me from exhibitions to town fairs and markets places, but perhaps the biggest change in me has been the realisation that I will encounter God in unexpected and wonderful places, the S/he is at work in and through so much more than I would ever have thought possible. Yes discernment is essential, but I have been surprised by the positive and unexpected light on more occasions than I have been by the negative and darkness.
The Conference this weekend brought together over sixty practitioners from various traditions, theologies and areas of the UK. Our journeys have been unique, in some ways similar, and in others very different, for this weekend they brought us together and I for one was very encouraged by our meeting (s). Where else could a group of Christians get together over a glass of wine or two and begin a discussion on aura's that some how worked its way around to alien abductions????
There is much more to tell, and I will try to write more this week, I have yet to mention tarot, crystals, and hang drums!
A view across the MBS Exhibition in Newark, Nottinghamshire.