On Saturday at New Central Methodist Church in Blackpool we held a Spirit of Light Festival, it was an event to present the Christian path through a variety of spiritual practices and experiences from the labyrinth and meditation to the possibly more controversial display on tarot and the offering of Jesus Deck readings. We were pleased to welcome a number of people into the Festival and enjoyed good and open conversations and experiences with them.
I am often asked why I get involved in this kind of thing and why I don't simply stick to preaching the gospel in a traditional way. My response to that is twofold, first that one of the things that we must acknowledge is that for many the church is inaccessible there is a chasm between their own spiritual experience and search and what they believe church to be. Many are interested in the person of Jesus and are attracted by his story, many are deeply spiritual and are seeking a connection with spiritual goodness and healing, but do not expect to find that on the Christian path. There are many reasons for this not least the fact that the church has failed at times to live out and preach its message with humility and integrity, its message has also suffered from being reduced to a set of moral concepts which were used to control rather than to release and free people. While that is not true for many Christians or local churches the stereotype that is formed keeps many away from visiting and so we need to stand in the gap and build a bridge over the chasm of understanding.
The second reason is connected to that last part of the first, we are often portrayed by the media
as being grey, sou-less, boring and irrelevant, and sadly sometimes that is how we appear. So the purpose of the Spirit of Light Festival was to build a bridge to cross the chasm, to stand in the gap and to invite others to taste and see. This was not only true for seekers but also for a number of Christian folk who found themselves engaged in deeply spiritual way which was in some cases truly releasing and inspiring.
I firmly believe that as the body of Christ the church is called into the gap, to offer as he did, and through him, a reconnection with the God in whose image we are created, the God who loves and accepts us, the God who has a plan and a purpose for us, and who longs for us to be connected with him/ her ( I do wish we had a genderless personal pronoun in the English language!).
I think the key to all of this is connection, we are connected beings, mind, body and spirit, we were made for connection with one another and with God. All of those connections can so easily be broken, we so easily find ourselves disconnected and dis-eased, and we need the healing reconnection of the Holy Spirit in our lives to enable us to be at home with ourselves, with one another, and with our Creator. For all this is a journey of discovery, a journey that is worth taking, and a journey that we cannot take to any depth alone, we need one another and we need God's Spirit to guide us. On our part this requires an openness to making the journey, I wonder sometimes if the widest gap and the deepest chasm is within ourselves...
I will simply leave you with two quotes:
“My mind then wandered. I thought of this: I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments—we hear a word that sticks in our mind—or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly—we share a hotel elevator with a bride in her veils, say, or a stranger gives us a piece of bread to feed to the mallard ducks in the lagoon; a small child starts a conversation with us in a Dairy Queen—or we have an episode like the one I had with the M&M cars back at the Husky station.
And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection—certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.”
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”