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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, January 25, 2003
    Exploration and exploring
    At The Mirfield Centre today I had one of those Little Gidding moments. You know, the bit where Eliot writes:
      With the drawing of this Love
      and the voice of this Calling
      We shall not cease from exploration
      And the end of all our exploring
      Will be to arrive where we started
      And to know the place for the first time.
    It came during a day titled 'A New Belonging?', exploring how people today seek out their identity and spiritual humanity. And during the morning session a quote provided by Beverley McAinsh of The Living Spirituality Network helped me tell my story:
      "Future Christianity is generating itself from the lives of those who have fled to the margins" (Sr Wendy Beckett)
    In our small group I recalled how my 'exploring' began 'on the margins' of the church but was nurtured by a supportive 'centre' (parish clergy who gave us mavericks encouragement, advice, and space to do our own thing). And now that my journey had rushed me breathlessly into the 'centre' my task is to become one who will contact, support, and nurture those 'on the margins'.

    This is not a new thought but a returning to a good old one; and among many rich things said by the guest speakers today I was especially encouraged by a slight remark by David Hope, Archbishop of York. He mentioned a couple of 'signs of hope' in the way the church interacts with the world today - and one was Greenbelt.

    Greenbelt is, of course, the 'marginal' place which has energised my journey for 25-plus years; a community of creativity and inspiration. A place to dream and try, and fail, dream more and try again. It's somewhere which addresses in art and soul, so many of the questions we were grappling with today. How to make connections; how to 'earth' spirituality; how to 'travel light'; how to listen for God's voice among the artists and outsiders.

    Greenbelt's not the only space where this happens, of course, but it's the one which has most helped me. Good, today, to spend time in another but similar space, exploring how to change our language from the "discourse of mourning" at the decline of our structures into something positive and new, how to "inhabit the collapsing Temple" (James Alison) and to "keep [our] mind[s] in hell and despair not" (David Hope / St. Silouan).

    It wasn't a comfortable place, but as Rudolph Bora has said,
      "When the forms of an old culture are dying the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure."