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Issue 10

Creating a community of h Creating a community of Christ at the edge

Plaiting Presence

How? If we are moved to ask "how?" the signs are that were open to make, or to allow, a shift, an unfolding. On the spiritual journey, the how question always needs to be asked. The invitation of Jesus is to travel light and dwell deep. But how do we respond more effectively to that injunction? The trefoil that shapes our corporate rhythm of life, with its ancient-modern dynamic of prayer, study and action is a cornerstone of the community. How though does this call "to be, know and do" remain evocative and generative? As we celebrate the first seven-year phase in the life of Contemplative Fire this is a compelling question. An answer emerged for me as I reflected with a participant towards the end of a week-long Contemplative Fire retreat. The retreat drew from the rich insights in Cynthia Bourgeaults book, ,,The Meaning of Mary Magdalene1. What was the metaphor that emerged from our dialogue and from Cynthias bold exposition of Christs path of conscious love? A plait. Not simply a woven rope or the warp and weft of a rug, more of a plaiting of essential threads in practising the presence of God. The first strand represents self-emptying, the second strand represents abundance and the third strand represents unitive consciousness or singleness of heart. Through our Rhythm of Life, each and every day we are able to be both stretched and supported by the contemplative practice of Still Waters, the creative practice of the A Learning Journey and the compassionate practice of Across the Threshold. Within and connecting each of these

The Contemplative Fire Newsletter

disciplines, corresponding to life in the Source, Son and Spirit, the interwoven threads of selfemptying, filling and unifying may well provide further substance and resource for the journey. Echoing the deft interlacing of Celtic Christian art and design from earlier centuries, the plaited strands can be mapped onto the trefoil of our Rhythm of Life. By the grace of God, the capacity to self-empty, see from wholeness and align in one-pointedness, reinforce and allow movement from one to the other. Why have a rhythm of life? Because, in a turbulent and hectic world this can be of immense spiritual value, enabling balance, focus and presence. How to make this rhythm part and parcel of ones own practice and flow? By finding ways, moment by moment, of allowing God into relationship with every aspect of our personalities and preferences. Plaiting is but one route in! Philip D Roderick

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Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity, Shambhala Publications Inc., 2010

The Contemplative Fire Retreat A review of the experience written by a novice retreatant!

St Beunos is undoubtedly a very special place. A beautiful tall building set around a central courtyard, this former Jesuit training college is set in the most glorious countryside in North Wales, high on the side of a hill, and overlooking views to the sea on one side and the mountains of Snowdonia on the other. The sun-sets from the top terraces in the extensive gardens were spectacular, and we had beautiful weather during our stay with clear star-filled night skies. This was my first ever retreat and certainly I felt very nervous and apprehensive, not to mention downright grumpy at the thought of six days of silence, with the effort to think "holy thoughts" for that time! Needless to say, I shouldnt have worried. The first session for our fourteen members, led by Susan Blagden and Philip Roderick, reassured me on several points. Our themes included ,,kenosis, ,,abundance and ,,singleness and we were inspired and led by the story of Mary Magdalene (including material from the book by Cynthia Bourgeault.) This was all explored in unique "contemplative fire" style, with readings, art work, poetry, music, shared personal stories, singing and body prayer. I realised there was so much to ask myself, find out, explore and develop. There were "companions" to accompany the journey. And the place was so full of resources! The gardens, the labyrinth, the chapels (all very different and providing some stunningly beautiful meditation spaces) the light-filled sunny library, the wonderful art room; all was there to be delighted in. At the same time the silence gave a peacefulness and purposefulness to the stay which enabled me to participate fully in the learning experiences offered. As we shared some of our thoughts together in the late afternoon session each day I felt very privileged to be part of Contemplative Fire. My last journal entry reads "The six days have flown by. I feel very tired. Its been a long journey and hard work ... how to explain to others at home what it means and how it feels!?"

Thank you to all my companions on this journey and my heartfelt thanks to Susan and Philip for their gentle and inspiring leadership. Liz Okey

Contemplative Growth in Essex

A passing comment at my church, about Christians walking through woods as prayer, sparked my curiosity and their name grabbed my attention. I went home to Google "Contemplative Fire." Coming from a lively, charismatic, evangelical church I was familiar with the "fire" of outreach and action to the point of feeling burnt out by it. I began to recognise that the contemplative tradition could bring the balance that I was looking for. I had been a Christian for over twenty years but this was new territory for me ­ I had never heard of a desert father and the only silence I experienced in church was when the worship leader had lost the music for the next song. At that stage Contemplative Fire was mainly located to the South West of London and as I lived on the East London/Essex border I had to drive half way round the M25 to connect with it. This I did for a year or so, and in the process I tried to encourage others to join me, with little success. I began to recognise that I needed to take Contemplative Fire back home and plant it there. However I wanted it to be a true reflection of what I had found. It was like discovering a beautiful field of sunflowers and picking one to bring home to show others. My fear was that the flower would arrive rather limp and faded and wouldnt reflect the true beauty of the field from which it had come. Eighteen months on we have an established Still Waters group, weve had trips out to a Quiet Garden to walk a labyrinth and to a local convent and are planning "Wisdom on the Way" afternoons along with other events. Contemplative Fire Essex is beginning to grow its own sunflowers. Hilary Garraway

Living in Communities, Contemplative-Fire style

Im just back from the Contemplative Fire 6-day retreat in North Wales ­ a community within a community. On silent retreat, the rhythm is easy: food appears, dirty plates disappear. Theres input, theres prayer, theres walking, theres stillness. Its a community of smiles and blessed solitude. At home in Gloucestershire, I live in a form of intentional neighbourhood called cohousing: 34 private dwellings on a tight 2 acres, with carparking around the edge of the pedestrianised site, and the houses built close to maximise community space. Other than the aspiration to share as much as possible, as ecologically as possible (1 lawn-mower not 34; shared cooking, so bulk organic food orders), there is no common ideology - although there are plenty of individual ones. And then there are my spiralling ,,communities of friends, work, family, supervision and meditation groups ­ not to mention the overlapping worlds of Contemplative Fire ,,central and ,,local. With some of these, geographical proximity or even contact is occasional, but the sense of connectedness runs deep. I ,,live in all these communities ­ but where do I ,,live Contemplative Fires three-fold rhythm, holding Christ at the centre? When we relocated from London ten years ago to become part of the community build, I hadnt calibrated the extent to which our choice would impact our whole lives. Community living ­ even with separate front doors ­ takes a phenomenal amount of time and energy. It provides laughter, pain, surprise, insight and growth, and also requires somewhere ,,inside to process all that. Actually, the same applies to all of my ,,communities. The Contemplative Fire trefoil supplies a structure and a practice for that interior process, inside the circle of each day. Being, knowing, doing ­ praying, learning, acting: I move from one to the next, not always elegantly or smoothly, but held always within that rhythm, at the centre of which is stillness, at the heart of which is God. Jo Rowbotham

Hidden Houses of Prayer: A new initiative

Each second of the day our planet vibrates with soundless hidden prayer rising in the hearts of people of faith in every corner of the earth. They are quietly holding someones pain, ,,pitching their tent for a while in the inner stillness with that person. In the middle of the night, they ,,become solidarity with the heartbroken or with those in danger ­ they may not know who they are ,,holding in the light, but they are with them in God. As they turn on a tap or clean the floor they are being prayer. What if, each day and night of our lives, we could feel that prayer flowing to us and through us? How different would our world be if we recognised that outpouring of love in the clamour of daily life? Hidden Houses of Prayer is a loose network of people drawn to the practice of contemplative, creative and intercessory prayer in their own homes. It is a partnership project between Contemplative Fire, The Quiet Garden Movement and Whirlow Grange Spirituality Centre in Sheffield. Envisioned by Philip Roderick, it is a way of recognising the profound significance of such pray-ers in our world, and of offering support and inter-connection. September 2010 saw the vision-sharing and launch in Sheffield of Hidden Houses of Prayer as an exploration of ,,connected solitude. A variety of desires and aspirations were shared as to what would offer a valuable support to individuals e.g. online resources, occasional local clusters and/or regional and national gatherings. Our email distribution list is now well over a hundred and continues to grow. An account of our first meeting and a short questionnaire which seeks to gain a clearer picture of how the wider network could develop are both available via email at: [email protected] Jane McBane

Travelling Light, Dwelling Deep: resources and support for the Contemplative Fire community

Companions on the Way are the members of Contemplative Fire. They provide the core stability and strength of this dispersed, network community. Those Companions who are able, meet nationally in central England four times a year for Wisdom on the Way days. These include input on different aspects of life in Christ and the nurturance of contemplative, creative and compassionate practice by drawing from the Christian mystics and scriptures and the appreciation of the natural environment. The days together also include conviviality, food, reflective space and Pilgrimage to Now/here - a walk of awareness and celebration. Every year in mid-September, we gather together for our Community Weekend. In addition, there are annual retreats and the Advent and Lent Resources, designed and provided each time by a small group of Companions. As the community develops, we are seeking to enhance our provision of mentoring and support, both of new Companions and of those who have been a part of local Gatherings or of one or more of the small group processes that we offer locally eg 3s, Way Beyond Religion, Open Circles and Still Waters and who are now drawn to initiate a Contemplative Fire presence in their area. This process of encouragement and formation is also beginning to happen internationally as well as nationally. With the seeds of this movement and ministry being carried by the web, emails, personal contact etc., it is essential that we find ways of equipping and enabling others in ,,living the paradox, living the questions. Philip D Roderick, Community Leader

Area Contacts: U.K. and international

Brighton & Hove, John Watters: [email protected] Devon, Sally Livsey: [email protected] 01392 881417 Ely &Cambs, Revd Susan Bowden-Pickstock: [email protected] Emsworth & Hampshire, Patricia Claxton: [email protected] 01243 373981 Essex & East London, Hilary Garraway: [email protected] 01708 502 687 Gloucestershire, Jo Rowbotham: [email protected] 01453 766497 Hertfordshire, Charlotte Wright: [email protected] 01442 871927 High Wycombe & South Bucks, Jo Howard: [email protected] 01494 532984 London, Beatrice Hillman: [email protected] 0207 624 4649 North East Wales, Revd Susan Blagden: [email protected] South Downs, Revd Tessa Holland: [email protected] 01903 740487 Windsor & Berks, Sally Wright: [email protected] 01753 850755 Yorkshire & East Midlands, Revd Philip Roderick: [email protected] 0114 262 0655 Maui, Hawaii, Mary Anna Waldrop: [email protected] Niagara, Canada , Revd Stuart Pike: [email protected] Toronto, Canada, Revd Anne Crosthwait: [email protected] (001)416-834-3400

For further information about becoming a Companion and for community news, contacts and events:

[email protected]

www.contemplativefire.org

Registered Charity No. 1106392

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