Ok, so this isn't the CHELC Conference, because I forgot to take any pictures, this is Chris Howson at Greenbelt sporting a pair of 'Liberation Pants'!
The CHELC Conference was for Higher Education Chaplains (hence the picture of Chris - Anglican chaplain at Bradford Uni - showing how mature and responsible chaplains have to be at all times!)
I travelled the full length of the M1 to get to High Leigh to give a talk on 'Sustaining Community'; in doing so I not only talked about Touchstone and Somewhere Else, but mused on the word 'host'. From the Latin root 'Hostere' meaning suffering, the English word 'host' can refer to both a 'gathering of people in a crowd' or 'hospitality'. I muse that these two meanings come together in 'the heavenly host' a gathering of the people of God in the hospitality of Christ.
Now that's not pants theology!
For a while now we have been investigating how we can have creative space that is flexible and mobile - then we discovered the pop up yurt man! By a natty piece of engineering he has designed a yurt that is both flexible and portable - and won't blow away in the wind! We are working with a fab artist to design how we can decorate and use this piece of kit to help Touchstone to offer listening venues and creative arts space in the community
Happy birthday to the man who has had at least 60 cakes made in his honour!
Greenbelt is really challenging for those of us that live life in very different settings. For many Christians it is a connection with an alternative sort of church, a chance to think radical thoughts. For us at Touchstone it feels more like a connection with the central ground, a coming into harbour but not what makes life real. So many white faces, so many middle class values .... it was good to be invited to speak and to share some thoughts from the edge, or is it the centre??
We wove a stole and Louise embroidered it, it was a bit ragged at the edges (who isn't?) but made from Bradford materials, Yorkshire wool, local cloth and dye .... a gift for our new District Chair, Roger Walton .... some might call it 'rustic' but we reckon it is 'real
lectures, countryside, kids stuff ...
... not just for the kids ...
... creative arts triumphs ....
... the Methodist School of Fellowship takes 130 people to Swanwick, all ages, all nationalities, and mixes them together for a week of relaxation and learning. I both spoke at and ran two afternoon workshops ... and had a lot of interesting conversations with all kinds of people.
The environment was an ongoing theme with both theological and practical reflection on how ordinary Methodists can make a difference. Bible Study reflections, led by Roger Walton, each morning encouraged a deep engagement with Scripture - not just the easy bits!
Quite a surprising gathering really.
Maya has just got back from Guatemala, having learned how to weave on sticks (amongs other things) This is a whole body activity which involves tying warp onto a door frame and then around the weaver's waist. We had a go ....!
A visit from the BBC, making a documentary for Radio4, brought five local Muslim women together at Touchstone to talk about how life had changed for them since 9/11. It was good that we could create a safe enough space for this to happen, and they chatted for over an hour about how they had needed to become more articulate about their faith since those events, so that they could inform their children that most Muslims sought peace and integration. An impressive gathering which provoked deep conversation and a lot of questions
Learn, discuss, reflect, worship, share hospitality ...... how liberating it is to be with a group of people of all ages and cultures, wrestling with the Bible, sharing open hearted and honest conversation, thinking about what it means in their lives, opening up spaces for worship and engaging with good conversation (and coffee!) This is the process that Liberation Theology engenders, and it is also possible .....
A gathering of 30 people from all over Britain to talk about Liberation Theology, organised between Desmond Tutu House and Touchstone, proves YET AGAIN why our house is too small!! We crammed into the Blue Room to talk about Israel/Palestine and environmental issues. We expanded into DT House for film watching (Capitalism - a love story, and Pray the Devil back to Hell) and we spilled out onto the streets of Bradford to listen and learn from our city context. Over a curry at the Karachi (served in a bowl and eaten using chapatti) I talked with my neighbour Tim about Christian protest and what an anarchist church would be like ..... as one does! Brilliant!!