Update re March conference – as requested.

Saturday 3rd March 2018. The second event in our series in partnership with The Institute for Theological Partnerships at Winchester University and Spirit of Peace will explore the theme of working with emergent process and address the question ‘What is the quality of intelligence that is necessary to move things in the direction of a greater flourishing for all?‘.

The emergence of interiority as part of the process of cosmic evolution/awakening will be explored, as well as seeing religion as something that is unfinished and evolving, much as the universe is.

Further details will be available soon. Please let us know if you would like to be emailed with more details of the event.

Speakers: Professor Chris Mowles of the Hertfordshire University Complexity and Management Centre and Rev Dr Terry Biddington, Dean of Spiritual Life and Lecturer in Practical and Eco Theology at the University of Winchester & soul traveller and adventurer.

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More on fear.

Nigerian author Osinakachi Akuma Kalu has just published a new book: The First Step Of The Fearologist (2017). It looks to be a splendid new addition to the growing library of fear that includes the work of Desh Subba https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desh_Subba and my friend R Michael Fisher who has done so much over many years to alert the world to the presence of fear and fearism that is akin to sexism and racism. So endemic that we hardly notice it!

Check out the book and share.


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The emergence of interiority: a new study day

Advance notice

I’ll be giving a keynote at the Institute for Theological Partnerships (University of Winchester) day conference on human flourishing on 3 March 2018.

Theme: the emergence of interiority as part of the process of cosmic evolution/awakening. Seeing religion as something that is unfinished and evolving, much as the universe is.

Further details to follow in the New Year.

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Ice-cream and sausage!

Just  came across this hilarious quote from Lawrence Durrell: ‘theology is very old ice-cream and very tame sausage.’

Cited in Larry Rasmussen’s wonderful Earth Community Earth Ethics.

It sure beats the idea of a ‘tea and biscuits’ theology that is the title of a chapter on the church in my Risk-shaped Ministry!

For those who asked, my new Theology for Earthlings is coming along nicely. Hope to complete it with twelve months!  Watch this space for some more extracts soon.

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Advent sermon

I stood there for so long I got neck ache! For, as you know, the perigee and the full moon are not always in sync & so we need to maximize our chances of getting a glimpse. But there it was, before me in the heavens. Sunday night’s super moon! And being a Cancerian I stood there, moonstruck.

For Cancerians –like the crab which is our symbol- are water creatures. We wax and wane with the moon. Apparently. Phlegmatic, introspective, intuitive, emotional, eloquent and nocturnal. If you are minded to believe these astrological claims.

So the moon exercises a strong pull on the mood-prone Cancerian psyche. ‘Never marry one!’ my future mother-in-law told me, when I got engaged to her daughter. Also a Cancerian. ‘Mark my words,’ she said. It’ll be a rough ride! Well: we’re still going strong!

Perhaps because our stars were in alignment the day we met? Who knows! Just as Prince Harry announced on his engagement to Meghan Markle. ‘We fell in love “so incredibly quickly” it seemed proof that the “stars were aligned and everything was just perfect.”’

Well: I wonder whether your stars ever been in alignment? And what was the effect, do you reckon?

For when they do align, astrologers claim, it’s a clear sign of an unexpected and nearly impossible event taking place. Usually due the divine intervention of God… Or else, more mundanely, to pure luck or coincidence!

People have always been fascinated by the idea that there might be a connection between the cosmos and human lives. That the stars and their juxtaposition, alignment or position in the night sky might have some pull or influence on us. Indeed, if you’ve ever had a bout of the flu, you may know that flu –influenza- is simply the Italian word for influence. The influence of the stars on our physical health, mood or indeed good or bad fortune.

Astrology apart, of course, it is scientifically a fact that the first atoms that flared forth in the Big Bang, and those new elements that formed in the first nanoseconds, minutes, hours and aeons are all present in varying degrees in our own bodies. Just imagine that! We are iron, potassium, carbon, and gold. The stuff that made those first stars is present in us. We are, quite literally, star dust! We are creatures of the stars; we are -in Latin- ‘de sidere’: creatures of de-sire. And so our desires are –you now understand- subject to cosmic influence! Apparently!

And while there is indeed a chemical connection between us and the stuff of the cosmos, we may even be –as many cosmologists and physicists now assert- the universe become conscious of itself! Imagine that!

But, of course, it’s equally true that we have generally chosen to downplay this connection. We have forgotten that because we are creatures made of the stuff of the cosmos, we are, therefore, by definition, creatures of the elements, of the earth; we are earthlings, groundlings – like the rest of created things, the other than human world.

Yet, we have chosen to believe ourselves superior to the rest by seeing ourselves alone as made in the image of God. Superior to the rest of creation and mandated –we claim- to do with creation whatever we choose. So as to subdue it, and have dominion over it. As the English translation of Genesis 1 suggests.

And the connections between humanity and the world we live in is freighted with ever increasing desperation by the impact of human activity on the health of the planet and its myriad ecosystems. As every day brings some news of the struggle with the on-going effects of climate change on the lives of every living thing.

Astrology also claims, of course, to be able to discern or foretell the future. To encourage us with the hope of sudden a bonanza or alert us to impending doom. And, as far as the environment goes, the signs for the future don’t look too promising.

How prescient then to read today in Mark’s gospel that signs of the ending of the world will be seen first in strange and scary natural phenomena:

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.      

 Or else that fig trees are a bell weather for encroaching planetary disaster.

I mention all this today, of course, because Advent is the traditional time for looking to the future. However bleak. A time for acknowledging our selfishness with regard to each other, to our brothers and sisters across the globe who lack the basic essentials for life and with regard to the other living creatures, crucified afresh each day by a thousand acts of human greed and arrogance.

Advent is also a time for hoping: and, indeed, it seems, for hoping against hope, as the relentless logic of human hubris, and our urge to dominate and consume seems to bleach away every ounce of common sense and compassion. So, right now, hope for a shared and flourishing future may seem very thin. But hope there. For those who can recognise the signs.

And the hope that this season offers us is the promise of a new born child. The Christ child. Jesus. Yeshua (Mediaeval theologians were convinced he was born under the star sign of –can you guess?- Virgo, the virgin. How could it be otherwise?) But a child born into our world and, so the story goes, visited by star-gazers from the East.

A child like no other – but which parent would could disagree? For every child is like no other. Every child is a sign of hope. Every child who holds out its arms –hoping to connect- is a child of hope.

And the older I get the more I realise that I do what I do I do what I can I do what I must For the sake of the children of our world.

Advent is a time when I think about the future When I take time to pray for those new born and those still to come. That they might inherit a world that is flourishing A world that is sustainable A world that can be experienced as a blessing. A world that they too might pass on to their own children’s children.

And I pray too that future generations might, on some starry moonstruck night, Look up and see the stars and feel the connection, recognise their own history, and give thanks that we did not let them down.

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Attending closely: growing a cosmology worthy of 13.9

For those who’ve been asking about my next study day it’s on Saturday January 20th 2018  10am-3.00pm at the University of Winchester

To book contact the Institute for Theological Partnerships at UoW via Joanna.wilson@Winchester.ac.uk

Attending closely: growing a cosmology worthy of 13.9

This study day will examine the roots of the contemporary violence towards the natural world contained in the highly influential creation stories of Genesis and the healing responses of Christian theologians Anne Primavesi (“theology of gift”), Elizabeth Johnson (“learning from the animals”), Larry Rasmussen (“earth community”) and Catherine Keller as well as cultural ecologist David Abram (“dwelling in fields of experience”) to create a new practical ecological spirituality for earthlings almost 13.9 billion years old and counting.

The day will include a showing of the acclaimed film Journey of the Universe, produced by Yale University.

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Remembrance Day address

Sometimes life gives us extraordinary teachers. My Mr T was one of them. Unique, unforgettable; a complete one-off!

Mr T was my history teacher. Now long gone to his grave. But I remember him still: a big hairy man always in tweeds and always glaring about the classroom as we failed to answer his questions. Reading our blank faces he would splutter and bellow with increasing frustration and despair, demanding to be told the reasons for some ancient historical controversy, or else the exact date World War II had begun: and the day his life had changed forever.

But often the things he tried to teach us were nothing compared to the things we actually learned from him. Life can be like that, can’t it? He’d come back after fighting in the war to discover that a family with a ‘foreign sounding name’ had moved in over the street from his home. Without even unpacking his kit bag, he’d marched across the road, seized a bike from the garden in question, and smashed it to pieces. ‘Until it was utterly in pieces,’ he repeated.

For once there was silence in our classroom, as each of us listened in utter amazement and a little fear. For Mr T stood there before us shaking his head and weeping silently: mystified as to his actions and wounded by his hatefulness. Through his tears he spoke to us about the painful lesson he’d learned that day, about the need to forgive, and to see people as fellow human beings living life, as best they might, against the great backdrop of history.

And it’s still a hard lesson each of us must learn: to see people as our neighbours, trying as best they might to be decent human beings. For all around the world people are daily falling into the trap of seeing others at second hand: through the distorting lens of ignorance, blind prejudice, deliberate misrepresentation and knee-jerk bluster and threats.

And, collectively –and encouraged by many of our political leaders– we seem content to carry on as though we’d learned nothing at all from our teachers in the past and from the painful lessons of history.

That’s why, for me, today is about recommitting ourselves to encourage and empower young people to see that they have the opportunity, as never before, and before it’s too late, to reject for once and for all the old order with its ‘us and them’ thinking, to grow to relish a world of wonderful diversity, and to see what so many choose not to see: that everyone is the same, precisely because everyone is different!

To my Mr T, I say thank you for your bravery and honesty. It changed my life.

To those of us alive today, I say please let’s never despair. For life is a wondrous gift.

And to the people of tomorrow I say, never forget. Because there is so much to do, so much to teach, so much to heal, so much to enjoy, so much to pass on. Life is short, indeed: but it’s beautiful, good and holy. And today we must take a knee in gratitude, so as to rise again in hope.

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