Our community comes together each year for a weekend away, to catch up with each other, share a silent walk, chant, dance, pray, renew and refresh our Contemplative fire practices and commitments, have our AGM and eat good food! This year we had a change of venue and headed to Shallowford House, a Christian retreat centre in Stone, Staffordshire. This was in the understanding that we wanted to spread our wings and be more accessible to our dispersed community. Just over 35 of us managed to make the weekend and it was a joyful time together. Do put next year down (provisionally 14-15th September) in your diary now!
The theme of our time was ‘Greening’. It is part of our mission in Contemplative Fire to evolve and grow, seeking transformation and we see this as a time of building in luscious abundance to allow our deep roots to spread and new green life to come to the surface and be seen by more people seeking a different way of meeting Christ at the Edge.
We started our weekend with a slow circle dance as body prayer. Out under the open sky in the green of the grass we moved together and had the chance to gently move in and out, back and forth as the song asked for the space to be filled with God’s love. We quietly walked inside the house, past the peacock family, ducks, the carp pond, to the meeting room where we were able to allow the silence to deepen.
We were blessed that those who accompany us as an Acknowledged Community, Bishop Anne and Sister Rosemary managed to attend. Bishop Anne was only able to stay for the first morning, but to our delight Sister Rosemary was with us the whole weekend and many Companions had the chance to speak with her.
Bishop Anne encouraged our work and drew out from Companions the work they had been developing over the year. It was intriguing to hear from Companions we rarely see because of their distance away. We hope the Bishop will be able to come again and perhaps share some of her own journey with us.
Our AGM covered the retirement and thanks to Charlotte Wright and Elaine Wilkins for the devoted work they have given the community as trustees over the past years. Newly elected trustees are Peter Wright, Helen Fitch-Hunter and Jack McBane. They will sit alongside current trustees Caroline Newton, Francoise Pinteaux-Jones, Jeremy Timm and Hilary Garraway. In addition, in a radical move, the trustees had voted that the Hub and trustees be joined into one body, rather than two. This seems a very clear vote for unity in our community, working together utilising our many gifts. So Liz Okey, Sharon Roberts and Ann Worrall, have agreed to be coopted by the trustees in January. All trustees will have responsibility for areas which play to their strengths, but one body means fewer meetings, less repetition, more cohesion and better focus.
A major item we wanted to share with the community was the offering about our finances from companion Sally Livsey, our new accountant. She emphasised that we are financially strong at present and thus need to look at ways to utilise that to grow access to Contemplative Fire and to enrich the community. To that end we are asking Companions and Friends to hold CF in their hearts and to offer ideas for how they would like to see some of your/our money spent in this coming year. We have had several suggestions to consider during the year and we ask for those who were unable to attend the weekend to send us their ideas. Would the regions like to lead an initiative perhaps? Or grow Contemplative Fire where Companions are sparse?
In the afternoon, Jane led us in a contemplative walk in the rain, around the land. It is so deepening to be out in Nature in silence with others. Our ‘stations’ were with ducks and fish, the Cross and an Awareness Path amongst others. Beautiful meditative words from TS Eliot, St Basil the Great and Psalms were spoken.
Following this time we met in threes, guided by Sharon Roberts, to deepen our journeys together with Contemplative Fire. As ever this unique CF process was very nourishing and a wonderful opportunity to understand better our fellow Companions and our own thoughts and hopes. Perhaps we might pilot the Threes experience as part of the development of Contemplative Fire?
Our evening meal was preceded by an agape led by Jeremy Timm, where we shared together, offering fruit and fellowship and song. It brought a wonderful flavour to the meal and to our companionship.
The day was rounded off by Evening Prayer led by Philip Roderick in the beautifully decorated, calm chapel, where Charlotte had worked her wonders with Jane. Philip wove his sparkling web of wonder and reflection, bringing a sense of deep connection with the Cosmos and with the Christ as we moved into the night, though laughter echoed through the corridors as we sang the Doxology to the tune of Fernando’s Hideaway!.
The next morning Jo Howard led us in a prayer considering a leaf, using a biology textbook as reflective piece. Never will we look at a textbook in the same way again, nor the leaf!
Our sharing time was to consider what we held in our hearts for Contemplative Fire in the year ahead. This was a special time where Companions were able to speak of their wishes for the development of our community. ‘What is your heart’s vision for CF for the year ahead?’ was the question. There was some questioning about process, which was important for clarity, but after that, Companions shared drawings and questions and hopes. These will be the focus of our trustee meetings in the months ahead, as we consider how to fully engage all our companions as they hope and how to attract new companions to the sweet water well.
Helen Fitch-Hunter showed us the website and we were suitably impressed with how much it has developed, thanks to the dedicated work and persistence of Helen and the new web development company. This is our window to the world and we hope that Companions will sign in to their private forum on the site and ‘meet up’ with other companions who may be wanting to start initiatives, or share their experiences, or photos, or ideas. It might help us to connect as a community more fully for those who are inclined to try out new offerings and get to know something about others in our community.
Our final rounding was an outdoor Eucharist led by Jeremy Timm and Ali Dorey, surrounded by the bounty of Autumn and God’s gifts. We passed tomatoes to each other around the circle, fruits grown in the sun and rain, shining with goodness and savoured with joy. A table was piled high with nature’s offerings within five minutes of our foraging. Our community dwelt in gratitude for each other and for God’s goodness and gave thanks, sharing the bread and the wine.
Thanks to all the people who contributed to a very special weekend. The generosity, deep thinking and humour of our community is what makes it such a joy.