Thursday, 26 April 2012

New PG Courses in Inter Faith Engagement at Queens

Find out about the new Post Graduate Certificate in Inter Faith Engagement available at Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education beginning this Autumn. You can take it as a stand alone PG Certificate or go on to develop it into a Post Graduate Diploma or  MA in Theology and Transformative Practice concentrating on Inter Faith Engagement.

For details download leaflets about Post Graduate Certificate in Inter Faith Engagement and see how it fits into the MA in Theology and Transformative Practice.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Engaging Buddhism

Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh a leading teacher in the Engaged Buddhist Movement
Some of my first inter faith engagement was through an interest in Buddhist Meditation as a spiritual practice. In 1989 as a relatively fresh Christian I undertook as part of my Lenten Discipline that year, a course in Buddhist Meditation run by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order ( now known as the Triratna Buddhist Order)  in Leeds. When later I was at Theological College my interest in Christian engagement with other faiths had developed and I was able to attend inter faith courses in Birmingham run at the old College of Ascension by it's then Prinicipal Andrew Wingate. One of those I attended was a three day programme on Christian - Buddhist relations. My interest in Christian - Buddhist engagement was also encouraged as I entered parish ministry, my own Vicar during my curacy practisced Buddhist meditation and we incorporated times of meditation alongside our reading of the Daily Office and I encountered congregants in my first incumbancy who had Buddhist interests or were partners of Buddhists.

Throughout this exploration - which became a little eclipsed post 9/11 with my engagement with Islam and also Judaism -  the work of Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay to his followers) a Vietnamese monk who had been friends with Thomas Merton was an inspiration and challenge to me. I remember reading his beautiful little book Living Buddha, Living Christ on one of my ordination retreats. More recently I have felt an urge to return to Thay's work and  to engage once again in more regular meditation practice as a part of my own spiritual discipline, particularly as a way of maintaining and developing compassion and awareness in my work.

Last month Thich Nhat Hanh was visiting Ireland and Britain on a speaking tour details of the talks with some recordings can be found here. An excellent resource  on Thich Nhat Hanh  and his teachings on what has become known as Engaged Buddhism can be found at  the On Being website Brother Thay: A Radio Pilgimage with Thich Nhat Hanh and links to Shambhala Sun's many articles on Thich Nhat Hanh can be found here. A wealth of resources on the wider Engaged Buddhist movement can be found at The Network of Engaged Buddhists not least of all the informative and comprehensive booklet What is Engaged Buddhism?

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Word in Time - Biblical Reflections

The Methodist Church Web Site runs a daily Bible study reflection called A Word in Time  based on a reading of the day from the Methodist Prayer Handbook. This week the commentaries are provided by myself and Annie working together looking at Sunday's reading from John 20:19-31 and then working our way through Exodus 14.21 -17.13. There is a space to post comments and responses.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Greenbelt 2012 - Saving Paradise

I was invited to submit 2 or three talks for the Greenbelt Festival talks programme this year. I decided to submit the two below and learnt some weeks ago that they have been accepted just had to wait until my name was officially announced on the festival website before publishing details here. This years theme is Saving Paradise.

Maybe see you there.

'Talk of other faiths by Christians often ends up in arguments about who gets into heaven! In two talks Ray will explore a different route to paradise - how opening ourselves to the treasures and challenges of other faith traditions can help us deepen our relationship with God and enhance our spirituality as Christians. Drawing upon personal stories, theological reflection, the bible and the scriptures of other traditions he will argue for a path of radical humility in our engagement with other faiths rooted in the practice of Christic vulnerability.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly.....

Learning about humility from Muslims through experiencing Jihad, about Communion from Sikhs after visiting a Gurdwara,......through these and other personal stories, stories from the Christian tradition and scriptural reflection, Ray will explore how, challenged and inspired by our neighbours of other faiths, we can grow in radical humility, experience personal transformation and deepen our practice of the virtues of faith, hope and love.

But then we shall see face to face.....

Fasting with Muslims at Ramadan, joining Jews in synagogue and home as they welcome and celebrate Shabbat. How does opening to relationship with Judaism and Islam affect how we understand ourselves and our hopes for God's future? In this talk drawing upon personal stories and theological reflection Ray will explore the possibilities for developing our faith if we engage creatively with the continued vibrancy of Judaism and the flourishing of Islam.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Honouring Jesus, Honouring Jews - Keeping this week Holy

Revd Stephen Barton Secretary of the Birmingham Branch of the Council of Christians and Jews gave an excellent sermon on the title above this morning at St George's Edgbaston and is running workshops on the same theme at 6.30pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week at the church.

The following is an extract from the beginning of the sermon you can download the full sermon in PDF document here
It is good to be with you for today and the first half of Holy Week. I offer some reflections on the meaning of these days, which I hope will provoke further thinking and discussion.

This year Passover and Easter coincide. Holy Saturday will be the first day of Passover. Last year I attended part of the celebration of Passover at the Progressive Synagogue – there is a communal meal, the seder, on the second night of Passover. This was a week before Holy Week. On taking my leave, Jean, a Jewish friend wished me well for Easter and added, “I hope you will give us an easier time than most.”

Jean was of course referring to the history of Christian “contempt” of Judaism and the Jewish people, especially as expressed in Holy Week prayers and hymns and sermons.

Jean reminds us that when we talk about Jews we are talking about a living people. The Church has often caricatured Jews as essentially a people of the past. But these are our neighbours. 
Some of you will have people in your lives who are Jewish: friends, colleagues, family. Their Jewishness may or may not be expressed in a form that we would call religious, but all belong to a people who have for centuries been aware of Christian attitudes towards Jews. Christian congregations no longer leave Friday prayers to go attack the local synagogue, but it is still easy to meet Jewish people who remember school playground accusations that they had killed Jesus.

I wish to begin this Holy Week by welcoming Jean and all our Jewish friends and acquaintances among us. Let us walk along the road of this week, as it were, in their company. Let us see what happens, what we notice, not about them, but about ourselves. If I had a title for these few days with you, it would be Honouring Jesus, Honouring Jews: Keeping this week holy.

Today we mark the beginning of this week. I have two questions: Who was there? And Why does it matter? READ MORE