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Bethlehem Sponsors 'Spirituality Beyond Borders'

Volume 31, Issue 4,5 & 6, May 30, 2017

Rev. Andrew Twiddy, Nanaimo

     Spirituality Beyond Borders, a new educational program in Central Vancouver Island, held its first conference at the Bethlehem Centre in Nanaimo from April 3 to 8. 
     Local presenters with wide international experience from a range of spiritual and religious traditions offered sessions on transformative spirituality, followed by two days of an interactive webcast from the Center for Action & Contemplation (CAC) entitled Trinity: The Soul of Creation.
     Keynote evening addresses were given by the program directors, Pearl Gervais, Bishop Remi De Roo and Anglican priest the Rev. Andrew Twiddy, who shared the platform on the opening evening to introduce the topic of education in the service of spiritual transformation.   
     Pearl & Remi elaborated a powerful vision of Vatican II: Now and Beyond, and Andrew drew from his own experience to introduce the work of Franciscan priest Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation.
     The conference was held in collaboration with the Contemplative Society and the Bethlehem Centre, and highlighted the value of a contemplative stance in life, and the significance of action engaging one’s thoughts, feelings and body senses in the contemplative approach.  
     The Rev. Selinde Krayenhoff offered an invitation to the practice of a gesture of self-surrender through the method of Centering Prayer, as developed by Trappist Thomas Keating and Episcopalian Cynthia Bourgeault. This was engaged by a daily morning practice, and interspersed through the sessions, including the practice of silence during some of the meals. 
     Using living hymnody as an inspirational dynamic for change, prolific composer Ron Klusmeier, music minister at Brechin United Church in Nanaimo, led our voices to express a joyful and compassionate Christianity that has an expansive vision. Like Remi, he brought a lifetime of worldwide ecumenical experiences from which to share inspiring and integrative stories.
     Lifelong spiritual pilgrims Joanne and Richard Sales brought the breadth of their interfaith experience to bear in teaching the embodied wisdom of the Sufi-based Dances of Universal Peace as forms of prayer and meditation through simple movements in circle dances, using live-music chants and phrases from the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. The circle dances helped enflesh the Eastern Orthodox theological concept of “perichoresis” (circle-dance) at the heart of the webcast presenters’ understanding of Trinity, and underlined the universal nature of the cosmic Christ (Ephesians 1.15-23) and the flow of life in which we all “live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17) 
     Participant feedback was very enthusiastic, including those who found it healing to be in a space that helped them move past their previous experiences of rigidity and exclusivism in a religious environment. Some people reported discovering how valuable other faiths can be to their own faith journey, and one person considered it one of the best events they had ever attended.   
     The interactive webcast featured gifted teachers Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault and Wm. Paul Young (author of The Shack). 
     Richard set the scene by urging the viewers to move beyond the images of a judgmental, vengeful notion of God to one of infinite love and compassion. His words and presence echoed those themes throughout the conference.  
     Paul gave a very animated and inspiring presentation of how the journey to recovery from a patriarchal and fundamentalist Christian world in which he grew up was assisted by an embrace of the feminine principle in equal partnership, and an opening to a mystical, biblical and experiential understanding of a God who was no longer a “solitary being” or “the darkness behind Jesus”, but a communion of loving relationship (John 13-17).
     Participants were reminded of Christian Trinitarian roots in culture, history, Scripture and wide-ranging tradition, referencing Roman Catholic feminist Catherine LaCugna, the Eastern patristic sources and Presbyterian Trinitarian theologians J.B Torrance and T.F. Torrance; viewers were challenged to reclaim and restore a positive and relational image of the divine through the concept of perichoresis
     As a practical exercise, consideration of a Law of Three (G.I. Gurdjieff) as a modality of peaceful mediation was outlined by Cynthia. She highlighted the need for an understanding of evolving creation to supersede the binary and oppositional approach which has limited our language and understanding of Interactive responses in groups promoted a deepening of insights, and modern technology enabled simultaneous participation beyond geographical boundaries – itself a metaphor for our spiritual growth. 
     The upcoming summer program offers two options for experiencing new program material: an interactive community experience of Conspire 2017, the summer conference of the Center for Action and Contemplation, featuring Richard Rohr, Mirabai Starr, angel Kyodo Williams, and Ken Wilber. The dates are July 7-9 in Parksville, and July 23-25 at the Bethlehem Centre.
For more information on upcoming events and how you can be involved, visit: