|Published by Giles Goddard on Thu, 8 Oct 2015 15:36|
I’m speaking at a conference on Saturday. It’s organised by lovespirit and is called ‘Love without Boundaries.’ It looks scarily un-Anglican and quite fascinating. Workshops include Crystal Connection, Chanting from the Heart and Shamanic Journeying for Queer People. The lead speaker, Tony Jeton Salimi, is ‘a thought leader, inspired visionary, entrepreneur, and ambassador for the evolution of human consciousness, gender and sexual equality, as well as the healing power of love.’ Perhaps on second thoughts it’s not very un-Anglican at all – maybe that should be part of St John’s Mission Statement! There are some places still available…
I think I was asked to speak because of the controversy this year over the hospitality we offered to Inclusive Mosque, when we welcomed Dr Amina Wadud to lead Muslim prayers here. I’m glad to have the chance to speak at the conference. I’ve been reflecting on the controversy, and the startling levels of opposition we experienced from conservative evangelical Christians.
One word hits me: fear. There’s a lot of fear around, at the moment. We see it in the reaction to the refugee crisis – Theresa May’s comments at the Conservative Party about migration, described as ‘nonsense’ by the Institute of Directors, are a good example. I don’t see much threat to social cohesion around here, and Waterloo is one of the areas of the country which must be most affected by migration. Indeed, most of the threats to social cohesion we experience here are related to budget cuts in social services.
But underlying the Home Secretary’s comments (and that of many others) is a vision of Britain which harks back to an older time, which is in its own way mythical – were the 1950’s really such a halcyon time? – and the fear of losing that mythical England.
I think fear was also behind some of the reaction of conservative evangelicals to the Muslim prayers we held. It’s often the people who appear most confident, most sure of themselves, who are, underneath, the most afraid. There’s a strand of faith which emerges in all the religious traditions which seeks certainty and purity above all things. You see it in some of the extremist Islamic groupings, and you see it in branches of Christianity, even within the Church of England. There is a fear of contamination, a fear among believers that their own salvation will be undermined by other parts of the church.
The theme of the conference I’m speaking at on Saturday is ‘Love without Boundaries.’ I’m planning to say that it’s clear that everyone, every faith tradition, needs boundaries – without them we have no identity. We don’t know who we are.
But I’m very clear that we need boundaries, not walls. The boundaries must be permeable, to allow love to pass in and out. So often, people erect walls to keep out people they fear as attackers and end up keeping everyone out. I find it best to interpret the word ‘without’ in its ancient sense – as in the hymn ‘There is a green hill far away, without a city wall.’ All religious faiths, all people, are called to love beyond their boundaries – which means loving refugees and migrants as well as UK passport holders, and loving Muslims as well as Christians… in relation to which, thousands of congratulations to Nadiya Hussain for her triumph in Great British Bake Off! Watch her speech - "I am never ever going to put boundaries on myself again.."
Some words to end with, from a poem by the thirteenth century Islamic scholar and poet Jalaluddin Rumi (but I can’t find the reference, can anyone help?)
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.