The Festival of Prayer 2018

FOP 2018

Organised by BRF with the Diocese of Oxford.

Booking is now closed, if you would like to be added to a waiting list please contact us directly via or call 01865 319 700

When: Saturday 7 July 2018, 10:00am to 4:30 pm

Where: Ripon College, Cuddesdon, nr Wheatley, Oxford OX44 9EX

Cost: £30 per person (discount available - book four places and get the fifth place FREE)

Coffee and tea will be provided throughout the day, please bring your own lunch.

Book now

Booking is now closed, if you would like to be added to a waiting list please contact us directly via or call 01865 319 700


The Festival of Prayer aims to enhance your spiritual life by offering different approaches to Christian spirituality in a day-long conference.

About the day

Also available during the day:


Welcome and keynote address - 10:00 am to 10:50 am

John Bell, of the Iona Community will be delivering a keynote speech entitled 'Developing Personal Spirituality.'

Workshops: Morning session 1 - 11:15 am to 12:15 pm

1. Encountering the sublime: Music within the liturgy- Jonathan Arnold
2. Exploring the be-attitudes - Olivia Graham
3. Rediscovering our mystical heritage - Emma Pennington
4. The Holy Habit of prayer - Andrew Roberts
5. **Merton's encounters with silence - Robert Wright
6. Meister Eckhart and Prayer - Anthony Finnerty
7. **Praying with the Bible - Michael Parsons
8. Individual spiritual direction session (limited numbers)
9. Personal space: village prayer walk • Labyrinth

Lunchtime - 12:15 pm to 1:30 pm

Workshops: Afternoon session 2 - 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

10. The spirituality of the psalms - John Bell
11. **Creation - Praying outdoors- Sally Welch
12. Mindfulness and the spiritual life (talk) - Tim Stead
13. Praying, fast and slow: the art and science of improving your prayer life- Michelle Eyre
14. Centering Prayer: a practical guide - Emma Pennington
15. Meister Eckhart and prayer- Anthony Finnerty
16. **Praying with the Bible - Michael Parsons
17. *Ignatian Spirituality- A Spirituality for Today? - Jo Gallant
18. Individual spiritual direction session (limited numbers)
19. Personal Space: village prayer walk • Labyrinth


Workshops: Afternoon session 3 - 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

20. Praying, fast and slow: the art and science of improving your prayer life- Michelle Eyre
21. Exploring the be-attitudes - Olivia Graham
22. The Holy Habit of prayer - Andrew Roberts
23. Unexpected Epiphanies- Thomas Merton - Robert Wright
24. **Creation - Praying outdoors- Sally Welch
25. Ignatian Spirituality - Jo Gallant
26. Mindfulness practice for spirituality - Tim Stead (It is recommended that you also attend the Mindfulness talk (12) if booking this workshop)
27. Individual spiritual direction session (limited numbers)
28. Personal space: village prayer walk • Labyrinth


Reflection and blessing - 4.20 pm to 4.35 pm

** = Venue only accessible by stairs
* = Venue accessible by a few steps

Workshop Details

Encountering the sublime: music within the liturgy (Jonathan Arnold)

Music is perhaps the most potent way we have of expressing the ineffable and numinous nature of a transcendent God. Music is both incarnational. Music speaks to us of the incarnation of God in Christ, of promise and fulfilment and it signifies the eternal nature of God by means of filling time and space with sound.
When we try and find language to describe a profound and beautiful piece of music we often resort to the language the transcendent. Listening, therefore, becomes a very important action, as Rowan Williams has said: 'To listen seriously to music and to perform it are among our most potent ways of learning what it is to live with and before God.'
Through an interactive and illustrated talk, we will explore how, through the active participation of listening, we can encounter the sublime in music, leading us towards the chief subject of all artistic and natural beauty, which is love and, ultimately, God.

Exploring the Be-Attitudes (Olivia Graham)

A chance to ponder together what it means to be more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous in an increasingly mad world, using the art of Siege Koder and the gift of our imaginations.

Rediscovering our mystical heritage (Emma Pennington)

Many people have felt that the mystical search for God is sadly lacking from the modern church. This workshop will explore aspects of our mystical heritage as expressed in the writings and of the fourteenth century English Mystics such as The Cloud of Unknowing, Margery Kempe, Walter Hilton and Julian of Norwich and the rich devotional church of their day. There will be an opportunity to express your own search for God and suggestions as to how we can rediscover the mystical encounter with God which lies at the heart of our faith and worship.

The Holy Habit of prayer (Andrew Roberts)

In this workshop we will reflect upon the practices of prayer that Luke refers to in Acts 2.42-47 (the passage from which Holy Habits has emerged) as well as the need to have a 'Martini' prayer life - anytime, anyplace, anywhere.We will also consider factors that help and hinder prayer being habitual.

Merton's encounters with silence (Robert Wright)

After a brief introduction to Thomas Merton (1915-68) and contemplative prayer the workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to explore contemplative prayer through a number of Merton's own prayers. As a priest and an artist, Robert will use several of his own abstract paintings to encourage participants to experience the attentiveness that is central to contemplation.

Meister Eckhart and prayer (Anthony Finnerty)

This workshop will include something introductory about Meister Eckhart, the German philosopher and theologian and suggest some of the insights he can offer regarding the theory and practice of Christian Prayer.

Praying with the Bible (Michael Parsons)

Taking an approach used by the reformer Martin Luther as its inspiration, this workshop helps us to turn scripture into simple prayer and to pray it into our own lives today.

Luther would begin each time of prayer with a reading of Scripture. He would meditate on it with the following four 'strands' in mind:

Then he would pray, having his thoughts shaped by his reading, praying God’s words after him, confident in the Lord’s grace and answer.

Praying with the Bible briefly explains Luther's method, demonstrates it and becomes a hands-on seminar enabling attendees to pray in depth and assurance today.

The Spirituality of the Psalms (John Bell)

The Psalms were read, sung and meditated on by Jesus. That is one of the reasons why the church accords them a special place. However, chanting or reading eight or nine verses responsively at Sunday eucharist does not necessarily enable us to get to the heart of them, especially the ones we avoid because they either seem sub-Christian or we don't think it's a helpful thing to curse enemies and dash their children on rocks. In this workshop we will look at the wide gamut of the psalms and try to find ways in which all of them can enable the development of our spiritual life.

Creation - Praying Outdoors (Sally Welch)

This workshop will combine theology with practical engagement in outdoor spirituality. Beginning with an exploration of praying with and through creation, a number of practical ideas and suggestions will be offered for experiencing prayer walks and outdoor prayer stations for both personal and group use.

Talk: Mindfulness and the spiritual life (Tim Stead)

This talk seeks to go beyond Tim's talk in 2016 and explore connections between mindfulness practice and the spiritual life in more generic terms. In other words it would first seek to reflect on what we mean by the term 'spirituality' in a way which might connect with people from different spiritual traditions as well as those who might identify with the term 'spiritual but not religious'. Here Tim will reflect on the themes of: awareness (SEE); compassion (LOVE); and essence of being (BE) as the core aspects of most spiritual traditions.

Then Tim will offer thoughts about how some key mindfulness practices might be slanted in order to support such a spirituality in life.

This links with Tim's workshop below, we would recommend booking onto both sessions if possible.

Workshop: Mindfulness practice for spirituality (Tim Stead)

This is a follow on to Tim's talk 'Mindfulness and the Spiritual life' and is a more practical workshop where Tim will lead you through some of the mindfulness practices which support the spirituality he has been reflecting on, giving you a chance to respond to them as we go.

This links to Tim's talk (see above), we recommend booking onto both sessions if possible.

Praying, fast and slow: the art and science of improving your prayer life (Michelle Eyre)

A practical guide to living a more prayerful life, based on the teaching and lifestyle of Jesus.

The workshop will also draw on insights from science that can be applied to prayer. The aim is to help you to gain a richer understanding of quiet forms of prayer and how you can set yourself up to have more fulfilling prayer times.

There will be four themes, with short talk and guided meditation on each:

The session is for those who want to establish or deepen a varied and doable prayer life. It will be a workshop, rather than a purely spoken session. There will be time for listening, time for personal reflection, time for discussion and time for Biblical guided meditation.

Centering Prayer - A practical guide (Emma Pennington)

This workshop is an introductory guide to all who wish to know and explore the practice of Centering Prayer. Devised by the Cistercian monk, Thomas Keating, centering prayer is 'a method of refining one's intuitive faculties so that one can enter more easily into contemplative prayer'. In the workshop we will discuss the inner emotional world of thoughts which can easily overwhelm any sense of inner stillness, the choice and use of a sacred word and practice the method of opening and surrendering to God which centering prayer facilitates.

Ignatian Spirituality - A spirituality for today? (Jo Gallant)

The medieval and patriarchal language of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola could suggest that they are irrelevant and out of touch for today. However, over 500 years later men and women continue to be both challenged and inspired by the way Ignatian spirituality continues to invite opportunities for growth and transformation in their relationship with God, creation and themselves. Through teaching, practical engagement and discussion this workshop will explore specific aspects of the Spiritual Exercises and how they can help us to discover and live more fully, as the people God created us to be.

Unexpected epiphanies - Thomas Merton (Robert Wright)

This can be a stand-alone workshop or a follow-on from Merton’s encounters with silence - Thomas Merton workshop 1 . After a brief introduction to Thomas Merton (1915-68) and contemplative prayer we shall explore a number of Merton’s photographs and Robert’s own paintings which are inspired by Merton to encourage a more intense living in the Now. There will be some opportunity to discuss the images in between periods of silent prayer

About the speakers

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Arnold is Dean of Divinity and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a former member of St. Paul's Cathedral Choir and The Sixteen and co-founder of the Oxford girl choristers' choir Frideswide Voices. His publications include Sacred Music in Secular Society and his next book will be entitled Music and Faith: Western Sacred Music and its Audience.

John Bell is a Resource Worker with The Iona Community, who lectures, preaches and conducts seminars across the denominations. He is a hymn writer, author and occasional broadcaster, but retains a primary passion for congregational song. John is based in Glasgow and works with his colleagues in the areas of music, worship and spirituality.

Michelle Eyre is the chief prayer officer of She has had an unusual career - a dancer, a nun, an occupational therapist, and a manager. Michelle is an oblate of the Community of St Mary the Virgin, and has spent over 20 years incorporating what she learned, when she tried out being a nun, into her daily life.

Anthony Finnerty taught Philosophy and Religion in a Sixth Form College for many years. Currently, he is the RE Adviser in the Diocese of Lancaster and works for a Development Education Centre in a part-time capacity. He runs retreat days and weekends on a range of topics and has been part of the Retreat Team at Tabor in Preston. Anthony is the Chairman of The Eckhart Society which was founded in 1987 by Ursula Fleming.

Joanna Gallant is executive director of Pelagos Spirituality and Retreat Centre, which she founded in 2009. Having served as a parish priest for ten years Joanna now ministers in a broader context of Christian spirituality as a teacher, supervisor and retreat leader and enjoys accompanying others through the Ignatian Exercises. She is currently studying for an MA in Christian Spirituality and loves walking with her husband and their black Labrador by the coast.

Olivia Graham has been in ordained ministry for 20 years in Oxford Diocese in a number of roles. Before that she lived for many years in Africa, doing relief and development work. She has trained as an Ignatian spiritual director, and was a member of the group which founded the Festival of Prayer.

Michael Parsons is currently commissioning editor for The Bible Reading Fellowship. He taught Theology in Murdoch University and Vose Seminary, Perth, Western Australia. He is the author of several books on the Reformation and an Associate Research Fellow at Spurgeon's College.

Emma Pennington is Vicar of Garsington, Horspath and Cuddesdon and Spirituality Adviser to the diocese of Oxford. She is a regular contributor to the Oxford Diocese and BRF Festival of Prayer and an original member of the organising committee. Emma has a passion for prayer and spirituality and welcomes the opportunity to encourage others to explore the richness of medieval mystical tradition and deepen the contemplative life of prayer. She has given talks and led retreats and Quiet Days both in the UK and abroad, and also tutored and lectured extensively on Christian Spirituality, especially at Oxford University, where she completed her doctoral research on Julian of Norwich in 2014. She is currently writing a book on Julian's revelation entitled At the Foot of the Cross with Julian of Norwich.

Andrew Roberts is the author of the book Holy Habits and editor of the Holy Habits Resources published by BRF. He is a Methodist Minister presently engaged in a Discipleship Learning and Development role. Previously he served the national Fresh Expressions team as Director of Training.

Tim Stead is a Church of England priest and accredited freelance Mindfulness teacher. Having spent 23 years in parish ministry he now leads Mindfulness courses, retreats and quiet days both inside and outside the church. His book, Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality (SPCK 2016) was in the top 10 Greenbelt book sales in 2016. His new book 'SEE, LOVE, BE – Mindfulness and the spiritual life' will be published by SPCK in June 2018.

Sally Welch is the author of Outdoor Church, as well as several other books on pilgrim and labyrinth spirituality. As Area Dean of Chipping Norton she has led the Pilgrim Paths Project, which provides booklets and guided prayer walks for a network of pilgrim paths throughout the area. She is interested in all aspects of 'outdoor' spirituality.

Robert Wright has worked in five parishes in the Oxford diocese as well as in inner-city Portsmouth and at Westminster Abbey and the House of Commons since his ordination in 1973. He now lives in Headington where he devotes his time to his family and to painting, in which he takes most of his inspiration from the writings of Thomas Merton.

Book now

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Book four places and get a fifth place FREE.


You may cancel or amend a booking within 14 days of receiving your order confirmation email. In this situation you will receive a full refund. Cancellations and changes to orders after this period and up to 1 month prior to the event will incur a £5.00 charge which reflects the administration costs incurred. After this time, no refund is available.

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About the venue

The Festival of Prayer is taking place at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, nr Wheatley, Oxford. A map is shown below.

The grounds of the college and village are there for you to explore; so take a prayer walk or walk the labyrinth. The venues are within three to five minutes' walking distance of each other, and those with stairs are shown on this booking form. The parish church has amplification and a loop system, as does the Harriet Monsell Centre for those with hearing difficulties.

Further information

Further information, including a site map, will be sent out approximately two weeks before the event. This will be sent by email where possible.

If you have any questions, please contact BRF.

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