The Festival of Prayer 2017

Festival of Prayer 2017

Organised by BRF with the Diocese of Oxford.

When: Saturday 9 September 2017, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Where: Ripon College, Cuddesdon, nr Wheatley, Oxford OX44 9EX (see map)
Cost: £30 per person (discount available - book four places and get the fifth place FREE).
Coffee and tea will be provided throughout the day but please bring your own lunch.

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

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About the day

Also available during the day:


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

Lord, teach us to pray: understanding and revisiting the Lord’s Prayer - Steven Croft

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

1. The path of Celtic prayer- David Cole
2. HM Spirituality and dementia - Joanna Collicutt
3. ** Silence and Praying for Peace - Michelle Eyre
4. How to be a mindful Christian - Sally Welch
5. ** Pearls of Life: a Swedish support for prayer - Tony Dickinson
6. Breathing life into the gospel - Andrew Bunch
7. * Using the Jesus Prayer - John Twisleton
8. Individual spiritual direction session (limited numbers)
9. Personal space: village prayer walk • Labyrinth

Lunchtime - 12:15 pm to 1:30 pm

10. Individual Spiritual Direction Session (limited numbers)

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

11. HM Helping new Christians to pray - Steven Croft
12. ** How to be a mindful Christian - Sally Welch
13. Contemplative prayer in Celtic Christianity - David Cole
14. Mysticism today - Emma Pennington
15. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? - Ruth Layzell
16. ** Thomas Merton workshop: suffering from the disease of perfectionism - Robert Wright
17. * Introduction to Centering Prayer - Clare Carruthers
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. * Introduction to Centering Prayer - Clare Carruthers
21. Mary, Mother of Jesus: Her relevance today - Emma Pennington
22. Spirituality and dementia - Joanna Collicutt
23. HM How to live a more prayerful life - Michelle Eyre
24. Examen & growth - Andrew Bunch
25. ** Pearls of life: a swedish support for prayer - Tony Dickinson
26. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? - Ruth Layzell
27. ** Rule of life - John Twisleton
28. Individual spiritual direction session (limited numbers)
29. 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
=Venue has a hearing loop system

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Workshop details

Breathing life into the Gospel (Andrew Bunch)
In this workshop we will take a well-known Bible story and use our imagination to enter into the story, becoming integrated with it. The process of Ignatian Bible study is to watch what experiences in our life are triggered in our minds as we reflect on the story. This requires an acceptance of passing thoughts and a desire to see how our experience of life affects the way we interpret the story. If we note both points of joy and irritation, we can start to see how the Spirit is trying to help us to grow in our understanding. Repeated use of Ignatian meditation on the same passage helps to discover the message which is pertinent to us with a sharper definition.

Contemplative prayer in Celtic Christianity (David Cole)
The contemplative tradition may have had a grand flourishing in the Middle Ages, but it has gently threaded through the whole of the Christian heritage since the beginning. Come and discover some of the deep spiritual disciplines and practices from the Celtic Church which richly imbue this tradition. Hear some of the life stories of Celtic saints who embodied the contemplative lifestyle, but managed to balance it with practical active mission. Be inspired by them to get the balance right in your own life and ministry.

Examen & growth (Andrew Bunch)
In this workshop we will look at the use of the Examen, the most valuable kind of prayer to St Ignatius. We will look at the process of using the Examen in a regular daily manner. This practice can create a positive bias in our understanding of life by calling to mind the good aspects of daily life. By doing so, we become more aware of God’s loving presence with us in the here and now. The second phase of the workshop will look at how we can use the disturbances that we have experienced. A creative way is to use the beatitudes and thereby detect the way in which we recognise the way that we may grow spiritually for the most creative results.

Helping new Christians to pray (Steven Croft)
What are the main principles and themes we should follow in helping new Christians to begin and to develop their prayer life? (This workshop will continue the theme of the plenary address.)

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? (Ruth Layzell)
This workshop aims to explore the role of music and the voice in affirming what it is hard for the heart to understand at the moment. When we experience times of darkness, alienation or distress, sometimes the last thing that we want or feel able to do is to affirm a faith in a God of goodness and love - and yet it may be at those times that that is the very thing we want and need to do - loudly, strongly - and sometimes at God. Sometimes it is such affirmations which mark the transition from despair to hope - even if it is hope against hope. But how do we find a song we can sing and a voice to sing it with?
We will explore different ways of singing which may carry what we want to express when the going gets tough. Please bring your voice - whatever it sounds like.

How to be a mindful Christian (Sally Welch)

Details coming soon.

How to live a more prayerful life (Michelle Eyre)
A practical guide to living a more prayerful life, inspired by the teachings of St Benedict. This session will begin with guidance on prayer: how to get into a routine of prayer - especially when life is hectic - how to adopt a prayerful mindset and how to establish a balanced diet of different types of prayer through the day.
The workshop will culminate in a guided prayer time, which is based on Lectio divina. Lectio divina, an easy-to-learn form of praying the Bible, a type of prayer that is often attributed to St Benedict.
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 spoken session. There will be time for listening, time for personal reflection, time for discussion and time for experiencing prayer.

Introduction to Centering Prayer (Clare Carruthers)
I will begin by describing the context in which Centering Prayer has emerged. We will look at how Cistercian monks drew on the medieval text, the Cloud of Unknowing, in order to reintroduce a form of the contemplative dimension of Christianity into our modern lives. I will then describe the practice and how it works, providing the simple guidelines to the prayer that were developed under Thomas Keating. We will then have an opportunity to practise Centering prayer for 20 minutes. The workshop will conclude with a chance for the participants to ask questions and reflect on their experience of Centering Prayer.

Mary, Mother of Jesus: Her relevance today (Emma Pennington)

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Mystic Rose, Star of the Sea, Refuge of Sinners…Mary has received numerous devotional titles through the ages. In turn she has given her name to many of the parish churches we hold dear. Her song, the Magnificat, is sung daily in our cathedrals and college chapels as well as said by individual Christians, regardless of denomination. Her prayers and presence has shaped the devotional life of millions throughout history who have turned to her to find comfort and solace. But who is the person behind the layers of tradition and projection? What is the place of Mary and how do we relate to her in our spiritual lives today? This workshop will consider the Biblical image of Mary, unpack some of the reasons why she came to dominate the devotional life of the church and ask what she means for us today in our search for a deeper relationship with her son, Jesus. The workshop will blend Biblical reflection, music and art appreciation along with historical input to enable you to discover Mary for yourselves.

Mysticism today (Emma Pennington)

'I cannot tell you how surprised I was the first time I felt my heart begin to warm. It was real warmth too, not imaginary, and it felt as if it were actually on fire. I was astonished at the way the heat surged up, and how this new sensation brought great and unexpected comfort. I had to keep feeling my breast to make sure there was no physical reason for it! But once I realized that it came entirely from within, that this fire of love had no cause, material or sinful, but was the gift of my Maker, I was absolutely delighted, and wanted my love to be greater.' These words, written by the fourteenth century English mystic, Richard Rolle still resonate with people today. They try to put into words an experience or encounter with the divine which goes beyond words and thoughts and can often only be known by its effects. Mystical prayer and those who have attempted to articulate it have increasingly fascinated our world of blogs and twitters. The idea that God can be known intimately within the silence of encounter draws those who would say they never went to church into a search for God. The workshop on 'Mysticism for Today' at the Festival of Prayer is open to everyone who finds themselves on this search. We will not only share our experiences of what Rolle called the 'fire of love' but also plumb the depths of the vast body of mystical writings in order to seek guidance on how to discern and nurture this encounter. Whilst this workshop aims to deepen our own Christian search for God, it will also explore the extent to which the mystical aspects of other religions enable us to have a deeper understanding of other people's faith and devotion. It's not a place where you will find all the answers but it will be an opportunity to explore and share your love of God.

The path of Celtic prayer (David Cole)
Numerous books have been written about Celtic prayer and what it is. In this workshop we will look at some of what has been written in the modern day alongside some historical material from the time to discover just what is so unique about Celtic prayer that draws so many people to it today.
We will also look at what Celtic prayer is not, as numerous churches these days seem to offer some kind of 'Celtic Prayer' service, but is that really what they are offering?
Come and dispel some myths and discover some truths about the Celtic church, and Celtic prayer.

Pearls of life: a swedish support for prayer (Tony Dickinson)
Swedish bishop Martin Lönnebo devised 'Frälsarkransen', usually known in English as 'Pearls of Life', as an aid to prayer and Christian formation. It is widely used by Christians in Northern Europe (and increasingly in Britain) as a way of helping the mind attain a state of stillness, meditation and prayer. In this way, we are drawn back to what is most important in our lives, to our spiritual centre and an experience of God. It has been described as 'a kind of Lutheran Rosary', but is open to use in a variety of ways. This workshop will explore the origins of the 'Pearls of Life' and some of the possibilities opened up by their use in our prayer.

Rule of life (John Twisleton)
While the message of God’s unconditional love in Jesus Christ brings ongoing inspiration, many Christians unschooled in spiritual disciplines are falling by the wayside.
This workshop will provide a wakeup call addressing the gracious challenge of Jesus to love God with heart, soul and mind, our neighbour and ourselves. Those five loves – worship, prayer, study, service and reflection - are implied in Our Lord’s summary of the Law in Matthew 22:37-39: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul’, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself'.
In a 35 min presentation with 15 min groups and 10 min plenary, John Twisleton will help participants to get enthused about reviewing their Rule of Life as Christians, building from his newly published book Experiencing Christ’s Love (BRF, 2017).

Silence and praying for peace (Michelle Eyre)
This workshop takes its inspiration from the song of Zechariah in Luke’s Gospel, that the ‘tender mercy of our God… will guide our feet into the path of peace.’
In a climate of change and increasing worldwide unrest, we will explore the contribution of silent forms of prayer to peace-making and intercession.
We will draw on the inspiration of Christian writers and thinkers from movements such as Taize, Foculare, Quakerism and 24-7 Prayer, and stories from the nuns at Wantage and Malling Abbey, as well as from the experience of living in a religious community.
We will explore silent forms of prayer such as Christian contemplation and meditation as well as the role of silence in listening to God. The session will be practical too, touching on how to deal with distractions and how to have a ‘whole-life’ approach to prayer.
This workshop will culminate in a guided prayer time with space for silence and listening to God.

Spirituality and dementia (Joanna Collicutt)

Details coming soon.

Thomas Merton workshop – suffering from the disease of perfectionism (Robert Wright)
Following an introduction to Thomas Merton (1915-1968), with the aid of some of his own paintings, Robert hopes participants will be encouraged to move prayerfully the focus of attention away from ourselves to 'the real Jesus… who is the Saviour' [Merton]. There will be periods of silence, and while there will be no pressure on participants to speak, during the session there will be the possibility of questions and short discussion.

Using the Jesus Prayer (John Twisleton)
How can anxieties be allayed hour by hour with the reminder you live with a life beyond yourself enfolded in God’s love? Is there a means of making real in yourself at any time what was made real to you in Sunday worship?
'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner' is a prayer prayed over centuries that retains power to cool the mind and energise discipleship. In this workshop we learn how the Jesus Prayer can centre your life and how it brings evangelical simplicity, catholic depth and charismatic empowerment.
The Jesus Prayer of Eastern Orthodoxy is simple yet profound. Thoroughly biblical, carried forward by the faith of the Church through the centuries, it stands as both a unique gift and task for us.
The workshop will include 20 min input, 10 min questions, 10 min prayer, 10 min optional sharing in triplets on the prayer and 10 min closing plenary.

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About the speakers

Andrew Bunch is a parish priest and spiritual director who has a commitment to see how the gospel message can be lived in ordinary life. Ignatian spirituality has enabled him to forge this link and deepen his understanding of life. Reflections on stories and lived experiences are at the heart of his spirituality.

Clare Carruthers is qualified as an Educational Psychologist and has worked in local authority schools for many years. She has been practising Centering Prayer for 15 years, and it has taken her most of that time to establish the recommended twice daily practice. She says she is regularly interrupted in her prayer time by her 9-year-old twins who talk to her in a whisper, and her cat who likes to sit on her lap!

David Cole is an international spiritual teacher and retreat leader; an author; 'Explorer Guide' for The Community of Aidan and Hilda - a globally dispersed Celtic New Monastic Community; and founder of 'Waymark Ministries'. He studied a Masters' degree in 'Christian Spirituality' writing his thesis on Celtic Christianity and Discipleship.

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.

John Twisleton has served as priest in Doncaster, Coventry, London and Guyana, as theological college principal and as diocesan missioner. He writes New Daylight Bible reading notes, broadcasts on Premier Radio and is author of Meet Jesus (BRF, 2011), Using the Jesus Prayer (BRF, 2014) and Experiencing Christ's Love(BRF 2017).

Michelle Eyre is the chief prayer officer of She’s 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.

Robert Wright is an artist living in Headington. His paintings are inspired by prayerful reflection on the writings of Thomas Merton and are held in many private collections. Prior to retiring in 2010, Robert was the Sub Dean of Westminster Abbey and Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Ruth Layzell is a trainer, supervisor and counsellor, teaching pastoral supervision to Christian clergy and lay people with the Institute of Pastoral Counselling and until recently Director of Training at the Sherwood Psychotherapy Training Institute, a role which she relinquished this year in order to develop SPTI’s CPD and graduate programme. Both her work and her personal life have involved journeying with people as they struggle to make sense of a difficult personal history in the light of their faith in the goodness of God’.

Following ordination in 1983, Steven Croft held parish posts, was Warden of Cranmer Hall Durham, then Archbishop’s Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh Expressions. He was consecrated as Bishop of Sheffield in 2009 before taking on the role of Bishop of Oxford as of July 2016. He is married with four adult children.

Tony Dickinson is a vicar of St Francis, Terriers, and European Officer for the diocese, with responsibility for the diocesan partnership with Växjö. He is a huge fan of Franciscan spirituality (mediaeval and modern) and the classical Anglican tradition.

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Book four places and get the fifth for free.

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You may cancel 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 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 above. The parish church has amplification and a loop system, as does the Harriet Monsell Centre for those with hearing difficulties.

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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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