The Festival of Prayer 2019

Organised by BRF with the Diocese of Oxford.

Saturday 6 July 2019, Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford, OX44 9EX

Cost £33 per person, book five places for the price of four.

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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:


HM: Hearing Loop

* Venue accessible by a few steps

** Only accessible by stairs

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

Sobremesa: The call the Christian Commununity (Pete Greig) HM

11:15 - 12:15 - Workshop one

1.A Deeper Harmony: music, liturgy and transcendence - Jonathan Arnold

2.Praying in community - Kate Seagrave

3.Being real with God and letting God be real with you - John Stroyan HM

4.Connecting with God and life the Celtic way - Simon Reed HM

5.A whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence - Robert Wright

6.Dwelling in the word - Olivia Graham *

7.The contemplative response - Ian Cowley **

8.Spiritual direction

9. Personal Space / Prayer Walk / Labyrinth

12:15 - 13:30 - Lunch

13:30 - 14:30 - Workshop two

10.Developing a rule of life - Pete Greig HM

11.Pilgrimage, the soul journey - Emma Pennington

12.Being real with God and letting God be real with you - John Stroyan HM

13.Connecting with God and life the Celtic way - Simon Reed

14.The contemplative response - Ian Cowley**

15.Taizé and world song - Wren Hughes

16.Bernard of Clairvaux - Jo Gallant**

17.Exploring the Enneagram for spiritual growth - Alan Hodgett*

18. Spiritual Direction

19. Personal Space / Prayer Walk / Labyrinth


15:00 - 16:00 - Workshop three

20.Exploring the Enneagram for spiritual growth - Alan Hodgett

21.Praying in community - Kate Seagrave

22.Bernard of Clairvaux - Jo Gallant HM

23.A whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence and rumour - Robert Wright

24.Taizé and world song - Wren Hughes**

25.Dwelling in the word - Olivia Graham*

26.Sacred spaces: the spirituality of place - Emma Pennington HM

27. Spiritual Direction

28. Personal Space / Prayer Walk / Labyrinth


16:20 - 16:35 - Reflection and blessing

Workshop details

A deeper harmony: music, liturgy and transcendence (Jonathan Arnold)

Music is perhaps the most potent way we have of expressing the ineffable and numinous nature of a transcendent God. Music is 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.

Praying in community (Kate Seagrave)

We will explore what it means to take to understand our relationship to the Christian community as that of a body in prayer. We will look at the ways in which our personal, devotional lives shape the community we are part of, and seek to recognise challenges to our corporate prayer lives. Drawing on a variety of traditions from the Anglican, Pentecostal, and Orthodox churches we will seek to expand our imagination of what could happen when we pray together, and how our prayer lives might be changed when we start to consciously seek our personal prayer as communal. With a mixture of input and practical experimentation, we will put community prayer into practice as we learn from each other.

Being real with God and letting God be real with you (John Stroyan)

Reflecting on how we can and must be who we truly are with God. God loves the real 'you'. To become who we truly can be, we need to let God be who God truly is with us and for us, to let God love us.

Connecting God and life the Celtic way (Simon Reed)

The workshop will explore what it means to make and live by a Way of Life in order to give shape and purpose to our discipleship, and enable us to connect more deeply with God and connect God with the whole of life. We will see how this is rooted in the life of God's people in the Old and New Testaments and the practices of the Celtic and desert Christians, and learn practically how to build these rhythms into our lives today.

A whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumour: Thomas Merton (Robert Wright)

After a short introduction of the Twentieth century monk, Thomas Merton, Robert will introduce several of his own abstract paintings together with one or two of Thomas Merton's photographs and explore Merton's conversation with his friend Ron Seitz about the distinction between looking and seeing in the context of contemplative prayer. There will be a period of silence during the workshop.

Dwelling in the word (Olivia Graham)

What is God saying to us now, through the ancient words of Scripture? Using a form of lectio divina, and the experience and perspective of each person in the room, Dwelling in the Word is a way of listening afresh to God both individually and as a group.

The contemplative response (Ian Cowley)

To be contemplative means being rooted and held secure in the peace and love of God through all of life's journey. How can we do this in a demanding and distracted culture? We will need a daily contemplative practice and a willingness to seek purity of heart through an inner life of truthfulness and self-discipline.

Developing a rule of life (Pete Greig)

The way of Jesus has a shape. Discipleship is intentional and beautiful. In this session Pete Greig draws from a number of ancient traditions, including that of his own Religious Order (The Order of the Mustard Seed) to describe the value of developing and maintaining a Rule of Life centred on Jesus Christ, that we might live more beautifully and distinctively at a time of so much cultural chaos.

Pilgrimage: the soul journey (Emma Pennington)

From Santiago to Rome, Lindisfarne to Canterbury, to city shrines and wild spaces, people have been drawn to places of spiritual history and rich significance. This workshop will explore the spiritual journey both outwardly and inwardly, reasons for setting out, the experiences of the journey and insights from reaching the destination. Considering this devotional act across religions we will also explore the extent to which pilgrimage answers a deep search within us for spiritual significance and encounter with the divine.

Taizé and world song (Wren Hughes)

The contemplative and prayerful quality of the Taizé chants and sung prayers from around the world offer us an opportunity to deepen into the stillness and inclusive nature of our shared humanity. Come prepared to sing! This session will begin with an introduction to the songs leading into a reflective period of sung prayer and silence. No previous singing experience necessary.

Bernard of Clairvaux - From carnal to spiritual love for Christ (Joanna Gallant)

In his Sermons on the Song of Songs Bernard reveals his understanding of the transforming spiritual journey God invites us to undertake. Through teaching, practical engagement and discussion, this workshop will explore the steps Bernard identifies along this journey, to encourage us to move from carnal to spiritual love for Christ.

Exploring the Enneagram for spiritual growth (Alan Hodgetts)

The workshop will be experiential and we shall discover the wisdom of the Enneagram in the Summary of the Law given by Jesus (Mark 12.29-31). I describe the Enneagram as one of the most amazing built-in GPS or Sat Navs to guide us through the map of our life. As a Prison Chaplain I use the Enneagram with people 'inside' and describe the power of the Enneagram as 'Freeing the Incarcerated from Prisons of their own making!' What is awesome is that it applies to all of us and has the power to 'release our potential'. In our exploration we shall discover a way of opening ourselves to the power of love.

Sacred Spaces: the spirituality of place (Emma Pennington)

In this workshop Emma will be exploring the spiritual power of our ancient buildings, be they cathedrals or parish churches, to draw people, regardless of religious background, into a deeper encounter with the numinous. Drawing on our own experiences, we will share our own sacred places and the significance they have had for us as places of history and stillness. As well as entering into the silent space of the Edward King Chapel.

Spiritual direction

Spiritual Direction is sometimes called Spiritual Companionship or Prayer Guidance. It is about taking the time to meet with another person and talk about your spiritual journey, prayer and search for God. Many people find that this pattern of reflective companionship can be a significant help. Is it only for ministers? No! People seek this ministry at different points in their lives and for various reasons, such as:

The important thing is that this is a 'sacred space' into which we can bring absolutely anything but into which we do not have to bring anything. It is a confidential, non-judgemental, listening and accepting space in a conversation with one other person. This fifty minute 'taster' session can only be a taster, so that you can get a feel for what this might be like for you, the qualities you might look for in a director, or how you might benefit. If you want to take it further you'll be given a list of trained spiritual directors, who are happy to be contacted. So 'taste and see'…

About the speakers

Pete Greig

Jonathan Arnold

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.

Ian Cowley

Ian Cowley is an Anglican priest who has served in parish ministry in South Africa, Sheffield, Cambridge and Peterborough. From 2008 to 2016 Ian was Co-ordinator of Spirituality and Vocations in the Diocese of Salisbury. He is author of five books on spirituality, discipleship and the local church. He has recently retired from full-time ministry and continues to write and teach.

Joanna Gallant

Joanna 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

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

Alan Hodgetts

Alan is married to Sue and a father to three and grandfather to six. He was an automotive engineer for nine years and has been a Christian for 42 and in Anglican ordained ministry for 36. He was a parish priest for 20 years and has been a prison chaplain since 2006. He is trained in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola and is a Spiritual Director. More recently he has trained in the Narrative Enneagram Tradition as an Enneagram Teacher.

Wren Hughes

Wren Hughes has been leading groups singing sacred song for over 30 years. She was initially inspired by a visit to the ecumenical monastic community of Taizé well known for its beautiful and harmonious sung prayers.

Emma Pennington

Emma Pennington is Canon Missioner of Canterbury Cathedral. Previously, she was 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.

Kate Seagrave

Kate lives in Oxford where she serves as Mission Priest at St Frideswide's, a parish in partnership with St Aldate's and St Mary Magdalen's. The other half of her role is establishing the Community of St Frideswide- an emerging network of mission and prayer communities around Oxford based in a variety of parish, chaplaincy and dispersed contexts.

Simon Reed

Simon is vicar of two Anglican churches in West London and one of the three Guardians of the international and interdenominational Community of Aidan and Hilda, a dispersed new monastic community which draws inspiration from Celtic spirituality. He is the author of Creating Community (BRF 2013) and Followers of the Way (BRF 2017), both of which explore Celtic insights into how we do church and imitate Jesus in our discipleship.

John Stroyan

Having served in inner-city parishes in Coventry and Birmingham dioceses and a rural benefice in Oxford since 1983, John was appointed Bishop of Warwick in 2005. He has been much drawn and enriched by the Orthodox mystical tradition and recognises the need for the Church 'to breathe with both her lungs', Eastern and Western. An experienced retreat leader, he is President of the Association for Promoting Retreats. His book, Turned by Divine Love (BRF) is published in March.

Robert Wright

Since his Ordination in 1973 Robert 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. 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.

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About the venue

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

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.

Further information

Further information, will be sent out before the event. This will be sent by email where possible.

If you have any questions, please contact BRF.

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