Two clergy from the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross – the Reverend Elaine Murray, Incumbent of Carrigaline Union, and the Reverend Peter Rutherford, Incumbent of Kinsale Union – were among a group of twenty-four clergy who gathered in St George’s House, Windsor for a 10 day ‘Consultation’ entitled ‘God: Some Conversations’ from 4th to 14th July. Two clergy from Cashel, Ferns and Ossory also took part.
The theme was God: Some Conversations – How Do You Speak About God? The theme was explored in relation to a number of topics: poetry, church, health, sustainability, poverty, politics and the environment. Each day began in three groups of eight to tackle the topic of the day, beginning with Biblical study and a secular work of fiction or a film, with a member of the group leading the discussion. All then met together to listen to an eminent speaker on each topic, followed by further questions and discussion. After lunch and a short break the participants returned to the smaller groups for further reflection, followed by discussion of each individual’s own essay contribution, submitted prior to the course and copied to all.
Reflecting on the experience, the Reverend Elaine Murray said:
The setting of Windsor Castle was perfect. We felt very privileged to be there, staying in St George’s House, worshiping in the magnificent St George’s Chapel, home of the Knights of the Garter. The very stones screamed history at us as we walked over the burial place of Henry VIII on our way to our seats each evening for Evensong, sung by the wonderful Lay Clerks and boys choir of St George’s School. A most spiritually nourishing ten days and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have been part of it.
The Reverend Peter Rutherford said:
There was a good diversity of clergy, of different churchmanship, experience and age. The main achievement seems to have been to see how, for the Church to be viable, we need to be engaged with many different aspects of life today, not merely reducing the concept of God to a narrow, rather ‘churchy’ environment. It also became clear that for those on the course, the time away to reflect, within the context of worship, enabled us to see afresh how precious our spiritual vision actually is.
My own essay (A God of Love, Not of Power: God in the Thinking of Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy), presented for discussion, was how, in his poetry, Woodbine Willie (1883-1929), offered a radical critique of the prevailing picture of God in his time. This was by way of a reminder that, if we begin with an erroneous picture of what God’s nature is, our further discussion will be fundamentally impaired.