While I was away in Germany, a number of friends kindly sent in guest posts. Unfortunately two got lost in the system here. My apologies! Here is the first, from Gilly Smith, who lives in an idyllic woodland setting just down the road…
A week on from Philip’s visit as our first guest speaker at The Sussex House Party and I’m still pondering on the magic of that group of disparate people. Was it the subject of spirituality, or is it the sharing of the unfamiliar over a feast that binds us in some earthy, human way? Do we naturally open up when the chips are down, or was it a one-off? I dare say we’ll find out on the 29th May when another group of 12 sits around our table, this time tearing at the sinews of climate change and media distortion.
My 13 year old daughter was the waitress at the feast, and as I lay in bed that night, I thought about what she must have soaked up. What will she tell Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs of the think tank in which she grew up and the odd, inspiring folk who held court around her dining table? I held that thought as I headed off to church yesterday (for the first time in how many years?) to listen to the Vicar in a Cowboy Hat, Peter Owen-Jones deliver his sermon. Ellie and I had watched his TV series, Around the World in 80 Faiths and as she is about to start a GCSE course in RS/Philosophy next year, I promised to take her along to show her what home-grown religion looks like these days.
Pete is also to be a guest at The Sussex House Party, and I admit that I sat in that church yesterday not just for Ellie’s sake but to check out how he will fit into Philip’s seat. But while I listened to his maverick sermon and smiled at his cowboy boots peeking out from his robes, I realised not just that he will be a dream of a guest, but that I’d forgotten to baptise my child! Ok, so I have a Jewish husband and we don’t believe in imposing religion on babies, but she’s now at the age of Confirmation, and she hasn’t even got the key to the door.
A quick email when I got home, and Pete kindly offered to open that door a little. And, if she still wants to go through with the baptism after discussions around his dining table about the relationship between God, the Bible, ritual, tradition and the modern church, he will do the deed.
But even if she bows out, how lucky is she to have the likes of Pete Owen-Jones, Philip Carr-Gomm and the trail of teachers asking her to fill their glasses and infusing her world with such a stylish kind of wisdom? It’s a million miles away from the dark path I stumbled along for almost 25 years before finding an ashram of my own teachers, and the signposts to a much more interesting world. I wonder what she’ll do with it.
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