During the summer, ‘Living Theology’ weekends have been held at the Bar Convent in York, in Ammerdown near Bath, and in Liverpool, Llandudno and Glasgow. These Jesuit-inspired summer-schools of Christian faith in the Catholic tradition are open to all, Catholic or not, lay or not. The weekends are friendly gatherings of people sharing experiences, and learning from excellent teachers on a variety of subjects. They provide opportunities for people to deepen their knowledge of the Christian faith and to learn new and helpful ways of looking at the whole Christian tradition; they also include times for prayer, and the Eucharist.
So what happened at York this year? You may know that the Bar Convent is presently undergoing major renovations, but nevertheless the Sisters’ hospitality was second-to-none. While their Café was open to the public as usual we, the ‘living theologians’, had the exclusive use of three meeting rooms, refreshments and lunches included, and could also use the chapel for prayer and the gardens for relaxation. There were twenty-eight people registered: some from the north-east commuted from home; some from further afield – including Derby, London, Oxford and Edinburgh – found accommodation locally.
The lecturers were superb. Fr Gerry Hughes SJ, formerly Master of Campion Hall, Oxford, gave three lively and thought-provoking plenary talks. In ‘Authority in an Intercultural Society’, he explored how different cultural and religious groups might minimize divisions by focusing on what it means to live ‘a fulfilled human life’. In two other talks he addressed the question ‘Why did Jesus die?’ both from historical details indicated in the gospels and from theological issues arising from ideas of redemption, sacrifice and the Passover meal.
Bill Tompkiss and Sr Helen Costigane SHCJ each gave two short courses over the weekend, and participants chose which to attend.
Bill is an engaging speaker who has lectured at Leeds University and Leeds Trinity University; his topics were ‘Religious Language’ and ‘Liberation Theology’s view of Christ’. His views are especially insightful and challenging because he spent many years working in South America, where Liberation Theology started.
Helen, a lecturer at Heythrop College specialising in Canon Law and Pastoral Theology, considered ‘Conscience and Authority’ and ‘How relevant is Canon Law today?’ Her outgoing and energetic style meant no-one left thinking that Canon Law is dull!
Many of the participants at this year’s weekend at the Bar Convent were ‘returners’ who had enjoyed Living Theology weekends in previous years, some were coming for the first time, but everyone found something of value in the experience. Comments included “exceeded my expectation”, “excellent content and delivery” and “amazing scholarship and knowledge presented in a comprehensible and informative way”. A sixth-former said, “It is a good preparation for university” and commented favourably on the existence of the student discount! A secondary teacher remarked how attending Living Theology could benefit anyone who teaches RE in a school.
So, if you are aged from 17 to 70+ you may well find Living Theology interesting and useful: why don’t you consider joining us next year? See the website www.livingtheology.org.uk for all the Living Theology weekends, or contact Jo Caramello, 01845-526593, to be included on the mailing list for York.