Saturday, 27 June 2015


The Open Door Retreat was drawing to a close. The two-hour weekly sessions, the commitment to 15 minutes of personal reflective prayer each day and the sharing of what we had experienced was a mind blowing experience. Over nine weeks I had interacted with my parish leadership and effectively been drawn into robust Anglican life. (A polite way of saying we didn’t agree politically, theologically, on what was right, what was wrong or the creative value of Freddy Mercury’s music.) 

The two leaders - my Spiritual Director and my rector – and we seven participants had bonded in a profound way.   It involved absolute trust and was pretty miraculous because we were such different personalities. I remember one woman saying she’d been told as a small child that Jesus was always sitting on her shoulder and she still sensed him there. One of the men shared how inadequate he’d felt most of his life. Yet another, believed he had the gift of healing the sick.

None of them seemed perturbed that I really didn’t care whether Mary was a Virgin or that I really hoped Jesus and Mary Magdalene had had a relationship. (I wanted him to be fully human)   
The ‘homework’ for the last week was to bring something that reflected what we’d gained from the retreat.  Now, with all the balls I was juggling at home, at work and at church, I’d invariably left my ‘show and tell’ homework to the last minute. I knew from previous weeks how creative the others would be. They would use flowers from their gardens, favourite paintings, music, a candle-lit tableaux and icons.  But I was in a different space. Sandton City had been my Cathedral for decades.  Besides, I was born to shop.

So I gave myself a day off from the agency and set of for South Africa’s most famous mall. There had to be something in that consumer paradise that would reflect what I had gained and how momentous it had been. 

By 4pm I’d literally shopped ‘til I dropped but I’d found nothing I could take to the rectory that evening. A coffee break brought true meaning to the term ‘arrow prayers’ – the kind of praying you do as you drive through a speed trap. I then calmed down to a panic and decided to treat the project as strategically as I would any corporate communication campaign.

What had been the prime objective in attending the retreat? To better understand God. Against that backdrop how would I brand the Creator? It came in a flash. My understanding of God, which already included the Holy Spirit and was slowly assimilating Jesus, was that God couldn’t be packaged. Mine was consistently proving to be a God of surprises, revealed in unexpected ways.  

That was it! I needed, one of those toy boxes that a figure popped out of – a Jack-in-the-box.  Not so easy.

At a toy shop the assistant explained that the line had been discontinued. When I explained what I was wanting to illustrate she suggested a pop out children’s book rigged with elastic bands from which images tumbled when you opened the covers.  I was convinced.

That evening my presentation seemed to go well. Far more importantly I had come to understand that what I loved best was how God had tumbled, helter skelter, into my life. 

Far from packaging my spirituality into an Anglican box that retreat had set me free.

Two huge God-incidences in the early part of my spiritual journey were to give me an irreverent Spiritual Director with a sense of humour and a rector who was a superb teacher. In fact I’m pretty sure that if he hadn’t ended up as a bishop he would eventually have headed up a theological college.

Bearing in mind that I had never read the bible, I signed on for two evening classes he used to give in the church hall. One on the Old Testament and the other on the New Testament. 

I was on yet another fascinating journey. One that involved a great deal of scriptural unpacking. 

1 comment:

Peter Nickles said...

You're really on a roll! Best yet.