Four of us gathered for a trial run for this course, run by Fiona Boyle. The objectives of the course were to acquire a broader view of religion and spirituality in England today by looking at the traditional churches (particularly the Church of England); at world religions; at spirituality; and at the mind, body, spirit phenomenon.
In the first session, Fiona took us on a whirlwind tour of the history of Christianity in England, from the earliest times right up to the present day. Current issues were touched on, such as the right of bishops to sit in the House of Lords, the Sunday trading laws and faith schools. After a quick coffee, session 2 looked at what we knew about different religions, which included a deliberately fiendish quiz, which Fiona intends to make easier when the course is offered to a wider audience! We also looked at the different perceptions of religion and spirituality; religion is sometimes perceived as out-of-date, irrelevant, too structured and constricting; whereas spirituality is perceived as more intuitive, freer, less prescriptive and based on personal experience.
After lunch, we filled out a personal experience questionnaire, which covered experience of both traditional religion and what Fiona called the “holistic milieu”. We were invited to think about how we identified ourselves, about the significant changes in our religious / spiritual lives so far, about our key values, and about anything in the questionnaire that we felt uncomfortable about, and why. The final (shorter) session dealt with our views of the religious / spiritual future; for ourselves, for the UK and for the world.
It was a fascinating and mind-stretching day. We are hoping to offer it to a wider audience some time in 2010.