A lamp on the Cluth River bridge, Balclutha. Photograph taken during the creative spirituality session led by Cushla McMillan, Ministry School 2011
I spent most of last week in Balclutha with some of our Diocese's leaders at our bienniel ministry school. Balclutha is a no nonsense little working town plonked down on the banks of the Clutha river. It's the sort of place where people come to live for a while and move on, so the St. Mark's Anglican church faces the constant problem of losing its leadership. Not the Vicar, you understand. Graham Langley has been priest of the parish of Balclutha since he arrived from South Africa in 1989, but the lay leadership displays a propensity to move on which is probably unparalleled in our diocese. Despite this, Graham and his wife Rose have built a vibrant, enthusiastic, energetic community of faith whose robustness is reflected in the St. Mark's parish buildings. The church and its adjoining hall is comfortably and tastefully furnished in a modern style. It is well fitted out with AV equipment which is well chosen, discretely placed and, unusual for this sort of stuff, works. So, what with the nice carpet on the floor, and the pots of coffee and the comfy chairs, Balclutha was a great place for Ministry School. And it was a great ministry school.
The general theme was spirituality, and we began on the first evening with a presentation on journaling from Karlina Brock-Smith. Karlina is a young mother who has worked out her own system of spiritual journaling, so she had a fair bit of wisdom on the subject. But it wasn't what she said so much as how she said it that set the tone for the whole school. She spoke from a position of convinced faith, where she expected the Spirit to be moving and where she expected to be able to hear the Spirit's voice on a regular basis.
And so it continued. I spoke for most of the second day, on Christian meditation. John Franklin shared his deep insight into Centering Prayer. Cushla McMillan talked of the way her passion for botanical drawing has become for her a method of contemplation and a way of prayer. We had a visit from Chris Holmes of the theology department of the University of Otago who gave us a theology of the Holy Spirit, shared again from a position of unapologetic Christian conviction. We finished on Saturday with a presentation from Jan Clark on a method of intercession based on Leslie Weatherhead's A Private House of Prayer.
As at the beginning, the ending was revelatory for me. I have known Jan well for almost 30 years, but never guessed at the depth and beauty of her inner life. To listen as she described it was profoundly moving, and not just for what it revealed about an old friend. I was struck with force by the fact that all around me were people who were also, all of them, deep wells of insight and grace. The pearl of great price is lying on the market tables all around us. The treasure is buried in every field.