Let's Develop Wisdom Stations

I have just read The Daily Mail in a Woking gym cafe. I don't take a daily British paper. This morning's read leaves me depressed at the shallow, stupid, self-centred, short-sighted escapism that fills its pages.

I have just finished a week's retreat at the new Saint Columba's Centre nearby. No newspapers, no talk. The themes have included the Wisdom tradition and the development of villages of God at a time when the outward structures of Christendom decline and global networking increases.

One third of the Jewish written tradition is wisdom literature. Sages and seers had an honoured place in many ancient societies. In Celtic lands Druids took up to twenty years to learn and store their peoples' wisdom, bards had an honoured role and were well used. Today new Orders of Bards rise up. A Christian priest, Mark Townsend, felt he had to leave the church and become a Druid if he was not to lose the bardic tradition. He describes in his book The Path of the Blue Raven: From Religion to Re-Enchantment (O Books 2009) how after a sexual lapse which meant he was asked to leave the parish ministry, he discovered that the incarnation was not just about Jesus coming into the world, but also about a hidden divinity in all of creation, which it is the church's role to awaken people to.

There can be Christ-centred bards. The Bard in us gathers the memory - the stories, the values, the meaning - of a people that otherwise would be lost, lets these gestate, makes them her own, expresses them in pictures and words that linger long in the hearers. The Bard in us follows a river to its source, a tree to its roots, a people to its soul, and the planet to its heart. The Bard in us needs to ask: What sources and values do I need to connect with? What do I need to reveal to the world of what I am discovering? How may I best do this?

I long for every Diocese and denomination to have spiritual resource centres - spirituality programmes, study places, retreat houses, summer schools - where wisdom, learning and bardic arts are fostered. These wider networks can invite poets, artists, teachers and meditators in residence.

An email that asked if I would consider being in residence for a Diocese in another land has prompted further thought on this. Bishops and Dioceses might find it fruitful to explore how they may develop the wisdom tradition within programmes, centres, and places where there can be 'bards' in residence. Such places, if they grow sufficiently, will ensure that the next generation has something better to read than today's Daily Mail.

Posted at 04:13am on 11th June 2011
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