Thomas Merton – Contemplation. What does it mean to be a contemplative in a world that prizes business and activity. Thomas Merton is a Trappist monk, prolific spiritual writer, and prophetic mystic – who peeled back the veil of monastic life in the 1960s leading to a blossoming of vocation. In this lecture we will be introduced to the wayward soul of Merton, who found faith and Catholicism in spite of himself and see what he can teach us.
Fr Sam McNally-Cross is the vicar of St Thomas, Kensal Town in the Diocese of London. He has completed a Masters degree in Christian Spirituality through Heythrop College, which focused on monastic spirituality and the subjective life of Thomas Merton being rooted in the objective life of the church. He was invited to present his thesis at the International Thomas Merton Conference held in Rome in 2018.In 2020 he began his Doctoral studies at Anglia Ruskin University researching the Promethean Theology of Thomas Mertonand applying it to those who are outside of the church and yet have some natural longing for the Divine. He is a published poet, the editor of the magazine of the Society of Mary and a sometime guest lecturer at St Mellitus College, London and Plymouth.
Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) (1891-1942) was a German-Jewish philosopher, who later became a discalced Carmelite nun. She completed her doctoral thesis on the subject of empathy at the Universities of Göttingen and Freiburg. Her studies were briefly interrupted in 1915 by a period of voluntary service as nurse. Afterwards she worked for two years as an assistant to her doctoral supervisor, Edmund Husserl. Her attempts to establish herself in an academic career as a philosopher were not successful because she was a woman. While other avenues had started to open for women, academic philosophy was not one of them. Instead, she found other ways to pursue her philosophical work, alongside a teaching position at a Dominican school in Speyer (1923 to 1931). Her thought, writing and friendships led her to explore questions of faith. An important moment was when she read The Interior Castle, by the 16th Century Carmelite nun, Teresa of Avila, whilst visiting a friend. She was baptised in the Catholic Church on 1st January 1922. While she had hoped to become a Carmelite nun, her spiritual director advised her to wait. It was not until 1933 that she entered the Carmelite monastery in Cologne. This was after she had been forced to resign from her recently-appointed post as lecturer at the Institute for Scientific Pedagogy, Münster, due to legislation passed by the Nazis. She later transferred from Cologne, along with her sister Rosa Stein, who had become an extern sister, to a Carmelite monastery in Echt, the Netherlands. Edith and her sister were arrested on 2nd August 1942 along with over 200 other baptised Jews, in an act of retaliation for a statement issued by the Dutch Bishops against the Nazis. They were imprisoned before being deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed on 9th August 1942.
The Reverend Dr Stacey Rand is a senior research fellow at the University of Kent, where her research focuses on family care, community-based social care, and social care outcomes measurement. She has been an associate of the Third Order of Carmel since September 2012 and is part of the Carmelite Companions of the Way (CCTW), an ecumenical dispersed community. She is currently a MTh student at the Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland (cibi.ie)
Paul, sinner, saint, apostle, and writer, quoted at length, in and out of context. A character that provokes strong reactions from many. But, because of his letters taking up great swathes of the New Testament and his mission tot he gentiles for which we owe a great debt, and therefore a character that cannot be ignored, no matter the controvert that surround and follows him. In this lecture we will experience Paul, the man we cannot ignore, wether we like him or not.
Canon Dr Paula Gooder – is a prominent New Testament theologian, speaker and writer. Her research areas focus on the writings of St Paul the Apostle with a particular focus on 2 Corinthians and Paul’s understanding of the body. She is passionate about enthusing people to read the Bible by offering the best biblical scholarship possible in an engaging way. Paula began her working life teaching at Ripon College Cuddesdon and then the Queens Foundation in Birmingham. This was followed by 8 years as an itinerant speaker and writer in biblical studies, before taking a post with the Bible Society as their Theologian in Residence, followed by becoming the Director of Mission Learning and Development for the Diocese of Birmingham. In 2019 Paula was appointed as the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Paula is widely published, writing resources for Lent and Advent, contributing to The Pilgrim Course, New Testament scholarship and her most recent book, a historical fiction book entitled Phoebe: A story.
The Transfiguration, the story of Jesus’ remarkable display of Glory, described in the Synoptic Gospels. An often misunderstood and overlooked episode in the life of Jesus, but a staple of the Orthodox Church. This lecture touches on the teaching of both Origen and Tertullian. Origen of Alexandria was born around 184 and is a Church Father, Christian Scholar and ascetic who has written roughly 2,000 treatise in various and multiple branches of theology – he has been described as ‘The Greatest Genius the Early Church ever produced’ Tertullian was born around 155 in Carthage and was a prolific author – an early Christian Apologist and a polemicist against heresy, including Gnosticism. An important contribution was made to the development by Tertullian but despite this he was never formally declared a Saint by either East or Western Catholic tradition churches.
Fr Peter Anthony is the Vicar of the Parish of Kentish Town. He arrived here in the summer of 2013, having come from working in Oxford at St Stephen’s House and Merton College. He is originally from Bolton, but became an ordinand of the Diocese of London, after having worked as a pastoral assistant at St Paul’s, Tottenham. He was formed and trained for ordination at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, and served a curacy in Hendon. He is a Biblical Scholar of some note, teaches the Pastoral Assistants Scheme Theology Seminars, and is one of the Editors of the blog ‘All Things Lawful and Honest’
Ron Dreher’s Benedict Option has invited emulation and opprobrium in equal measure, with some Christians embracing his call to the cloister and others finding his vision isolationist, exclusive or worse. Is it possible to resist the relativist and consumerist ideology so inimical to a sacramental understanding of the world without complete withdrawal? Might Christians not find allies outside the fold? The 6th century writings of the monk who called himself Dionysius the Areopagite were inspired by S Paul’s mission in the marketplace of polytheistic Athens. They offer an ascetical, sacramental approach to the re-enchantment of the secularised world based on a metaphysical nondualism shared by the majority of the world’s ancient religious philosophies, leaving modern western secularism isolated in its dualistic tendencies. The method, means, metaphysics and influence of the Areopagite show a way for adherents of traditional philosophies to work together without conforming to the secular categorisation of mutually exclusive “religions,” relativised into discrete, commodified identities and lifestyle choices.
Priest, Platonist, Prayer Book provocateur, Fr Thomas Plant has served in parish ministry, school and cadet force chaplaincy, and as a university lecturer. A classicist-turned-theologian, he has studied at St Andrews, Bristol and Cambridge, where for his doctorate he compared the metaphysics and soteriology of Dionysius the Areopagite and the Japanese Buddhist Shinran Shonin. He is a frequent contributor to the Living Church: Covenant blog and publishes his own catechetical books on greatersilence.com. He moonlights as an Aikido instructor and writer of Lovecraftian horror fiction. Follow him on Twitter @thosplant.
Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov (1871-1944) was a Russian Orthodox theologian, priest, philosopher and economist who was elected to the Duma, a professor in Church Law and Theology, and helped to found l’Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge in Paris. He is a complex character who lived during a particularly turbulent period of Russian history. He faced accusations of heresy for his teaching on sophiology, but his work on what has been called “a Christian theory of cultural activity” has been seen as anticipating Radical Orthodoxy’s postmodern, metacritical methodology as well as its objective to “out-narrate” the secular by showing how the Christian tradition corrects the nihilism present within the logic of modernity.
John Milbank founded the radical orthodoxy movement. His work crosses disciplinary boundaries, integrating subjects such as systematic theology, social theory, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy, political theory, and political theology. He first gained recognition after publishing Theology and Social Theory in 1990, which laid the theoretical foundations for the movement which later became known as radical orthodoxy. John Milbank has named the Russian sophiological tradition, particularly the work of Sergej Bulgakov, as an intellectual ally and his interest in Bulgakov has been developing since at least 2002.
In St Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, completed c.1566, she offers wisdom to Carmelite nuns on prayer, spirituality, and living in community. A Doctor of the Church, Teresa’s theological views are bold, clear, and uncompromising. She was a reformer, founding a vast number of religious houses for men and women in the sixteenth century, often under extreme pressure. Meanwhile, her inner life of prayer and her writing are consistently marked by her openness to change and her understanding of the need for constant calibration and adaptation. Her work was determined and strategic, not rigid or cynical. Flexibility was a primary component of what would become her movement’s consistency. This talk will explore Teresa’s approach to love, detachment, and change in The Way, connecting these themes with two artworks depicting Teresa’s most intensive encounters with God: Bernini’s St Teresa in Ecstasy (1647-52), and Rubens’ St Teresa of Avila’s Vision of the Holy Spirit (1612-14).
The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine’s research focuses on intersections across theology and the arts. Following her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she was a post-doctoral fellow at Yale and the Courtauld, and Lecturer and Visiting Fellow in Art History at the University of Essex. While at theological college in Cambridge, she completed an MPhil in Anglican Studies on the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of England. Her publications include articles on monastic architecture, the Hereford Screen, and modern British art, and the book Architecture and Religious Communities: Building the Kingdom (Routledge, 2018). She is a contributor to the Visual Commentary on Scripture (www.thevcs.org) and a trustee of the charity Art and Christianity. She is Assistant Curate at Hampstead Parish Church in London.
Fr Martin Thornton (1915-1986) was a farmer, Anglican priest, and theologian. Spurred by a mystical “beech tree experience” as a farmer, he pursued Holy Orders, receiving degrees from King’s College, London (under Eric Symes Abbott) and later Christ College, Cambridge (under Ian Ramsey). He was twice visiting lecturer at The General Theological Seminary in New York, where he received an honorary doctorate in 1966, and from 1975 until his death was Canon Chancellor of Truro Cathedral under Bp Graham Leonard, who called Fr Thornton “the most natural and supernatural Christian I have known.” He wrote thirteen books that focused on pastoral and ascetical theology, always in a mode of ressourcement attuned to Prayer Book pastoral sensibility, with wide-ranging topics that include scriptural exegesis, liturgical life especially the importance of the daily Office, “parochial theology” (a term he coined), personal devotion and prayer, spiritual direction in both its art and science, asceticism, as well as pastoral studies on specific voices within what he calls the “English School of Catholic spirituality” from Anselm to the Caroline Divines and on through Macquarrie, with most attention given to Margery Kempe. His book The Purple Headed Mountain was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 1963.
Fr Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B. is a parish priest for the Parish of Tazewell County in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield (Illinois). He is an Oblate to St John’s Abbey, Collegeville (MN) and the leading authority on the theology of Fr Martin Thornton, whose works he has exclusive permission to reissue. He has an M.T.S. from Nashotah House (with thesis on the theology of Martin Thornton, which included meetings with Thornton’s wife Monica and daughter Magdalen, along with Benedicta Ward, Rowan Williams, Allison Milbank, and George Westhaver), an M.A. in Liturgical Ministry from Catholic Theological Union, and baccalaureate from Washington University in St Louis (English Literature and Creative Writing). For ten years he has had an active social-media ministry to promote Thornton’s insights on prayer, parish life, and ascetical spirituality, which led him seven years ago to found Akenside Institute for English Spirituality (AIES) and its publishing arm, Akenside Press. Its purpose is to develop resources that aid the rediscovery of orthodox-catholic reality in Prayer Book parish life. He lives in Pekin, Illinois (near Peoria) with his wife, five children, seven chickens, two cats, and a dog. He bakes traditional sourdough bread to feed the natives.
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Challenging child, avid thinker, monastic leader, Bishop, Father of Western Theology, person of prayer: St Augustine of Hippo is a fascinating and enigmatic character. In this seminar we’ll explore his understanding and experience of prayer through a variety of his writings, including his Confessions, his sermons, his letters, his commentaries and his monastic rule. Augustine has much to teach us about prayer and theology, prayer and the life of the church and, above all, prayer as Christ’s activity, which we are invited to join.
Kirsty Borthwick is an ordinand at Westcott House, and is finishing a PhD on the doctrine of prayer, in conversation with Augustine’s trinitarian theology. She is examining what it means to pray to the Father “in the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ”. God and Bishop willing, she hopes to return to the Diocese of St Albans for curacy, and to continue exploring what it means to be a theological educator.
In recent times the writings of Shenoute the Great have been appreciated for their unique contribution to the ancient writings of early Egyptian monasticism and in this session we will consider Shenoute’s writings around Discipline and Desire in 4th century Egypt’.
Jarel Robinson-Brown is an Honorary Chaplain at King’s College London and postgraduate student at St Mellitus College London. His main interests are in Church History (particularly Late Antique Egypt) and Liberation Theology.’ ‘Whilst many Egyptian saints throughout history enjoy a certain degree of fame through the writings of the desert fathers or a focus on Christian history in Alexandria – Shenoute of Atripe has been a rather elusive figure in the history of the Church, and the history of monasticism in particular.