Burning Conversations UK conference

by James Fawcett October 31, 2014 A

On Monday this week I attended the Burning Conversations UK conference at the YMCA George Williams College.

This was a ‘follow up’ conversation for those of us that could not make it to Adelaide in Australia for the original conversation.  This was the premise of the conference of Australia:

If it takes a village to raise a child what would a holistic practice of spiritual formation with young people look like in contemporary Australian society?

The youth life-stage is generally understood  as a time of openness, exploration and questioning in terms of identity, autonomy, agency and vocation. The opportunity for young people to access spiritual resources, wisdom, mentors, communities and traditions  is vitally important to the formation of their holistic sense of self, social participation and responsibility. But what does this mean in a predominantly secular culture and society with an Anglo-Christian heritage, multi-cultural pluralism, tentative respect for the Aboriginal story and the spirituality of the land and declining participation in traditional forms of religious practice?

There was 3 people that had attended the conference that shared including 2 of the key note speakers, Maxine Green the principle of the YMCA George Williams College and Dr Phil Daughtry the conference organiser and major thinker.

Phil highlighted 7 elements for spiritual conversations, space, permission, guidance, context, imagination, curiosity and trust. He then conducted us in some spiritual conversation with those around us, inspired by images and narratives that he shared. The next attendee (i’ve forgotten his name and didn’t note it) shared about space and place and creating a ‘safe space’ that helps to breed spiritual conversations, making interesting observations that spiritual conversations are inherently risky so therefore how can we create ‘safe spaces’. Maxine then shared her material from the conference, which was exploring treating spiritual development in young people like we treat development in any area, that it is something that we can work on and search for development. She pointed to theories of spiritual development from Fowler and used a classic model of reflection to look at how we might develop as spiritually reflective practitioners, with some of the key elements of spiritually reflective practitioners being:

  • Stillness of the soul – silence
  • Distracting your ego
  • Reflecting on your own spirituality
  • Practicing in a community of practitioners

In the afternoon we began to look at some of the issues raise, I was on one table discussing the ‘how’ we do it question, with interesting conversations about language and how we communicate the spiritual to people that might not understand.

There was plenty of conversation and I’ve obviously not captured it in this blog,  there was an intention in the room on Monday for this conversation to continue and that there would be other opportunities to meet in future. If I hear about these I will advertise on this site.