Our Formation students gathered for their intensive this past weekend, on a theme of Praying for a Change. Each intensive focusses on one of the key learning areas, personal growth, spirituality, ecclesial understanding, pastoral care or entrepreneurial leadership. This weekend was about spirituality, and we were privileged to have two keynote sessions from Fr. Nicholas Whearat introducing us to Franciscan spirituality from his perspective as a tertiary. We were invited to engage with this ‘reluctant saint’ and recognise how much of his message is important for the church today. This was particularly apt as we celebrate this year the 800th anniversary of the meeting of St. Francis and the Muslim sultan that underpins much interfaith dialogue today. In the wake of the Christchurch shootings, focus on St Francis’ call to peacemaking has never seemed more urgent. Nicholas also drew our attention to St Francis’ care for creation and again, with the recent school strike for climate change, his words had particular relevance.
There were many other sessions, with first year students particularly appreciating input around spiritual direction from Dale Keenan, who directs the spiritual direction formation programme, and later years learning something of how to deepen the spirituality of others in small groups and creative expressions of worship. Underpinning it all were acts of worship, opportunities for fellowship around meals and meaningful conversations. As in any diverse community we do not always see things alike, but as Canon Gary Harch our preacher and speaker on Friday evening pointed out, this is the very essence of Anglicanism, such that when we come together to ‘pray for a change’ there is great beauty in our diversity.