Third time lucky! Having been postponed twice due to the pandemic, WCCM in the UK’s conference finally took place in June at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire. The theme was meditation and the ecological crisis. As well as talks and periods of meditation, there were workshops on poetry, body work, song and dance, being present in nature, and the work of meditation itself.
Attendees had the opportunity to get together in person for the first time for a long while with other members of the WCCM community. I met many people for the first time whom I had only seen at online meditation sessions or in zoom meetings.
Roger Layet saved the day when James Thornton, one of the two speakers (the other being Fr Laurence Freeman) was unable to attend, by giving a heartfelt and comprehensive talk on climate change, the environmental catastrophe and the spiritual context. One source he quoted that stood out for me was from Thomas Berry: “I am primarily interested in public spirituality…which… is, I think, much more significant than the cultivated spirituality of marginal groups or individuals engaged in intensive prayer and meditation apart from the dynamics of the larger human community”. This perhaps is the challenge for the WCCM community which was reflected by Fr Laurence saying that as a community we have a responsibility to share the gift of meditation as part of the Christian mission.
Fr Laurence highlighted how meditation can help in our response to the ecological crisis, how it contributes to a universal consciousness that is necessary to save the planet. The environmental movement is one of consciousness and repentance. The increased awareness of ecology is not just about the survival of our species but about an increased appreciation of creation, of a mystical view of nature. He talked about meditation in relation to sacrifice, how both are acts of love and attention, which made me think that actions we take in our lives in response to the crises, if done with love and attention, would not feel like ‘making sacrifices’.
Fr Laurence led the Sunday Contemplative Mass from High Leigh, with a number of delegates participating in the live-streamed service (a first for the UK!) and joined by the Bonnevaux community. If you have not had a chance to do so, I highly recommend watching this very special service with an ecological theme. The link is https://youtu.be/IkrhnDSpQVE
The conference included the launch of WCCM in the UK’s environmental statement, “Our Commitment to Eco-friendly Practices” which can be found at the bottom of every page on the new UK website www.wccm.uk along with other policies. It provides a reference point which we can all use to try to reduce our carbon footprint.
For myself, I had the pleasure of meeting Fr Laurence in person in my new role as Special Interest Coordinator for the Environment. Overall, the conference went very smoothly, with Julie Roberts in her new role as National Coordinator, helped by a very competent conference planning team!
Special Interest Coordinator for the Environment