Would you like to develop a positive relationship with the riches of the Christian tradition, without believing five impossible things before breakfast? This retreat is for anyone, whether self-defined as ‘Christian’ or not, who seeks the balance of that creative way, combining receptivity to meaning with critical avoidance of absolute beliefs.
Timed to coincide with the release of Robert M. Ellis’s new book ‘The Christian Middle Way: The case against Christian belief but for Christian faith’ (to be published by the Christian Alternative imprint), this weekend offers several talks by Robert on the ways that we can understand and positively relate to the meaning of Christian symbols, experience, stories, virtues and rituals. These can support faith in the sense of embodied confidence, whilst also clearly avoiding either the acceptance or denial of revelations or claims about the ‘existence’ of an infinite being that are entirely beyond our limited experience. Christian agnosticism needs to be recognised, not apologetically, but as the most powerful and liberating moral and spiritual option for those with a Christian heritage.
These talks will be followed up by ample opportunity for questions and discussion. In the normal style of Middle Way Society retreats, this weekend will also include a mixture of integrative activities that will help you maintain a wider awareness in which to place the discussions. There will be periods of shared silent meditation (which could also be used for silent prayer or contemplation by those who prefer those labels). There will also be an artistically-orientated event in which you will be invited to develop your own creative responses to Christian symbols (whether these have had positive or negative significance for you in the past). Between the programmed events there will also be free time in which you can reflect, chat, make friends, or walk in the countryside.
Fri 20th July (6pm) to Sun 22nd July 2018 (3.30pm)
Braziers Park, a large house and community near Wallingford in Oxfordshire, UK (OX10 6AN). This is a more comfortable venue than the ones we have used in the past for Middle Way Society retreats, and allows the possibility of single rooms and en suite accommodation (if you book while it is still available!). Unlike our previous retreat venues, all meals are also provided by the venue.
Braziers Park is within easy travelling distance by public transport from London (about 25-30 minutes from Paddington Station by train, then about 25 minutes by bus to Braziers Park). See this page for detailed travel instructions.
This depends on your accommodation preferences. We can offer the following options:
- Shared room full board £195 (Room shared with 1 or 2 other people. If 2 or 3 people book together we can allocate you a shared room together. If you don’t arrange your room share in advance we will put you with someone of the same sex.)
- Shared room with en suite bathroom and full board £217 (limited availability – book early)
- Single room full board £225 (limited availability – book early)
- Camping with full board £130
- Camping with self-catering £40 (We would like to encourage you to join the communal meals if possible, as they are part of the retreat, but this provides a budget option for those who could not otherwise afford to participate. You will need to bring all your own food and cooking equipment and cook on the campsite if you take this option. It would also be possible to take this option and book individual extra meals in the house.)
- If camping is not an option for you, and cost prohibits you from attending, please contact us to discuss possible concessions, giving brief details of your financial situation. Any concessions will depend on total bookings for the retreat.
All food on the retreat will be provided by Brazier Park. It will all be vegetarian, and vegans will be fully catered for. Braziers Park can also cater for other special diets. Please provide information about your dietary requirements when booking.
Who is the retreat for?
Anyone aged 18 or over who is interested in exploring the Middle Way in relation to Christian tradition. Those who identify as Christians will be welcome, though they must be open to discussion of alternatives to traditional Christian belief. Those who identify as non-Christian will be equally welcome, though they will need to be open to positive discussion of the meaning of Christianity. There will be no communal rituals that assume traditional Christian belief or require the recitation of words that may be taken to imply it. You do not need to be a member of the Middle Way Society, though we hope you will consider joining.
Robert M Ellis is the founder and chair of the Middle Way Society. Apart from The Christian Middle Way, he is the author of a number of other books including Migglism and the Middle Way Philosophy series. He is an experienced teacher, lecturer and tutor, with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Cambridge BA in Theology and Oriental Studies. He has led a number of other retreats in various contexts. Although from a Christian background, he was also involved in Buddhism for about 20 years and has learnt from excellent Buddhist practice in operating retreats.
Fri 20th July: Please try to arrive by 6pm for dinner at 6.30pm (though we understand that some people will need to arrive later than this). There will be a reporting-in so we can get to know each other, a short introductory talk and a short meditation in the evening.
Sat 21st July: There will be a period of shared silent meditation/prayer/ contemplation first thing, before breakfast at 9am. In the morning Robert will give a talk on the meaning of God and Christ and the ways we can relate to these meanings archetypally without absolute belief. There will be a tea break followed by discussion and then lunch
Saturday afternoon will be largely free for you to enjoy the vicinity of Braziers Park and perhaps talk informally with others on the retreat. There will be another meditation session just before dinner. In the evening we will be looking at some examples of Christian art and symbolism, discussing our responses to it, and optionally creating our own artistic responses that reflect our own working relationship to Christian symbols (even if your associations with those symbols are negative).
Sun 22nd July: The day will again start with a period of shared silent meditation/prayer/contemplation before breakfast. Robert will then give a talk on Christian religious experience and mysticism, which can be a rich source of inspiration independent of absolute Christian beliefs. Again there will be a tea break followed by discussion. After lunch there will be a reporting-out session in which you will have the opportunity to share your experience of the retreat, before it ends at 3.30pm.
To help maintain a retreat atmosphere without distractions, participants are asked not to use mobile phones or other electronic devices on the retreat, except for urgent personal reasons in private or for the purposes of the retreat programme. To ensure that everyone feels confident and secure in discussions where they may choose to talk about their personal lives and deepest motivations, you are also asked not to initiate new sexual relationships with other people on the retreat.
Please fill in the online form below, then pay a non-returnable deposit of £60 to secure your place (or £40 full payment for self-catering camping). You can pay this either online, by bank transfer or by cheque. The balance of your payment is due by 20th Jun 2018, 4 weeks before the retreat begins.
- To pay online, please use the Paypal facility that should load automatically after you have submitted the form. This Paypal facility also allows you to pay by credit or debit card.
- To pay by bank transfer, close the Paypal facility page and pay through your bank to Account: Middle Way Society, Co-operative Bank, Sort Code 089299, account number 65711376. Please use your name as a reference. For international transfers, use IBAN GB50 CPBK 0892 9965 7113 76, BIC CPBK GB22.
- If you need to pay by cheque, please contact barry (at) middlewaysociety.org
To pay your balance by Paypal please go directly to the booking payment page and select the appropriate option from the dropdown menu. To pay your balance by bank transfer or cheque please see the information above.
For all questions about the retreat except payment, please contact Robert M Ellis on robert (at) middlewaysociety.org, substituting @ for (at). For queries about payment please contact Barry Daniel on barry (at) middlewaysociety.org.