On 8 July 2010, towards the end of a course at Woodbrooke facilitated by Thomas Swain considering our Spiritual Gifts, we were asked to identify our dream, our vision. Blue sky thinking ,Thomas encouraged us, this is a safe space, be bold!
I restricted myself to Watford (didn’t think I could change the whole world) and draw Watford as I saw it then, with lots of groups working to make it a better place, but often with little contact between them. I’ve noted ‘Watford is in many ways blessed – but it could be even more so’. Then I draw the Watford of my vision with all the groups working together and wrote ‘groups with a concern to let God’s love (whatever they call it) work in our town, being open to and accepting of internal and external diversity, so that Watford is a better place to be (the Kingdom of God here and now). An example to other places’. Groups I identified include WIFA, CAW and Celebration (those being ones I was involved in, but I’m aware that there are many others). I noted that this would require ‘healing, listening, understanding at all levels’ and that my role may be, in some small way, enabling this. I identified my gifts, skills and experience (and this was a key part of the exercise) as being in facilitating sharing and deep listening (and behind the scenes organisation). I also identified the need to be in groups where I am somewhat uncomfortable (often because they use language differently to me) although my role may be to do and/or say nothing boldly.
While I shared this with the friendly, supportive, safe group at Woodbrooke, it has taken a long time to speak of this vision elsewhere. However, it has stayed with me, and I have been ‘working’ on it. By that I mean that I keep returning to it, rethinking how I can express it, refining my understanding of it.
One way to describe it is as a realising eschatology – a belief that the ‘Kingdom of God’ is imminent, is in some senses here, but also needs a lot of work on the ground to make it a reality. In a mystic sense I am aware that it is already here, if only we can accept and perceive that. Yet quite clearly it is not here – the world is still full of hunger, thirst, war, cruelty, inequality and suffering of all kinds. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh ‘the Kingdom of God is Here and Now’ and ‘happiness is here and now’ – if (or perhaps I mean IFF) we ‘realise that we already have all the necessary conditions for happiness’. I stick with the phrase ‘the Kingdom of God’ despite people offering alternatives such as the ‘Divine Republic’. I still perceive that God (a loving, creative force or presence rather than a being) is ‘in charge’, is ‘ruling’, because people living in this ‘Kingdom’ (a state not a physical place) have freely aligned themselves with this power. I could go with the word ‘Heaven’ though.
I was given pause for thought when I heard Thay say that ‘the Kingdom of God is Here and Now, Here and Now is the Kingdom of God’. But the more I live with that, the more I see truth in it. When we dwell in the here and now, we dwell in the kingdom. So I breathe and let my thoughts go and come back to the here and now. Then I try that again. But I also do what I can to make the kingdom a physical reality, starting in Watford, because that’s where I am. So I smile to the Buddha in the next person I meet, and (hopefully) the next person after that. As with all spiritual practises it is necessary to forgive one’s failings and just start again.