I spent the better part of my childhood clambering over the rocky, gorse-kissed landscape of a tiny Greek island called Kythera. Like so many of those islands, it had succumbed to mass migration early in the 20th century; the population when I was a child stood at around 3000 souls, and only half of that was actually Greek. Studded all over this wind-ravaged outcrop were little white churches, the majority of them an abandoned testament to a once larger and more fervent population. I encountered them on my travels through the landscape; unlike my contemporaries, I was discouraged from the trappings of modern life – which is to say, I wasn’t glued to the television – and so, when I wasn’t glued to a book instead, I set myself to becoming an intrepid explorer and conqueror of my environment. As I grew, and the first seeds of spirituality began to take root, I dreamed of owning, or, better yet, building from scratch, a little white church such as the ones on whose doorsteps I would rest and reflect. I imagined adorning the walls with the angelic beings I had begun to commune with, and creating a haven where people of all faiths would be welcome, and those of no faith might be inspired – or at the very least, comforted.
“Building a church” was the language I had back then to describe the passions that were already stirring in me. Years later, that language would be replaced with a sentence gifted to me by a dear friend: Interfaith Ministry. And a further handful of years after that, I would enter that same search term into Google, and come across this website. I would watch the introductory clip on the Seminary, hear the sentence “a form that is radical in its freedom”, and feel the hair on my arms stand on end. That clip still moves me to tears. However, I knew my own prospects well enough to know that the training was quite outside of my grasp financially, and so I made the wish, tacked the image to my visionboard for another time, and left it at that.
Earlier this year, having cancelled a trip I had been planning to take, I found myself faced with the unique experience of an empty couple of weeks in my diary. And then I recalled seeing an open day scheduled at OneSpirit, which I had disregarded due to the assumption that I would be out of the country. For curiosity’s sake, and compelled by some calling in my belly, I hopped on the coach to London, which planted me a full three minutes walk from the venue. I found myself in a room where the very atmosphere felt so charged, so alive, it seemed to sing, and among people who seemed to remind me of old friends – indeed, the last of the party to arrive turned out to be just that, an old friend who grinned and blew me kisses across the opening circle.
What followed was a combination of the sort of exercises I am very familiar with from my own field (the breathing, the eyegazing, the welcoming of one another, the usual suspects…), and talk that was grounded, articulate, thoughtful, generous, and radically inclusive. During a meditation, as we all sat there with eyes closed listening to the facilitator and our own breath, I had a sensation as though a warm pair of hands resting upon my shoulders – an almost tangible sense of presence and welcome.
When question time came around I raised my hand, and asked what felt like two rather vulnerable questions. The first went something like this:
Me: “So, I’m noticing that we’ve just had readings from two people I’m assuming identify as a man and a woman; what is the foundation’s attitude towards people who don’t identify on either side of the gender binary?”
Facilitator: “Would any of the current students like to speak to this?”
Year two student: “There are two transgender people in my study group.”
Me: “Oh. Alright then. Thank you.”
My second question felt even more revealing, as it pertained to the fact that my income for the previous year had been less than the annual course fees. I said I would quite understand it if they thought my even being in the room was unrealistic, ridiculous even, but that I’d love to know if there was any way for someone like myself to attend. To which I received the following answer:
“If the money is the only thing holding you back from applying, we recommend you apply; we’ll find a way to make it work. You’d be amazed at the miracles that unfold for people when they commit to this course. If you feel this is the path for you, apply.”
And oh goddess did I feel it was the path for me. I’d already had a strong draw towards the Foundation before; sitting in that room, my belly was practically singing with a big shimmering golden YES. It was clear the course would not only nourish my own spirit, but also feed, inform, and inspire what I do. The way the curriculum engages with ritual could support my passion for facilitating rites of passage; the pastoral counseling modules could enrich my work as a psychosexual coach; and the invitation to engage with different faiths could satisfy even my inner god-geek.
That was in March. In June, my acceptance letter came through the door to great excitement, and last week I received confirmation of my enrolment. Now begins the unfolding process of applying for scholarships, trawling through the reading list, and, as I’m discovering already, being thrown a whole lot deeper into the divine on a daily basis. Yes!
The Foundation is being both generous and flexible in allowing me to attend the training and working with my financial status. However, I most certainly need and welcome all the support I can get. If you feel drawn to contributing towards this next stage of my journey and my offerings, click here, and if you do click here, know that I am heartfully gratefully that you did so.
Thank you for dreaming my dreams with me.