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Spirit of Life on May Day at Coventry Cathedral

Report on Spirit of Life
The Churches Together in England’s Group for Evangelisation produced a workbook Equipping Your Church in a Spiritual Age in winter 2005 which looked at contemporary spirituality, the theology of the church’s engagement with it and practical suggestions of what local churches might do to engage with the growing interest in spirituality outside church.  The writing group was encouraged to demonstrate some of its principles and suggestions, and so it linked up with Coventry Cathedral to run a Christian spirituality fair called Spirit of Life in Coventry Cathedral on Monday 1st May 2006.
Aims and Objectives
Spirit of Life had two aims:
  • Primarily to engage with the spirituality of the people of Coventry and help them to explore the relevance of Jesus to their lives by providing information, activities and spaces to help them on their spiritual journeys
  • Consequently to help local Christians see how they might engage with the spirituality of their neighbours.

Spirit of Life had five objectives:

  • to be a ‘spiritual fair’ with a wide variety of activities
  • to explore the spiritual realm
  • to be open to anyone and everyone
  • to be planned in consultation with the churches in Coventry to relate to and hopefully to assist them in their mission to their city
Impression forms were handed out randomly to those present who were asked to return them.  It seems that the Christians present were more willing to complete them than the non-Christians.  Evaluation forms were given to each contributor and almost every contributor returned the form.  The evaluation is therefore based on personal impressions and a set of not-very-random responses from ‘customers’, and we have tried to make allowances for this in our reflection.
Spirit of Life was a success when judged by its aims of:
  • engaging with the spirituality of the people of Coventry.  1st May (May Day) is Godiva Day in Coventry, as well as being a significant day in pre-Christian understandings and Celtic Christianity.  Spirit of Life linked in with these events in various ways, mainly through seminars on relevant subjects.  We have been told of some people who became Christians on the day, and others afterwards.  Several commented on how helpful the day had been in their spiritual exploration.
  • helping local Christians.  A good number of local Christians who have felt hindered in exercising ‘spiritual gifts’ felt that the day had given them ‘permission’ to use their spiritual gifts in their local situations - everal said that they had learned enough to engage in local Body, Mind & Spirit fairs.  A lot of those who were involved on the fringes of Spirit of Life and came to it apprehensive, but were encouraged and reassured.  Many contributors had a unique opportunity to exercise their gifts in an evangelistic way and felt affirmed and more confident in the exercising their gifts.
Spirit of Life was also a success when judged by its objectives.
  • There were about 70 contributions ranging from prayer to maypole dancing; from well dressing to meditation; from third world issues to sculpture expressing grief.  The most popular were those providing one-to-one encounters (prayer, aura understanding, massage) and the grief sculptures.
  • 15 seminars engaged with the theology of the fair and the background to the diversity of Christian spirituality from angels and the green man in the Bible to the Abbot of Worth speaking about the value of the monastic life; and from Ignatian spirituality to Wisdom and How to Die.  These together explained the coherent and reasoned theological basis of Spirit of Life.
  • About, 600 people attended.  Advertising of Spirit of Life was deliberately designed for those who are those outside the church’s orbit and we estimate that about a third were church-attending Christians, one-third disillusioned Christians and one-third people with no Christian connections at all.  It was clear that a wide variety of people were attracted; an impressive number said “If we had known it was going to be so good, we would have brought our friends”.
  • Many churches from a wide range of denominations were involved; 80 volunteer stewards from a large number of churches assisted during the day.  Holding Spirit of Life in the Cathedral not only provided a vast awe-some space, but set Spirit of Life in a Christian context which allowed a variety of less overtly Christian ‘giftings’ to be exercised.  The event was undergirded by a prayer ministry which brought prayer networks together in preparation for Spirit of Life and then sustained a prayer vigil over the weekend. This involved people from many different denominations.  (The Spirit of Life organisers believe that this prayer backing was one of the key successes and supports for the event.)
Other points
A leading designer produced the logo; publicity was professionally done and the Cathedral’s publicity organisation was extremely helpful.
Follow up
Coventry churches are being encouraged to list their follow-up plans on the website.  The Cathedral is considering a second Spirit of Life in 2007.
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