Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lenten Talk (originally posted 03 March)

It was quite intriguing to be invited by email to give an evening talk on 'Buddhism' to parishioners of the (Roman Catholic) Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Sawbridgeworth, Mid-Essex, on behalf of the Buddhist Hospice Trust. I may have mentioned before that our website acts as a kind of funnel for enquiries and invitations from all over the world as well as locally, some frankly bizarre, but all needing some level of scrutiny and attention, lest human need go unanswered by my own heedlessness or judgementalism.

Fr Niall Harrrington, the Parish Priest, told me that he thought his parishioners might like to have guest speakers talking on broader topics than his usual weekly Lenten menu, and that something as unusual as Buddhism might be a good curtain-raiser for a pre-Easter series on 'other faiths', as well as being spiritually worthwhile. The warmth of his invitation made it hard to decline, so I joined him last Wednesday in his priest-house for 'warm winter soup' (duly blessed, both the soup and me), and for congenial conversation.

I expected a gathering of about a dozen (it was a cold, wet and blustery February evening) but at 7.30 pm the hall was still filling, and I was introduced to a congregation of more than fifty people of all ages, including a few school-age children. I took a few "visual aids", including a rather splendid framed print of the Medicine Buddha (that's him above) who, I reckoned, being a magnificent shade of deep indigo blue, might draw a question or two (he did).

The talk seemed to go down well, although I did feel a certain pressure to 'perform', and spoke rather too fast and too long (I thought); but questions after a tea-interval were still coming after half an hour, and continued round my chair after Fr Niall rang his end-of-business bell. Donations to the Trust's funds were in excess of £50, and all the copies of Raft and "Buddhist Reflections" were taken up.

I would be so pleased if I could call on your support in responding to invitations like this, and please read this blog regularly to see where you might contribute your services as a guest speaker on the Trust's behalf, or as an occasional delegate to a meeting, or working-party (see Chaplaincy Collectives, Charity Commission etc below)

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