Why do I ever try to use alliterative titles for posts? I hardly ever do in preaching. Ah well. Anyway, a few thoughts arising from last week's conference of Baptists Doing Theology called 'Hearts and Minds' - the idea being something about using both in our theologising.
As with all conferences, the best bit is not the sessions but the opportuity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. It was good to meet up with several Baptist bloggers, some I already knew in the real world and others only in the virtual world. It was good to meet the minister friend that God sent as far south as I was sent north from Dibleyshire... evidently we needed splitting up... or God wanted to share the blessing more widely. It was good to meet someone who used to be a member of the Gathering Place many years ago, someone who is a friend of someone else at the GP, and even someone whose son was a member here when he was a student in Glasgow. I do love how small this world really is and how it intertwines.
Many, if not most, of the sessions I attended covered ideas I had already pondered, to various extents and the majority offered little to challenge or renew my undertsanding. That's OK, sometimes it's nice to know you are in tune with others, but I think the next time I will pick things I know less about in the hope of gaining new insights. For me the most meaningful session was that by a minister reflecting on his experience of cancer two years ago. There were many resonances and many differences, and that was what, for me, made it a good session. His main point of reference was Psalm 22 (alongside the cry of dereliction from the cross) and his own sense of 'why me?' and 'where are you God?' Whilst I can honestly say those weren't my experiences, it was a real privilege to hear someone share their story, and a delight that here was another minister refusing to play the 'oh the Lord is blessing me so much through this' game. It kind of felt like another little nudge along a path I need to explore in the next little while...
My dietary needs are pretty legend among those who've known me for any length of time, along with the fact that I get pretty hacked off with conference centres that fail to take them on board. Whilst peanut allergies and gluten free diets seem to be copable, avoidance of certain phytoestrogens that abrogate Tamoxifen (at least according to some proper research and consistent with NICE guidelines) and an intolerance to capsicums, chillies and their derivatives (even when spelled out) do not. Last week the centre did really well until the last dinner. Out came the starter - prawn cocktail (in little metal dishes, oh so 70s retro!) topped with paprika. Now, I had half expected not to be able to eat this as often people put chillies in the marie rose sauce, so I knew I'd have to check. But the paprika sitting there seemed to mock me. As I handed it back, I found myself disproportionately upset. I don't especially like prawn cocktail, but the alternative - a glass of orange juice - seemed to add insult to injury. I was cross with myself for feeling so upset - for goodness sake woman you are NED and having a three course dinner in an Oxford college surrounded by interesting people - but it seemed to be some kind of mocking reminder of the fact that I am not like "everyone else". Of course no one is, but most people are like most other people in this respect. Perhaps it's partly that I cook veggie/vegan/fat free/hallal/kosher/whatever and it seemed this wasn't reciprocated. Not quite sure. I was just surprised how much it upset me at the time. To add insult to injury, the veg with the main course consisted of cabbage and a Mediterranean vegetable mix loaded with.... peppers. As there was only one serving spoon, I had to leap in quickly to get some cabbage before the spoon was contaminated. Part of my internal tension was, I think, that I am now less tolerant than I used to be of people who make a fuss over stupid little things, and here I was upset by a stupid little thing.
Anyway (x3 in case Annie is reading) I enjoyed being at the conference, enjoyed meeting new people and people I already knew, enjoyed the sessions and felt encouraged in my own ongoing commitment as a practical theologian. Come the eschaton, chillies and capsicums will be consigned to the lake of fire and everyone will love marmite... ;-) Until then I will continue to learn more grace and eat an ever smaller selection of foods when away from home.