The path of descent


From 29th-31st September, 30 of us gathered at St Mary’s to participate in the live-streaming from America of Richard Rohr’s conference: ‘The Path of Descent is the Path of Transformation’.  The talks were interspersed with opportunities for worship, reflection - alone and in groups - and valuable conversation and sharing time at (delicious!) meal times.

Richard Rohr, Barbara Brown-Taylor and Brian McClaren were the inspirational speakers who encouraged us to reflect on the idea that in order to grow we need to keep a balance between action and contemplation.  In contemplation, by going down into the darkness, facing our descents, our fears, our own ‘death’ and woundedness and learning from them, we can gain strength for action.  ‘We come to God through where we have gone wrong.  Down is where God is hiding’.  It helps us get in touch with our reality and see doubt and uncertainty as a gift that can liberate us and lead us to ‘lay our hands on the ambiguous parts of our lives and shunt them into the sacred’.  It helps us to see Christ in all things, in all people.  

The themes of the talks were: ‘Light and Dark’.  ‘Twilight’ - the thin threshold – the Saturday places between Good Friday and Easter Sunday - between the known and unknown.  We don’t set out to be in descent but when we find ourselves there, in that twilight moment when the soul descends, what steadies our will to be born again?  It was suggested that some of the touchstones of descent into aloneness, ineffability (how hard it is talk about how you it is ‘in the dark wood’) could be memory, stories and community.  What touchstones do we call on when we are ‘in the throat of the whale?’ 

We discussed the logos of creation; the rythmn of descent and ascent.  Experiences of the divine within.  The cycle of nature; ‘allowing the tree to bring out our bruises’.  We contemplated on where God might be hiding and the implications of creation spirituality and Celtic spirituality today.  The logos of authoritarianism – how we bow to what is expected and pretend to claim certainty about things we don’t understand and how the tunnel to liberation contributes to deeper wisdom.

With much food for thought, the weekend ended at Paul church with a Julian Meeting where the group and others were able to rest quietly in God for half an hour’s silent prayer and ponder one of Richard Rohr’s saying:

Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that are, more than we are and less than we are

If you feel drawn to silent prayer in a group, do come and join the next Julian Meeting at Paul on Advent Sunday, December 3rd, at 6pm.  (Please arrive a little before 6pm in order to settle before the silence begins).  If you would like to know more about the Julian Meetings, please contact Mel on 01736 732451 or email

and if you would like to see more content of the conference, please see the following link.

                                                                                                Mel Le Vesconte.

Click HERE to access the videos used during the weekend.