“Come & see” - A weekend with Joy Cowley
“Come and see” is the title of a book written by Joy Cowley with photographs by her husband, Terry Coles. The book is, as the title suggests, an invitation to dive into the stories, poems and metaphors Joy uses to help folk connect with the essence of the Gospel stories that they might believe.
Someone once asked a neighbour who went to church, “What do you believe?” The neighbour replied, “I believe what the church believes.”
“Okay, so what does the church believe?”
“The church believes what I believe.”
It is impossible to live without beliefs yet often we do not take the time to reflect on what we actually believe, so that our beliefs may better inform our actions and our living. Over the weekend of the 25th & 26th June just over 110 people accepted the invitation to be with Joy Cowley as she took us on just such a reflective journey. Folk came from all over Dunedin, and we know a group travelled from Waimate.
Joy was introduced to us as “a poet, story teller, woman of faith and just a thoroughly lovely person”, all of which is true. What was interesting was that Joy replied by saying that she was just a very ordinary person and that labels simply did not fit her. And, of course that is also true. We are all so much more than any set of labels can encompass but what is important here is the awareness that will lead to the realisation of that truth.
“Come and see” is an invitation to journey to awareness and spiritual maturity, a call to every person.
Joy began with an image of the empty well (When the well is empty).
She invited us to look at our own life experience and start to ask how God has been with us in the midst of that unfolding story. She made two particularly important points: one to do with appropriate language and the second to do with two sacred texts that are essential awareness territory for us all.
The point about appropriate language is that while our minds use words, our hearts deal with emotions - and therefore use a different language; the language of images, metaphors, parable and poetry in particular. The concept of “heart” is of course metaphorical, referring as it does to that indefinable centre of our being where we are most ourselves and closest to God.
The second important point Joy made was that two sacred texts that are necessary for us all. The first sacred text, for those of us who are followers of the way of Jesus the Christ, is the Bible. The second sacred text is what God has written in our lives. The two go together as we dialogue with God in prayer. Reflection and awareness walk hand in hand as we respond to the call of God to come and see.
The second part of the day was to realise again the journey of “Coming home to the undivided self”. Again, reflection leads to awareness, and awareness to community and incarnate love, for the end product in a very real sense is “service”. William Shakespeare expressed the journey to spiritual maturity, which is embodied in a coming home to the undivided self, in some words he placed in the mouth of Prince Hamlet: “There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we may.”
Thank you to those who planned and organised this event. It was for me especially inspiring not only to have Joy with us here in Dunedin encouraging us to reach for spiritual awareness but also to witness the capacity gathering who responded to the invitation to “come and see”.
“Come and see!” We did just that and the koha of $1,101 that was placed in front of Joy has been given to the Karunai-Illam Children’s Home in Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu, South India. (ref. http://www.karunai-illam.org/)
Reflections from others who were there:
“I think the gift I received from the wonderful workshop lead by Joy Cowley was that crucifixions can become resurrections – the word crucifixion covering the 1, 2, or however many, incredibly painful life / death / loss events we each experience. I have really only experienced one and it was 21 years ago! I have struggled with what to do with it, what can I learn from it, how can I put it to rest, how can I hold onto forgiveness - rather than letting it be and eventually celebrating the changes / rejoicing in the new. For some crucifixion experiences this may be just too Pollyanna-ish; only you will know when you have moved through to some sort of resurrection. I am looking now at the aspects of resurrection for me. Thank you Joy, and thank you God.”
“What an enormously full weekend, with so many things to absorb and to reflect on! During the morning on Saturday, Joy invited each of us to write our personal creed… ‘I believe…’ What an invitation!"
"Immediately I reflected how easy it would be to locate a well-remembered sequence of words from my memory-store, possibly re-casting them slightly, but in essence relying on what I have been taught. But what Joy offered, and suggested, was a space, and an opportunity, to reflect prayerfully, and to make a specific statement that was mine. It turns out that my creed is a work-in-progress, as I reflect on the second of my sacred texts - my life story - in the context of my faith. So for me the ‘Joy Cowley weekend’ continues, as I continue to reflect and to pray on what I heard.”