the adventure of the unexpected

‘The Adventure of the Unexpected’  – the title of the 4th Edition of London Encounter:  this title sprung from the dialogue last year with our patron, Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and the Master of Magdalene College Cambridge.  At London Encounter 2016 he was asked, in essence, how we might live more deeply in a world increasingly dominated by the commercial and the superficial….his response was that we should allow ourselves to be surprised – in other words, we should permit ourselves to follow adventures of the unexpected.

For me, the fil rouge through London Encounter this year has been the recurring experience of gratitude and humility in front of unexpected gifts, and in the context of our own limitations. The generosity and paternity of Rowan Williams has never ceased to humble and surprise me. He is one of the finest thinkers of our age and the demands on his time are limitless; yet he has shown the small team behind LE the love, attention and guidance of a father – it is an unworthy communion between a hobbit-like band of companions and a great religious leader. This year as in 2016, Rowan’s perspicacity during the opening meeting laid the foundations for and illuminated the entire event.

LE2017 was certainly our most ambitious edition of London Encounter so far, and the realisation of the event was nothing less than luminous.  The UK community proposed three challenging original exhibitions on Science, the Saints, and on the life of Dame Cicely Saunders (the founder of the modern hospice movement), as well as preparing an original play Javert Derailed depicting the story of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables through the eyes of the eponymous justice-obsessed policeman. The organising team’s capacity to control and manage such an extensive programme in detail was challenged; we were compelled as never before to put our journey in the hands of the curators of these exhibitions and their teams.  But lo – the quality and beauty of the exhibitions and meetings certainly eclipsed the calibre of previous editions !  The success of LE2017 was unquestionably because of Another; it happened because we allowed ourselves to follow an adventure, conscious that we were not entirely in control of the cockpit.

On the great day itself, Saturday 17th June, my overwhelming experience was of being awe struck and humbled by the day itself – by the quality of the content, and also by the love, positivity and energy which infused the event from 10am until 9pm.  It was an experience of the bounty and generosity of others, including our our eminent external speakers. It was a manifestation of the providential nature of our adventure; the undeserved response of our community in providing attentive and enthusiastic volunteers for the day, the free and affectionate way in which people helped each other and rose to every conceivable challenge, the example of two members of ICON who offered freely to come to the London Encounter from Italy to help with the photography and video work… was impossible for me to walk through that day without a tangible sense of being accompanied, of a deeper and unmerited Presence.  Perhaps strangely, the experience of LE2017 is something which remains in the present tense, not the past; I continue to treasure and ponder the experience, trying to understand its meaning, to ascertain where the experience is pointing; this year’s London Encounter is for me a somewhat prophetic experience of wonder which continues to speak.

Richard Solomon

Ph: Anna A, Denis B, Gabriele C.

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