Welcome to the banquet!

Thoughts on living faith-fully in these troubled times

At the Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre, we have aspired since our founding in 1963 to be a gathering place for all, a place of great abundance and generous hospitality, a place of transformation. We are deeply rooted in a vision of Anglican orthodoxy that has wonderful expression in the writings of Alan Jones.

Alan Jones is an Episcopal (Anglican) theologian, former Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in San Francisco and some years ago was a visitor to the Sorrento Centre. In his book “Common Prayer on Common Ground: A Vision of Anglican Orthodoxy”, he wrote:

“What sometimes irritates non-Anglican Christians (and, to be honest, a new breed of Anglicans) is that traditional Anglicans don’t see much of a distinction between Christians and non-Christians because they see many Christlike non-Christians and many un-Christlike Christians. Our take on religion is very practical and we believe that we have more in common with other humans beings than anything that could possible divide us. As Anglicans, we are united by a vision of Christian humanism.”

Alan Jones continued:

“In this spirit of love and joy, the true Christian mentality is more of a banquet than a fortress. But many of us have left the table and retreated into a fortress. These two attitudes are evident in all the great religious traditions, leaving onlookers to wonder if we’re protectors of a tradition or pilgrims into it?”

Dr Martin Luther King wrote this in the last book that he published before he was assassinated:

“Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: ‘A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.’ This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together– black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu– a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

He continued:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform this worldwide neighborhood into a worldwide brotherhood. Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools. We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress. One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.”

Dr King did not park his faith at the door as he entered into the practical struggles for civil rights, for economic justice and for peace. His moral compass, which urged a wide embrace and a generous banquet, also set the standard for his life’s work in justice and peace.

Which brings us to May of 2020, as we suffer as a global community from the COVID-19 public health emergency. Moments of great crisis are also moments of opportunity, a chance to not only reimagine our relationships with each other and with the beautiful world around us, but also a chance to take the practical steps towards a more wonderful, more just future in which the inherent dignity and value of everyone and every part of nature is full realized.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote this in his book “Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope”, published in 2018:

“The opportunity, necessity and challenge to reimagine our society come rarely. Events, which so often drive us before their wind, very occasionally seem to throw up a choice of ways forward, in which our practices and values can direct where we go. The moment is not only rare but requires society-wide leadership and imagination to grasp it. It is not achieved by ample resources, but by a change of mood, a decision or a historic change. It cannot be forced but may be seized or missed. Within many religious traditions, including Christianity, it is believed that such moments are intended. They are offers from God – the God of all history, all nations and all people (whether they know it or not)…”

Archbishop Justin continued:

“Moments of change are moments of great hope and opportunity… They are usually surrounded by threats, perceived or real, but the opportunity to spring-clean the detritus of culture and habit at a national level is a gift and not a danger. This is true provided that the hope for change may be built on values of virtue and grace, of love and common humanity, and not on selfishness, inward-looking self-absorption, self-protection and fear. That is why we face choices.”

In British Columbia, there is cautious talk of a “restart” as we continue to assess the terrible toll from the first devastating wave of COVID-19.

At the Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre, in the incredibly beautiful Shuswap region at the north end of the abundant Okanagan, we are committed to ensuring that our 24-acre main campus and our 8-acre natural farm serve the great banquet that is required as we move through recovery.

Some will look to our retreat and conference centre for healing, and for rest and relaxation after the troubling impact of the pandemic. We will offer that.

Some will look to our retreat and conference centre for learning and engagement, including building on the practical initiatives we have supported in the past little while, including healthy and nutritious food for those who are hungry, housing for those who lack shelter and as a convening place for the many groups in our region who have been working in practical ways to provide relief during the pandemic. We will continue to engage minds and spirits.

We are assessing all the public health guidelines, talking with our guests and many others, and developing plans to re-open our campus and farm when it is healthy and safe to do so.

We are guided by the three Ss:
1. Be safe. Meet and exceed all the public health standards.
2. Be slow. Work carefully and purposefully.
3. Be small. Small really is beautiful.

All of this guided by our deep moral commitment to generous hospitality – to being the place where all are truly welcome.

I am truly grateful to serve as Executive Director of the Sorrento Centre. I try to end almost every communication with our guests, friends, Associates and many others by inviting you to send your thoughts, ideas and concerns to me. Email me at michael@sorrento-centre.bc.ca or call 1-866-694-2409.

With thanks,

– Michael Shapcott

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