Conference 2016: “Feathers on the Breath of God”

Booking is now open for conference 2016.

The theme this year, under the title “Feathers on the Breath of God” (from a phrase used by Hildegard of Bingen) will be looking at the complexities of personhood, sexuality and gender:

“Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.St Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-117

Archbishop Kallistos Ware of Diokleia writes in an Afterword to Rowan William’s book on the Trappist monk and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton (A Silent Action, SPCK, 2013), “because God is free, we human beings in the Divine image are free. His uncreated freedom is infinite; our created freedom is finite, yet it is none the less genuine. And, because we are free, each of us actualizes the Divine image within us in his or her distinctive and unrepeatable way.” Merton wrote in powerful terms about the uniqueness of each person, “I have my own special peculiar destiny which no one else has or ever will have . . . My own individual destiny is a meeting, an encounter with God that He has destined for me alone.” Referring to a letter Merton wrote in which he said, “[God’s] glory in me will be to receive from me something he can never receive from anyone else”, Rowan Williams adds “We are to be ‘new words for God,’” adding, “Somehow, out of all this comes the miracle, the ‘unbearable lightness of being,’ as you might say: the recognition that my reality rests ‘like a feather on the breath of God.’”

Hildegard took note of the ways in which feathers are gently held in the air and carried by the wind currents below and likened it to the way God carries each of us. We are because of the love of God. It is proposed that the 2016 conference explore what is involved in being a person. What are the possibilities as yet latent in our personhood, and what is the ultimate fulfilment of being a person in respect of issues of gender and sexuality? Transcending physiognomy, “gender identities are not the final word about us; they are part of our becoming but they are not the becoming itself . . . we have, indeed, not reached the limits of our perfection.” (Apophasis and Ambiguity: The ‘Unknowingness’ of Transgender by Susannah Cornwall in Trans/formations, Controversies in Contextual Theology, edited by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Lisa Isherwood, SCM Press, 2009.

The venue will once again be the University of Hull Scarborough Campuswhere we were for 2014 – and which feedback forms showed was one of the most enjoyable venues we’ve been to yet.


Dates are 22nd – 24th July 2016.

The speakers will be Rev Dr Christina (Tina) Beardsley and Chris Dowd.

Cost. Our industrious conference organisers, Hazel and Sandy, have once again kept the cost under £200 – but that only applies to early bird bookings.  Make your booking and pay the deposit before the end of February, and the total cost is just £190. (For bookings after February 28th, the cost will be £205). For that, you get a comfortable en-suite room, all meals, teas, chair’s drinks reception, gala dinner with wine, opportunities for local excursions, stimulating brain food, spiritual nourishment – and the chance to meet up once again with old friends, or to make new ones: great value!

Booking forms are here:


2 comments to “Conference 2016: “Feathers on the Breath of God””
  1. Pingback: Conference 2016: Questions of Identity | Quest

  2. Pingback: Are We All “Prisoners Of Gender?” | Queering The Church

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