A process developed over thirty years
It is now thirty years since Gerry Hughes SJ, Bishop Graham Chadwick and Mary Rose HHS facilitated the first Workshop at an agricultural college in North Wales from which the Workshop takes its name. They were aware of the many people to whom they listened who showed the kind of gifts which might enable them to be listeners and soul companions for others. There has always been an emphasis on commitment to learning through engaging with and reflecting on personal experience. Llysfasi is not so much a study course as a Workshop grounded in reflection on life, inner and outer.
Participants have come from a whole variety of backgrounds, e.g. nurses, counsellors and therapists, teachers, those employed in the arts as well as carers, ministers and priests; open hearted searchers from all walks of life. Many have appreciated the ecumenical nature of the group and the richness which comes from the diversity of the participants.
The team has expanded and changed since Llysfasi began and in recent years the Workshop has moved around different venues in the UK. This Workshop has travelled to other countries and attracted people from many parts of the world.
People are drawn from all traditions and although Christianity forms the faith perspective of most participants, we welcome any who believe in a power greater than themselves and have experience of being companioned in a way which encourages self-exploration.
We have developed a way of working with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius which stresses their relevance to ordinary life and a spirituality which has at its heart discernment for creative choice and greater freedom to love. With Ignatius we aim to explore the journey of the soul and how the Creative Spirit is revealed as much in the dark and difficult places as well as in the light.
Over the last ten years or so the team have embraced an holistic approach to reflection through music, story, poetry, dreams and art. These ways of prayer are offered as well as Scripture. This emphasis on dialogue through work with imagination and symbols is particularly enabling in finding and being found by God in all things, a concept central to Ignatian Spirituality.
In these times many of us feel the challenge to expand our understanding of being Christ-centred. One of our aims in facilitating this Workshop is to encourage the development of discerning listeners in places where people struggle with religious language, so often feel distant from the institutional church and yet long for spiritual meaning. As soul companions in many contexts, we are aware of the journey we ourselves have to make so that we can ‘hear others into speech’ and affirm the longing and the language of their souls.