Saturday and Sunday was the Mind Body Soul exibition here in Colchester and I was helping out on the Journey into Wholeness stall. We started JiW in 2001 as a positive response to the annual spiritual supermarket that is the Mind Body Soul Exhibition – our first stall was at the 2002 exhibition. Because of other commitments I dropped out of the planning group after the first year but have stayed involved since. Sally Coleman, another of the original team, now works in Norfolk and has multiplied the JiW concept and name across several other MBS exhibitions.
This, our fifth year, saw us once again offering to talk with people, pray with them and invite them to a forthcoming Essence course which is being run locally. We had a variety of little ‘inspirational’ books available to people as well as a series of leaflets which have been developed by the team behind JiW.
The main thing, however, was the conversations. I had a long chat with the one of the guys from the Shiatsu massage stall next door to us about the origins, the world view and the power behind Shiatsu. We found ourselves in agreement about the holistic nature of our humanity, body, mind and spirit. He was less sure where the power came from, how it worked, beyond a brief mention of energy and chi. ‘Possibly God’s energy?’ I suggested. Maybe.
Then there was the guy on the ‘Spiritual Weightloss’ stall – it’s amazing what happens when you allow these people to share beyond their sales spiel and start talking about what they really believe. He opened up about a Christian past now abandoned, but a faith of sorts in a god who is with him and hears him – I think Jesus would have said, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”. He was certainly closer than the lady who, as she passed our stand, told us vehemently that we believe in fairy tales. (What on earth did she make of the rest of the exhibition?)
There were many other good conversations with people, but most just seemed lost, confused or unconcerned. They walked about unsure of what they’d come looking for (we asked – most didn’t know). This year I was struck by how much the thing looks like a supermarket – soap, tooth whitening, massage of varying types and spiritual leanings, frozen yogurt (yum), clothing stalls (so much black and purple velvet!) as well as the aural photographs, palm readers and guru/mystics whose loyal followers were trying to sell their books.
JiW also hosted two workshops, one an introduction to the Essence course, the other to prayer in the Christian tradition.
The Colchester Boiler Room Community ran a 24/2 prayer room just up the road which was an oasis of peace and God’s presence, particularly for those popping in before or after a turn at the stall in the exhibition.
It was a good weekend and I look forward to hearing how many make it to the essence course. But my lasting impression this year is that there are so many people who are so very very lost. And I’m not even sure if they’re seeking – just gazing.