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Partners Together

Margaret Smith, Grail Partner from Sheffield, writes about a gathering of Grail Partners at Glenfall House.

Over forty Partners gathered at Glenfall House, a retreat and Conference Centre in Cheltenham, for their half yearly meeting. Glenfall provides a peaceful space to which the Grail Partners have been on several occasions.

The weekend was organised by the Cambridge team who had invited Fr Michael Griffin from Newmarket, to be our speaker on the current important topic of the Church since Vatican II. We were also joined by Esther Gordon and Catherine Widdicombe from the Grail Community.

From the moment of driving into the car park, the welcome was warm and helpful. This continued through-out the weekend, as the organising team worked hard to ensure that all our needs were met.

Tess, Peter and Sheelagh share their thoughts
Tess, Peter and Sheelagh share their thoughts

The prayer sessions were thoughtful and delightful as we contemplated the 'Philosophy of Pooh', that very wise bear.

Fr Michael's sessions, on what has happened in the Church since Vatican II, produced much discussion, and many memories, but very little argument, as much of his thinking was in line with our own. He reminded us that Vatican II called not so much for a change of mind, but a change of heart.

Fr Michael stressed his concern about the division in the Church, caused by the very strong feelings aroused by the movement of the Church in the last fifty years. On the one hand we have those who feel that the Church has not moved on at all, and indeed may be going backwards, whilst on the other hand there are those who believe that the Church has gone too far and needs to curb the 'woolly liberals'. This division is not just a mild difference of opinion, but for many, a bitter battle, as an exploration of some internet sites will reveal.

In discussion over coffee, Fr Michael suggested that, working towards reconciliation of the two groups, would be a worthwhile and appropriate task for the Grail.

It was a blessing to be able to celebrate mass on Saturday evening in the chapel thanks to the presence of Fr Michael. It gave us a sense of unity and an excellent atmosphere in which to renew our commitment. However, it has one downside: it takes away the opportunity to be a Grail presence at the local church, who are always so welcoming. Alas we can not have our cake and eat it, much as we would like to!

After the mass we had a choice of entertainment, a film 'Midnight in Paris' or play 'Call My Bluff'. Those who watched the film enjoyed a relaxing evening. The brave, who chose 'Call My Bluff', worked extremely hard, with great hilarity. Rosemary West, a member of the Cambridge team, led the game with great efficiency and fun. Her preparation for the activity was excellent and deserves our thanks. Sadly, the game demonstrated what good liars we are as we gave false definitions with straight faces and convincing sincerity.

On Sunday morning Maureen Glynn gave a fascinating and moving account of her search for her birth mother and the writing of 'Finding Irene'. We look forward to seeing it in print.

Our time together ended with Council Elections. The retiring Council - Margaret Smith, Brian Ferry and Sheelagh Pickles - were thanked for their work over the past three years, and the new Council of Judith Schmidt, Philip Hayllar, and Christopher Robinson were welcomed and assured of our support.

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