Friday 24 October 2014


Please note that the title of this event has since been changed.

Imam Monawar Hussain was on Radio 4's Prayer for the Day in early October (at the time of Eid al-Adha, the major Islamic festival) where he was introduced as Muslim Tutor at Eton College.  Closer to home he is better known as the founder of the Oxford Foundation and more recently of Oxford Muslim College. His original theme, following from the research which he is still engaged in, was to have been the spiritual journey, which he explained on a later Prayer for the Day that week was referred to by the Prophet as 'the greater Jihad'.

His topic will now be his own response (and that of 100 other Muslim clerics in the Open Letter to IS - see next post) to the current events in the Middle East: 'ISLAM: mainstream or extreme?'  This will be a fascinating introduction and a great opportunity to widen our Wychwood Circle horizon. All are welcome, as usual - of any religion or none - and please bring friends. 

Monday 6 October 2014

National Quaker Week and Eid Mubarak 2014


It's National Quaker Week and a good opportunity to announce that we have invited Geoffrey Durham to come and lead a Wychwood Circle event next year. His website is worth checking out as are the links to both magic tricks and introductions to Quakerism. His book Being a Quaker - a guide for newcomers is both approachable and informative.  We look forward to receiving him on Sunday 12th April 2015. 

We have been fortunate in welcoming a Buddhist funeral director and two Anglican canons so far and next month we look forward to hearing about Islam from a liberal imam who happens also to be local to Oxfordshire: Monawar Hussain is Muslim tutor at Eton College as well as founder of the Oxford Foundation and Oxford Muslim College. 

Again this is a topical moment since Muslims were this weekend celebrating Eid Mubarak 2014 or Eid al-Adha, also known as the greater Eid, one of two significant days in the Muslim calendar. Monawar Hussain's topic will be the spiritual journey, which in Islam is also known at The Greater Jihad. Join us on November 16th at Wychwood Library

Friday 3 October 2014


"Intelligence is tied to the ability to think logically; so intelligent people ought not to believe in God."

This is the provocative line taken in the first part of Edward Dutton's article in the Church Times. But that is not all there is, just as logic is not all there is. 

His offended Evangelical friend says in paragraph one, "So basically your book is saying I'm thick". By the end, after examining a number of personality characteristics with their 'life implications', he can say of her: 
She is an intelligent person, but is likely to have very high agreeableness, conscientiousness, and, perhaps, openness and neuroticism.
He himself, though an atheist, says: "I believe in God sometimes."  

By contrast Professor Brian Cox even questions the relevance of logic to the question of the existence of God. He was asked about his attitude to religion and told the Radio Times recently: 
In the spirit of Gottfried Leibniz [17th century mathematician and philosopher], you can say, "Well, I don't accept that something can come into existence without a cause." You're allowed to say that; it's not illogical. So if you want to think there's an eternal presence that causes things to happen, that's not illogical. I don't happen to think that - I almost don't have an opinion on it.

Join us on Sunday at Wychwood Library as we explore these different angles on faith, rationality and personality. The article is available online here:



Thus Canon MARK OAKLEY in an article just published in the Church Times. Many of us were, if not persuaded, then at least enlightened by Mark at our Wychwood Circle meeting in September. Here he takes up his theme in print:
Mark Oakley in the Church Times 3rd October 2014

A short extract: 
Poetry will always be healthily sceptical of our cheerful pulpit fluency when it comes to the divine reality, and will work harder to see everything, from the human heart to the humility of heaven, from fresh and dislocating angles. It will warn us of the curse of religious literalism, its immodest certainties setting flames of hate across so many parts of the world.
Poetry encourages our mind to think in metaphors. It teases our soul to be ready for the surprise of wonder and the gift of tears, the moment when we say "Yes, that's how it is, and I never quite knew it like that."
Poetry has both immense intimacy and intimate immensity, and, in its pledge to a more attentive perception, faith celebrates the sacramentality of poetic words as a beautiful and frightening gift of the God who is in this world as poetry is in the poem.
Alas, the book which his publisher is already advertising on their website has not yet been completed!  It will bear the same title as Mark's talk: The Splash of Words: believing in poetry. Due out in the spring.