Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Silk Road – A Presentation by Fr William Taylor

The Reverend Canon Dr William Taylor is Vicar of St John’s Church, Notting Hill in central London. He is also Ecumenical Adviser for the Kensington Episcopal Area and Chairman of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (AECA) for the Church of England. Fr William travelled for three months, taking the north Silk Road. On the 6th of May he presented his travels and his experiences to a big audience.

The evening began with Georgian wine and music. The presentation was accompanied by a Power Point presentation and music by The Magic Violin Ensemble, playing Turkish, Georgian, Kazakh and Uighur music.
Fr William explained that the when we talk about the Silk Road, we basically refer to thousands of routes from China to Europe. The idea of a Silk Road exists from the 19th century by Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen. The Silk Road is a form of proto-globalisation, transcending political and linguistic barriers. He also pointed out the important work the monks maintained on the Silk Road. Silk was also produced in Europe, after Byzantine monks (6th century) snuck out of China a number of silk worms, which they hid in hollow canes.

Fr William explained in detail his trip and a number of significant stops he made on the way. Also he described the problems he encountered on the way. He began by speaking about Constantinople, St Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the centre of the Orthodox Church, the Fener. Fr William also travelled to South Turkey, to Tur Abdin, the Mountain of the Servants of God, also known as the Turkish Mount Athos. Then he moved on to the Monasteries of Hah, Deir ul Zafaran – which is a Syrian Patriarchal Monastery – and Mor Gabriel.
Fr William then moved on to the Caucasus, Armenia and Georgia. He explained that the world owes Georgia a number of things, since it was the first place where wine was produced and the birthplace of polyphony. He visited Martkopi Monastery, located at the foothills of the Caucasus. There, people who come out of prison and the chemically addicted find hospitality. It is a place visited mainly by pilgrims and not travellers. Moving on to Dagestan and High Chechnya, through Azerbaijan, he crossed Kazakhstan, from West to East, travelling briefly through Kyrgyzstan. Due to its location, monasteries in Kazakhstan were a great place for Buddhist – Christian Dialogue.

In central Asia, Fr William visited Almaty Monastery, which is a thriving Russian Orthodox centre, with seminaries and churches near it. Kaskelen Monastery and the New Convert of St Seraphim Almaty are also located there. Our traveller finished his tour of the Silk Road in China, ending up in Xi’an, where he found the Holy Grail, Xi’an Syriac Stele of the 10th century.
From Xi’an, Fr William travelled to Beijing and from there to Moscow. In the Russian capital he visited Novospasski Monastery, where one can find the first and last Romanovs’ Tombs. He also visited the head of the Moscow patriarchate, Danielowski Monastery.
Our traveller wished to conclude, stating that the Silk Road connects cultures and creates trust. His experiences from the Silk Road will be published in a book, being prepared at this moment in time. Upon listening to the presentation, it is fair to say that we are all looking forward to reading the book. Additionally, Fr William had a travelling blog, showing his experiences:  
The evening continued with the formal opening of the The Space at St John’s by The Worshipful The Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Maighread Condon-Simmonds.  A surprise followed, which was a wedding vow renewal. The night finished with a buffet dinner, catered by Fez Turkish Restaurant, Ladbroke Grove.

Also, there was an art exhibition in the Sacred Space Gallery, which opened on the 6th May, with art inspired by the Silk Road. Dr Fatima Zahra Hassan uses traditional methods, materials and techniques in her work with trans-disciplinary approach. Most of her work embodies mystical dimensions and delves into metaphors and strong narratives that are peculiar to Asia and Middle East. 

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