The Anglican Cathedral in Manchester, England is holding a “new age” festival on May 2. According to the Manchester Evening News:

Manchester Cathedral is to host a ‘new age’ festival featuring tarot card readers, crystal healers and ‘dream interpretation’.

Local Anglican leaders have agreed to throw open the doors of the historic cathedral in a bid to embrace alternative forms of Christianity.

If I’m not mistaken, another term for “alternative forms of Christianity” that include practices such as tarot is “paganism.”

Fortune tellers, meditation experts and traditional healers will fill the pews during the day-long festival in May. The Bishop of Manchester, Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, said he wanted to celebrate ‘all forms of spirituality’.

The Spirit of Life festival on May 2 will also feature stalls and workshops on angels, prayer bead-making and massage.

Fire-breathing vicar Rev Andy Salmon, of Sacred Trinity Church and St Philip with St Stephen in Salford, will also perform.

“Fire-breathing vicar”? Does that mean he’s a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher?

Bishop Nigel said the unconventional activities were not incompatible with Christian belief.

He said: “The event is a chance to discover and explore old and new Christian spiritual traditions from living in a community to praying with icons, from healing to bead-making, from Franciscan spirituality to contemporary music and movement.

“Practitioners from all over the country will be on hand to offer their experience of how God speaks to us today through the cultural language and practices so common in mind, body, spirit fairs.”

Right. No doubt there will also be an Asherah pole, temple prostitutes, and a baby sacrificed to Molech.

The Church of England: British tax money at work.

(Via T19.)

UPDATE: A commenter at Stand Firm notes that the web site of “Spirit of Life” says the newspaper report is inaccurate:

Contrary to media reports, the Spirit of Life is a Christian festival offering a balanced programme of different spiritual traditions including Taize, choral evensong and contemporary spiritualities. There are workshops which will discuss spiritualities outside the Christian tradition. There will be no tarot card reading or fortune telling at the event. All contributors are Christians and have undergone a rigorous application process.

So what will actually be at the festival? This:

Fire breathing vicars, dream interpretation, Jesus Deck Readings and spiritual meditations are some of the spiritual skills on display at Manchester Cathedral’s first ever Christian Spirituality fair – the Spirit of Life (2 May from 11am-5pm).

With performances, meditations, stalls and workshops throughout the day, come and discover how ancient spirituality meets contemporary culture at this unique event.

With about 25 workshops and stalls covering poetry, Franciscan spirituality, arts and crafts, healing, icons, angels, meditation, personality profiling, music and blessings, labyrinths, dream interpretation, Christian symbolism of gem stones, tarot and Celtic saints, prayer bead making, choral evensong, foot and hand massage, Jesus Deck readings, Taize chants and, finally, fire breathing!

Christian symbolism in tarot? That’s news to me. And what in heaven’s name is a “Jesus Deck reading”? According to British Methodist minister Sally Coleman:

It was designed as a set of playing cards by the Rev Ralph Moore, in consultation with various Scripture and Theology Consultants, in the pack is a set of instructions for games and a description of each card. The cards themselves are an attractive set of playing cards well presented in a black box with the words Jesus Deck in gold block writing on the cover. They are divided into suits according to the gospels and contain pictures of events or stories form the life of Jesus.

And how are they used, say at a setting like the “Spirit of Life” festival. Rev. Coleman explains:

Using the deck in a spirituality fair or exhibition is an exercise in cross cultural translation no matter how you use it. Some practitioners having set up their booths will simply use the Deck as one thing amongst many, offering people who are interested the chance to choose one card and entering into a conversation from there. Stories of the right card for the right person are many, including one from John Drane about a woman who picked out the card showing Judas hanging from the tree; the consequences of that were astonishing and really do point to the God who goes before us!

I use the cards in a form that emulates a five card lay from a tarot deck, when a seeker comes for a reading (you will note that my language is becoming enculturated here) I invite them to sit down, and if they wish I explain a little about how the Deck tells the story of Jesus. I might then offer to pray that the (Holy) Spirit would guide the cards so that the right ones are laid down. I then shuffle the deck lay the five cards and we begin.

I ask the seeker (querent) which card they feel most drawn to, and from then on the reading becomes an activity of three way listening, to the Holy Spirit, to the scriptures through the cards and to the seeker. As I have already said I am amazed at the way that God works through this tool, speaking clearly opening up deep conversations. Some folk have received guidance, others affirmations, and still others deep healing through these readings. Even when I am teaching folk how I use the Deck and they think they are coming for a demonstration rather than a reading the cards act as scriptures two edged sword and lives are changed in the process.

I think I’ll stick with my original conclusion regarding this event, even if there is no fortune-telling.