The John Main Seminar through the times
Honouring John Main’s memory and his legacy
The John Main Seminar has been an annual event since 1984. It was established to honour John Main’s memory and his legacy. As the WCCM’s Constitution states: One of the goals of the Community is: “to organize events such as the annual John Main Seminar to broaden and deepen the teaching of Christian meditation …”
The first seven Seminars were held at the former Benedictine Priory of Montreal and were relatively small-scale events. The presenters were all prominent members of the Community, including Sanskrit scholar Isabelle Glover, Professors Robert Kiely, Derek Smith and Charles Taylor, publisher John Todd, Palliative Care pioneer Dr. Balfour Mount and Sr. Eileen O’Hea.
The 1991 Seminar was a transformative event in many ways. It was held in New Harmony, Indiana. The 150+ participants were truly representative of the growing worldwide Community. The presenter was Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB Cam, also known as Swami Dayananda, on the theme of The New Creation in Christ. Immediately following the Seminar the leadership of the Community entered into a three-day discernment process out of which the Community’s organizational and structural parameters were established as they exist today. A follow-up Seminar on the teaching and legacy of Fr. Bede was held in 1993 with a panel of three speakers.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the speaker at the 1994 Seminar on the theme of The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teaching of Jesus. The resulting book, by the same title, of his talks and the dialogue sessions between his talks became an international bestseller and was translated into many languages. His Holiness also headlined the roster of speakers for the millennium Seminar held in Befast, Northern Ireland. That event and the multiple events around it involved well-over 3000 participants making it the biggest organizational effort of the Community to date.
You can learn more here about previous seminars
He has been recognised worldwide as one of the most important spiritual teachers of our time whose influence is continuing to expand. He has helped many Christians of all tradition to begin an exploration ‘in their own experience’ of the contemplative dimension of their faith. He has provided a re-entry point for those who had left their tradition in order to find this depth outside. And he has helped strong bridges to develop between Christianity and other faith traditions.
Baptised Douglas Main, he was born in London on 21 January 1926. His roots were in Co Kerry, Ireland. Educated at Westminster Choir School and by the Jesuits at Stamford Hill, London, he served in the Royal Signals at the end of the war after which he joined the Canons Regular of the Lateran for a short period. He left and studied law at Trinity College Dublin and then joined the British Diplomatic Service and studied Chinese at SOAS in London.
Attached to the Governor General’s office in Malaya during the Emergency, his duties took him one day to meet an Indian monk and Justice of the Peace, Swami Satyananda. From him, he learned how to meditate and took up the discipline of silence, stillness and simplicity as part of his Christian faith and daily prayer.
When he returned to the West he became professor of International law at Trinity College, continuing to meditate as part of his Christian spiritual life. In 1958, he became a Benedictine monk at Ealing Abbey in London.
THE WORLD COMMUNITY FOR CHRISTIAN MEDITATION – WCCM
The community is a global and inclusive contemplative family. The roots of the World Community lie in the desert tradition of early Christianity dating back to the 4th century. In 1975 John Main, an Irish Benedictine monk (1926-1982), started the first Christian Meditation Centre in London. The first of the family of weekly meditation groups around the world began to meet then.
At the John Main Seminar in 1991, led by Bede Griffiths OSB, meditators from around the world came together to shape the future direction and organization of the community as a ‘monastery without walls’. They named it The World Community for Christian Meditation because it was not only formed and nurtured by the practice of meditation but existed to share this gift with others. The symbol of the Community – the two birds looking in different directions but resting on the chalice – is a modern version of an ancient way of representing the union of the contemplative and active dimensions of life.