Tag Archives: contemplation

The importance of Contemplation in Mission

I have just written a joint article with Ian Adams in a really exciting multi-authored book entitled ‘Ancient Faith Future Mission’ to be published by Canterbury Press after Christmas, which include pieces by Rowan Williams, Steve Croft, Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren and Karen Ward to name but a few.  In it Ian and I explore ‘New Monasticism’ as expressed in some its Emerging Church forms.

I ahve been reminded how this refound approach is dependent on forms of contemplative prayer and contemplative awareness.  Marie Macarthy wrote a seminal chapter on contemplative awareness with the title ‘A spirituality for the twenty first century’ in Blackwell’s Reader in Pastoral & Practical Theology.  This text made a deep impression on me when I read it five years ago, and has stayed with me ever since.

Not only does Contemplation offer forms of spirituality that ‘work’, which opens up the Christian tradition to spiritual tourists, it also enables Christian communities to practices ‘action-reflection’, in seeking God in contemplation, to discern the hand of God in the world, and then to follow it.  In this way prayer and contemplation are a key resource for positive action and radical hospitality in the world.  We forget at our peril the need for a deeply sustaining spiritual life, of a relational aspect to the faith.  It is no coincidence that Martin Luther King, Dietrick Bonhoeffer, Mother Theresa, and many more of the great movers and shakers spent much time in prayerful reflection to resource their mission and calling.

To be able to engage with the world, we need to be fully engaged in developing a spirituality that draws on the strengths of prayer and contemplation.

Renewal through New Monastics

I have been thinking a lot about two quotes this week.  The first from Bonhoeffer on some words he wrote from a prison cell about how he saw a lay movement of new monastics as being a form of church for the modern world.  The second, is a quote about how those drawing on a contemplative approach to life, can be fully engaged with the complexity of the modern world to seek to bring renewal and justice:

“The renewal of the Church will come from a new type of monasticism which has only in common with the old an uncompromising allegience to the sermon on the mount.  It’s high time women and men banded together to do this.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a letter to his brother

“The achievement of divine simplicity implies not the annihilation of the complex world but its illumination and transfiguration, its integration in a higher unity. This will involve the appearance of a new type of saint who will take upon himself the burden of the complex world.”
Nicholas Berdyaev, Spirit and Reality, Bles, 1939, p.98

Now the words illuminating culture and transfiguring culture keep coming up.  In the West, the idea of God transfiguring culture or transfiguring anything is not really a well known concept.  But in the Eastern Church, the transfiguration is an important high note in the ministry of Jesus, where Jesus’s involvement in the world as a human, following his vocation, leads to a moment of transfguration, of change, and a moment of divine exposure and presence – an event of change and revealing…

The implications of holding these two quotes together, is the implication – that as we seek to pattern a Christian spirituality deeply involved in the world as community, then what we do, and our seeking God profoundly, seeking to life in a way modelled by christ, then our hope is that God will bring change and the presence of God, through tranfigured moments…

I need to think more about this idea of transfiguring…