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.