That’s one reason why religion is in such desperate straits today: It isn’t really transforming people. It’s merely giving people some pious and religious ways to again be in charge and in control. It’s still the same small self or what Merton called the false self. Mature, authentic spirituality calls us into experiences and teachings that open us to an actual transformation of consciousness (Romans 12:2).
I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear. We need some practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That’s the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level.Some like to hold prayer and action in a strange dichotomy where only one or the other really matters. Rohr's point is that both are needed, and one informs the other by keeping us grounded in the why. I guess you could call this part of my own project for the church, which is why I loved this article so much.
No pressure. Nope. None. M. Craig Barnes reflects on how people put faith in the pastor:
You feel in your bones that people’s faith in you could evaporate any day no matter how hard you work. Your best ideas can fail, your weaknesses will become the topic of hushed conversations, and those who emphasize the need for change will always be the ones to sabotage your efforts at offering it.
You knew at least some of this before you took the vows of ordination. But something in your soul made you get out of the boat and start walking toward Jesus’ call across the stormy waves—even though you’ve always been perfectly clear you can’t walk on water.
Your family also has faith in you, which is both comfort and pressure. They want you to be successful because they love you and believe in your gifts, but they’re also counting on you to provide a safe life. So late at night when you’re fretting about the church’s crises de jour, you wonder if you should have just stayed in the boat.Barnes goes on to reflect on the importance of humility in this vocation. Some of it can be cultivated by one's own attentiveness, and some of it just happens through failure and pushback. But some of it can and should come simply by virtue of regular reminders that a congregation puts its faith in the pastor to be and do certain things, some of it reasonable and needed, and a great deal of it also not.
The weight of this calling can be heavy.
But what if we LIKE business as usual? Frederick Schmidt lists 4 ways spiritual direction could change the church:
Spiritual direction provides a means of inviting laypeople into active discernment of God’s movement in their lives.
It provides churches with a means of prayerful discernment that transcends business as usual.
It serves as a powerful reminder that life in the church is centrally about an encounter with God.
And it serves as one means of reconnecting the “spiritual” and “religious” in ways that speaks to the deeper purposes of both ways of being in the world.These are four of the reasons I became a spiritual director. Churches can be quite un-prayerful places, oddly enough. We need greater attention to the inner life in order to keep ourselves properly centered on what matters. Sure, budget and building management issues arise, but mean nothing beyond organizational maintenance if we never attend to the deeper things meant to drive the church's purpose. Spiritual direction provides one opportunity to do that.
Another list. We like lists. Tom Rainier lists eight reasons churches are living in the 1980s. Here's the one I've been struggling with:
Programs were easy answers. The vast majority of churches in the 1980s were program-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would order a resource that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from programs.My own experience in the past decade-plus trying to start programs has been very mixed. For a program to really work well, you need certain levels of commitment and critical mass. But due to a few other things Rainier lists and a few he doesn't, neither of those are easy to attain any more.
I've found much greater success with intergenerational special events and short-term activities than ongoing programs. Perhaps that is one of the ways forward in many places.
Okay, I kind of want this. As seen on Twitter:
Spotted one in the wild!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/PeZiwvsLj3— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 23, 2016
Misc. There's a new blog called Superhero Ethics. It's fun. Carl McColman recommends 10 books on Christian meditation. S/K Linsley included me on a list of bloggers recapping the Festival of Faith and Writing. So that was nice.