Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Sunrises


In 1991 I was vicar of a large charismatic parish when a phenomenon called the Toronto Blessing hit town. It was a sort of hyper Pentecostalism which involved people falling over and laughing- the twitch and gibber school of theology. It appealed greatly to some people in my parish but for me, it didn't excite any spiritual enthusiasm at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, when I saw the effects of 'The Blessing' in some people's daily lives. Although I had been a card carrying member of the Charismatic Renewal for a long long time, I was rattled. Is this what Christianity was really all about? Of course a lot of other things were happening in my life at the time, and in the middle of my questioning I took a book off my shelf that someone had given me five or so years before, but which had sat unread and neglected ever since: Gerard Hughes' God of Surprises. The book was a bombshell in my spiritual life. And in one of those odd pieces of synchronicity that happens to us from time to time, I picked up the newspaper on the day I finished the book and saw that Gerard Hughes was in town and giving a lecture the very next day. It was then that the charismatic renewal and I filed for an amicable and, I hope, mutually respectful divorce.

I haven't read God of Surprises in a long time: much has moved on since. But the reason I am remembering that synchronicity is that there has recently been a similar one. Readers of this blog will recall me lamenting and beating my breast over a perceived lack of a modern Christian tradition of meditation. I have been trying to forge my own little tradition out of Meister Eckhart, by way of Anthony DeMello and with not a small amount of Buddhist wisdom stirred into the mix for good measure. Well blow me down, if a week or two ago I don't stumble across a Benedictine called Laurence Freeman, who has written enough books to choke a moderate sized horse, providing of course you didn't cheat and shred the books first. He is a student and interpreter of John Main, also a writer of several books. Freeman, and I assume Main before him, write with great wisdom and practicality about the whole business of Christian meditation which they have been teaching for some decades. There is, apparently a worldwide network of Christian meditators with two (2!) groups meeting in Dunedin! There is a wealth of literature. Laurence Freeman is coming to Dunedin and will hold a workshop here in less than a month's time. Ok. I'm listening. There is a centre for Christian meditation in London where I will be in a few months time. Their catalogue of courses looks really good.

I have been reading Laurence Freeman's The Selfless Self, and finding it, like God of Surprises both a revelation and a homecoming. He teaches a mantra based meditation that is more or less compatible with what I have been doing already, and which I have able to adapt to quite easily.

There is no arrival point on this great inner journey. We set off in search of the one true light and find it revealed to us in a series of sunrises - a sunrise that can only ever happen when we have experienced sunset and night. Of course in the new dawn we realise that what we have left behind at dusk has been the same light that now, again, beckons us forward; and which will no doubt set again. And rise.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes!! I am delighted to read this Kelvin.

Much love
Roz

Ricky Spears said...

Kelvin - I just discovered your blog. Excellent stuff here! I've especially enjoyed your articles on Christian mediation, which is what drew me here.

I've been publishing my own guided Christian meditations at Mindful Worship. I'm not a student of any of the books and authors that you mentioned, I've just become aware of how mindlessly so many of us Christians go about our Christian walk and worship. I've added those as suggestions for my reading list though, so thanks! I'd love to hear any thoughts you may have about my site too.

Thank you - Ricky Spears

NIE said...

Thanks, thanks - yet again, for what you are sharing. For alerting us to probably the most important thing we need to know, if we want to live and BE as our Creator intended.

Have just been to the WCCM site and listened to John Main and Laurence Freeman explaining so gently, simply, lucidly how to approach this awareness, how to move away from self and let the "Other" be.

Note to other readers of this: I found the FAQ on the above site very helpful, too.

Kelvin, may God continue to give you the energy for this blog, and courage in the challenges of these days as the treatment grinds on.

Love,
Noelene

Alden said...

Interesting, do I take the last paragraph to be a sort of metaphor for reincarnation or am I reading too much into what you are saying here?

VenDr said...

Noelene: Laurence Freeman is speaking at Holy Cross on the first Sunday in February 4-6 pm. I thought, seeing as it's scheduled to be a contemplative eucharist that night we might just hold fire and all go over to St. Kilda. What do you think?

Alden: That's not what I intended. I was thinking more of the way our lives are divided into phases or periods, each divided by a sort of conversion. Fowler, in Stages of Faith has got these periods neatly described and says they are common to all people; that we all have a faith system which develops in fairly predictable ways - similar to the way Piaget has described the development of cognition. He says the structure of our faith changes at each of these transitions, and sometimes, but not always the content. I think Fowler has a lot to recommend him. I can identify the transition that happened for me in 1991 as the start of my own shift from Fowler's stage 4 faith to stage 5. We often think of these changes as radical shifts: once I was an atheist, now I am Christian or once I was Pentecostal, now I'm contemplative. More and more, I see them not as shifts but as developments, each depending on the one that went before, and in a sense continuous with it. The Sun that leads is through Thursday is actually the same one that led us through Wednesday.

But as to reincarnation, that's another story. I'm less convinced about that than a Christian clergyman is supposed to be.

VenDr said...

Ricky: your site is very well done, and your meditations look like a very useful resource. They are well produced and nicely paced.It is not quite what I am pursuing myself, but will certainly recommend it to those who I think would benefit from your approach.

Noelene said...

YES, Kelvin, that would be a great idea. We should make the most of this only visit to a South Island city. And... there is a purpose in this timing, don't you think?
Not sure about venue details in your above comment though. Here's what I found on WCCM site about Laurence Freeman's NZ 2009 visit:

February 1 New-Zealand - Holy Name Church - 420 Great King Street - Dunedin 9030 - 4.00pm-6.00pm - "The Hunger for Depth and Meaning" - Spirituality in a Secular Age"- Fr Michael Dooley, St Peter Chanel Parish, 242B Main South Road, Green Island, Dunedin 9052 ‎ - E-mail: m.dooley@xtra.co.nz

VenDr said...

You're right, Noelene. Come to think of it, Holy Name does make more sense than Holy Cross. I see there is a charge too: $10.

Ricky Spears said...

Thanks for checking out my site and for the compliments! I've subscribed to your RSS feed and look forward to keeping up with you on this journey. Let me know if I can ever be a resource or help for you.

Verna said...

Kelvin & Noelene - I suspect that most of those who attend contemplative service will be happy to attend this seminar - probably need to start advertising it this Sunday though. Great opportunity which it would be a shame to miss.