The call for contemplative silence

Tuesday night when I was talking at Metro I described the tension between our ministry driven church programs and the call of God to an almost monastic life. It is my firm belief that God is calling us to worship Him before we do any thing for Him. It is also my belief that that worship must start in meditation, contemplation, prayer, praise as we explore our faith inwardly and express it outwardly.

It is clear that there is a need for silence and contemplation in our hyped up, always loud and busy modern world. This is why the Catholic church is still growin, why the Taize movement are captivating young people. While there is a postmodern rejection of religion people are seeking Spirituality like never before.

We must be careful in our efforts to be postmodern and relevant to todays society that we do not loose the mystery of the Christian faith. That we preserve the spiritual disciplines of Contemplation, meditation, silence, fasting, solitude and ritual without loosing the celebration, joy, modern sounds and images of todays society.

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Patrik Olterman

While I agree with you, that we, as The Salvation Army need to be what we are and not become what some other church or denomination has covered…

I wonder if my personal Faith can survive this world of busyness and stress without seeking refuge in the contemplative silence under Gods wing. This is not a question I have an answer to, I do want us to get down and dirty in the gutter saving lost souls where everyone else fears to tread! But we cannot do it without replenishing our souls with the living waters from heaven.

I need God so desperately and I need Him to rescue me from my self how will I, a sinner caught in a web of this worlds noise and chaos break free enough to hear the voice of God if not by seeking Him in the stillness, in the quiet place?

Graeme

In my reading about the ‘Emerging Church’ (a title I know you dislike) this is one of the things that they highlight. Whilst it is a generalisation emergent expression is pretty solidly set on a postmodern path of understanding the Gospel and the faith that comes out of that. Indeed the real danger has been modernity’s obsession with absolute truth which actually has led to polarisation within the one true and catholic Church. This means that we have ignored the many mystical traditions in which the contemplative disciplines you highlight. Indeed, taking the good things from each tradition and rejecting the bad is the key element of this emerging tradition.

One of the wonderful things that seems to be coming out in the Church’s reaction to postmodernism, through emergent theology, is that in searching for a deeper understanding of of what this faith of ours entails, those searching are actually coming towards a more true image of our faith. In many ways this is upholding the tradition of the Church turning culture around, as the worlds understanding of postmodernism is the rejection of absolute truth, whilst the Church’s is leading to a better understanding of the one absolute true!

SalvoJo

I agree with the idea that young people and postmodernists are becoming interested in spirituality and yes, that the Catholic church and taize may be growing…

but

I wonder how this should affect the Salvation Army?

I think you are right in wanting to preserve the mystery of the Christian faith, but I am not sure that we should be always striving to capture that which other denominations have as distinctives. It seems to me that we can become too focussed on other groups and forget our own distinctives (if people want to be monks, then the Catholic Church might be a better place to go!). It seems more important to me that we re-capture our passion to see souls saved (fervent intercession, groaning on behalf of the lost) than spending our time in contemplative prayer and meditation (not that I’m knocking these altogether). It is always healthy to re-assess our worship practices against scripture. This is perhaps a comment born out of experience, contemplative prayer without a passionate outworking of God’s mission has left me feeling as if I’ve licked the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag!

Greater than the postmodernists search for spirituality is their search for significance in the world. To feel they are able to contribute something to making this world a better place, to be a hero. Not to sound arrogant, but I believe the Salvation Army has got this one covered! Part of our rich heritage is an emphasis on a social gospel and social holiness. Living out our faith in a way that impacts society to the very core. Contributing not only handouts to the poor, but ways to bring people from a position of “lostness” to a place where they are whole in Christ (a whole-life salvation).

More than candles, chanting, liturgy and mood lighting…
Faith expressed in love, getting dirty, loving people, showing them a radical way to experience God…

but you are right in one sense.

Worship drives mission

a genuine encounter with our loving and holy God (whatever style that may be) will always be inspiration for his people to fall on their knees in worship and to live for his purposes (a world reconciled to God).

Eleanor Burne-Jones

I disagree that worship drives mission. I believe mission is driven by our becoming Christlike, through our being true to who we are in God as the body of Christ. As we move deeper into him, and understand him more fully as he dwells in us, this outflows into mission, and from that the sometimes wonderful, sometimes uncomfortable, reality of the church comes into being. From the Desert Fathers we learn that we acquire compassion for others through time alone with God, so solitude with God, silence etc is not just an optional add-on from the palette of spiritual possibilities, it is ultimately the root of our compassion. Some manage with less than others, but it is dangerous to make it the ‘style’ of our church that we lack this. I’m thinking of Mother Teresa here when she said that she had not had a strong sense of the presence of Christ since she was a young nun. She had had a lifetime of ‘dry’ prayer life. But her compassion flowed – that early experience released within her a lifetime of compassion and faithfulness, and an ability to see Christ in those around her.

Eleanor Burne-Jones

PS but then I’m admittedly biased about our admitting breadth of spirituality, having been very happily a (Franciscan) Sister in the Salvation Army for some years! :0) I don’t find either distraction or dissonance, in it, quite the opposite – it has and is making me I think a much stronger Salvationist, and I feel very deeply called to TSA as the part of the body of Christ where I belong.

Graeme

I’m with Patrik that I want us to be reaching those people with the Gospel that others do not reach. However, one problem I think we in the Army have a habit of looking at our heritage of fervent groaning intercession and believe that was the sum of the spirituality of our illustrious forebears. I think that we are in danger of making their spiritual lives one-dimensional.

Of those Salvationists I know who are of the Primitive type, and are effective in their ministry, time spent in seclusion with God is part of their spirituality. This is not restricted to fervent intercession! I suspect that their fervency is due to the time they also spend in communion with their Lord.

In view of this I would say that if we truly want to regain our passion for souls to be saved, time in contemplation, getting to know our God better, is absolutely essential.

Swing Trading

Interesting post. I have made a twitter post about this. My friends will enjoy reading it also.

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