Image via WikipediaThis year our diocese is encouraging everyone to rediscover ways to sustain the sacred centre. This could induce Narcissism and Tea Light Overdrive, but it’s an important task. Humanly speaking, the whole life of the Church is powered by passion, prayer and spiritual conviction. If faith becomes thin and stringy, we will soon lose the plot, and with it, the means to be a transformative community.
It’s an encouraging phrase, but how do we sustain the sacred centre? My archdeaconry close colleagues (Andrew, Caroline, Karen, Rosie and Roy) and I tried to think this through last autumn. There’s a lot of hype about spirituality, and we were trying to be realistic.
We needed to find something we could recommend, in the light of various complications:
- Everyone is sustained in different ways by different things, being at different stages on their journey. Even if we could work out the perfect Universal Spiritual Centering Wheeze (shades of Monty Python’s funniest joke in the world) some would be more ready to take it on than others
- Our colleagues are busy people. If we simply download one extra thing we think might help onto them we could actually be making the problem worse — This morning you had 45 things to do. Now you’ve got 46. This is hardly a spiritually energising prospect.
- If bishop and archdeacon model extra overload people may think we think spiritual development is a job, or an optional extra job, or something that can be accomplished by doing even more of the same — A wise and experienced priest in another diocese told me his turning point was when he had realised that the less he did, the more of value seemed to happen. That’s not an absolute principle, but 99% of vicars err on the side of overwork not underwork.
In this spirit, this first week of Lent, I headed for somewhere I’d never been, Pelagos in Latimer. This is a new and innovative Spirituality development centre in the best countryside on the Underground, near the River Chess. Various events go on there, and it’s available to people and groups for all sorts of different purposes, including, last Saturday, a day exploring Jesus’ wilderness experience with 30 others. It struck me how much of our feeling and thinking is shaped by a crush of immediate externals. In a desert the externals are much more basic. I was interested by parallel between what happened to Jesus in the desert and Richard Rohr’s concept of how men to grow up, or don’t, which I’ve described elsewhere. The wilderness is a crucible in which we engage with greed, ego, and possessiveness, set apart from the toys and concerns that feed those old friends.
Next up? I’m taking a session to read The Horse and His Boy — the only Chronicles of Narnia children’s book I’ve never read. Then van Gogh or Chris Ofili, I wot... Watch this space.