Thursday 22 July 2010

Scripture as Spiritual Reading

One of the great illusions about prayer is that you have to abstract yourself on your own from everything that really matters to you, light up a few tea lights, engage a soapy “spiritual” gear and hope for the best. Many would like to enrich their praying lives, in a way, but suspect they’ll never manage.

What we all need is a bit of encouragement and a few pointers that engage us where we are.

Fr William Mills is rector of an Orthodox parish in Charlotte, NC. His 30 Day Retreat, billed as “a personal guide to spiritual renewal” is a tool to get you going on Lectio Divina using a few minutes each day spread over a month. He takes well known Bible passages from the gospels and Paul, and invites the reader to slow down, chew over them and reflect. Each section ends with some practical questions and follow up Bible reading. This book could work very well for a group that read daily, whose members kept some personal notebooks, and met weekly like a book club.

Fr Mills’ approach is practical rather than narrowly academic, but its author does happen also to be an a professor of philosophy of religon. His experience with students gives extra resonance to his rather homsepun comment. Written by an Orthodox priest, published by a Roman Catholic publishing house, this book is broad guage classic Christianity rather than anything narrowly denominational. As a get-you-going guide for groups or individuals who want to explore well-known Scriptures as a Spiritual resource, what you see is very much what you get. There are some helpfully surprising questions, though, for a book aimed foursquare at Christian believers — “what irritates you about Jesus?” for example. The book should prove a significant help for those suffering from what the author calls Dusty Bible Syndrome, as well as people who’ve not engaged with Scripture as spiritual reading as much as they would like.


Erika Baker said...

I'm challenged by the thought that Lectio Divina can be a group activity. Can new spiritual insight ever be anything other than personal? If it's a group activity, does it become mere bible study?

Or did you mean silent meditation in a group?

June Butler said...

Erika, as I understand it, the Lectio Divina and the "...slow down, chew over them and reflect", is done privately, along with keeping a journal, and insights would be shared at the weekly meetings.

Can new spiritual insight ever be anything other than personal?

I've learned what I consider new spiritual insights from others. Of course, if the insights seem right, I make them my own.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

There's an interesting line between personal and private. I agree LD has to be personal, and usually (certainly in a monastic setting) would be undertaken on one's own. I think that this book tries to get people going, and if they have been in a book club or something similar, they could, if they are the kind of people who like to do their thinking communally, work in the way I've suggested. I suspect, however, that you're right in pricniple, Erika, and once up and running, I don't think this method would hold as a long term way of LD, without turning into a more conventional Bible Study.

I'm off this October helping to lead a pilgrimage to the holy land for 130 people from our diocese. I looked at this book to see if there were any hints for the busy tour guide/ spiritual lector! (:-) We've told people not to prepare by reading lots of guide books, but by simply reading their favourite gospel all the way through as a continuous narrative. I'll be interested to see what (if anything) we achieve beyond standard holy tour guide stuff. So I think the honest answer, Erika, is that I'm not sure it can be done, but I'm going to have a go anyway... !

Erika Baker said...

I'd love to hear how it works out, Alan. My first introduction to Lectio Divina came in the form of the 19th Annotation gently guided by my Spiritual Director, and it was one of the hardest, most searching, searing, elating and life-changing things I've ever done. Most certainly not a group enterprise.

But I can see Mimi's point that other people's experience often shapes our own thoughts. As long as we then take enough time alone to let the new thoughts seep into our being and make sure they don't just stay at the intellectual level.

Fascinating conversation!

Pam Smith said...

A group of three of us met once a week for several years, initially to pray through the reading for the following Sunday but later on we would read a gospel a chapter a week and then branched out onto other books.

We would read the chapter out loud, then meditate in silence for 20 minutes, then discuss the chapter.

It was amazing how much the scripture - particularly the gospels - came alive through sharing our thoughts and questions and trying to work out some of the answers.

It wasn't exactly 'lectio divina' but I think praying as part of a group in that way took me much further in that I would have gone on my own.

Bill said...

First let me say thank you for such a generous review of my book (this is William Mills here!). I am glad that you found it helpful. Let me clarify a few points regarding Lectio Divina (LD). Yes LD is generally done in private and for personal devotion, however it has been my experience when leading retreats which I do quite often or in small group discussions that when we share insights from doing our own LD that our understanding of the scriptural text is enlarged and expanded.

My book is to get people to use the scriptures in their daily prayer rule and to encourage parishes to have regular Bible studies which is not always the case.

Regarding Bishop Alan's trip to the Holy Land, I wish you well. I went last year with 25 other pastors (ecumenical) and it was phenomenal. We spent 14 days there, 7 in Galilee and 7 in Jerusalem area. We read through the gospels while there and it was both refreshing and inspiring. I am actually working on another book about my experiences in the Holy Land as well.

I do encourage you to read however a book by Jerome Murphy O Connor on the archeology of the Holy Land, it is well worth it, a godo background on the sites that you will be seeing.


Christian Blog Awards said...

Please enter your blog in the Christian New Media Awards 2010 -

Anita Mathias said...

Dusty Bible syndrome! Love it!

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