How the original vision for CF might inform our future
Philip Roderick’s reflections at Contemplative Fire’s
Community Fellowship Weekend 7-9 March 2018, Mount St Bernard Abbey
Each one of us is different; our life experience and core stories vary hugely. In our bodies, minds and spirits, each one of us carries memories and meaning, wounds and well-being, penitence and possibility. Contemplative Fire rejoices in the variety of ways there are of hearing, seeing and awakening to the intricacy and pattern of the spiritual path.
Words and concepts, symbols and practices are important, but words and concepts, symbols and practices can lose their fragrance and savour and instead, divide and objectify, closing down real interchange and growth. We are committed to respect difference, to work to keep words and interpretations of words open, invitational, sensitive and restorative.
Even as we read this, we are poised at the intersection points of past, present and future. Each of us will find ourselves re-sourced by different things at different times of our life, in the seasons of our interior pilgrimage. As you reflect upon the dispersed community we call Contemplative Fire, here for your consideration are sixteen pause points that present themselves to me and which may trigger your own “mapping” of the unfolding journey.
The call of Christ. For me, this is a primary CF thread and challenge. Whatever emphasis we bring to this relationship of student to Christ the Teacher of the Way of love, it can find expression in Contemplative Fire in many different ways. Jesus invites us: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4
Our response. To what extent can I/we have an open heart and an open mind, together with the necessary courage and humility, to engage ever more deeply and directly with the permanent learning called for (and forth) by the risen Christ? I/we are being empowered to discern different ways to “step out in faith”, and to step into new levels of self-offering and commitment, forgiveness, freedom and healing.
Contemplative discipleship – honouring the paradoxes and continuum which hold in creative tension apparent opposites such as prayer and praxis, withdrawal and action, contemplative and fire e.g. early Christian theologians such as John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzus, Sr Macrina and their exploration both of mystical theology and care for the needy.
The Trinity – the essence and energy of God – is a part of the DNA of Contemplative Fire: being, knowing, doing; prayer, study action. Of special interest in this outworking of a Trinitarian focus are robustly ancient and modern perspectives from the dynamic of tradition within Eastern Orthodoxy and desert Christianity. Source, Son and Spirit welcome us into their mutual dance of unconditional love.
The invitation by mainstream Church – was a remarkable initiative in 2003/4, arising from the very heart of the organisation and leadership of the Church of England. Individuals and groups were invited and authorised to re-imagine ways of being and doing church, experimenting with inreach and outreach, liturgy and life. It will continue to be a significant benefit for both emergent and mainstream churches if we in CF endeavour to welcome ongoing dialogue and sharing of best practice.
Nurturance and Oversight – As a “Cutting Edge Ministry” and “Fresh Expression of Church”, the leadership of Contemplative Fire, together with that of many other Fresh Expressions of Church, was encouraged and resourced in different ways by the inherited Church. Conferences in Sheffield, Oxford and Amersham in 2003 and 2004 and beyond were seminal in the seeding and structuring of the vision for Contemplative Fire. Continuing to encourage involvement by Companions on the Way in such networking events and interactions would be likely to be fruit-bearing.
The crucial role in the emergence and growth of Contemplative Fire played by networks of support and common interestg. the adult education, spiritual accompaniment and lay and ordained training networks esp initially in South Bucks and the Diocese of Oxford and, subsequently, in the Diocese of Sheffield; also through the extensive network of the Quiet Garden Movement (established in 1992). This strategy of building upon links and connections especially with education, human development and spirituality networks may be of continuing and significant use in the sustenance and spread of Contemplative Fire in different arenas.
The Contemplative Fire community and its rhythm of life is vital – Travelling Light, Dwelling Deep: a dispersed belonging, yet an integral part of the body of Christ and the mystery of Abba, Iesu, Spiritus; Companions on the Way exploring the trefoil’s journey into contemplative practice, creative practice, compassionate practice.
Wrestling and resting with faith – in small and large groups, having respect for each other’s opinions; offering opportunities to deconstruct and reconstruct language and metaphor, sacrament and symbol, belief and practice. Awakening to ways in which practical wisdom, care and concern are inspired by life in the Spirit in community.
Gatherings – designing and participating in worship that makes use of the imagination, poetry, the eucharist (where possible or appropriate), visual, auditory and spatial engagement, biblical, mystical and prophetic teaching.
The richness of Lectio Divina’s four steps draws from our experience of the potency of biblical texts as resources for our personal journeys and also for small group planning and presentation of Gatherings (and, potentially of other and future CF events). The process entails Reading, Reflecting, Responding, Resting.
Contemplative-apostolic charism – going within and taking out; deep living, affirming gifts and communicating stories such as the Sweet Water Well and the open cross.
Nature (“The second Scripture”) as a primary context for renewal and refreshing, for encountering the presence of God e.g. in Wisdom on the Way, Pilgrimage to Now/here, Gatherings outside etc.
Music – from chant to song, from classics to impro, celebrating the transformative power of different styles and genres of music – enhancing worship and meditation, touching the soul, incorporating lament, longing, gratitude and joy.
The creative arts – the transforming energy of the visual arts and movement, both helping to create, sustain and celebrate sacred space and the mysteries of unknowing and faith, of holding and hope, suffering and love.
Body prayer – discovering the “felt wisdom” of embodied spirituality, the Word becoming flesh, the movement of grace, the celebration of incarnation. Be it through a simple gesture or posture, a full prostration or the Lord’s Prayer body prayer, the contemplative engagement with our physicality is an integral part of our wholeness.
See below for the full document including Philip’s recommendations for further reading and an inspiring poem we shared together at Mount St Bernard Abbey.