CONTEMPLATIVE FIRE: Quality of Seeing, Fullness of Being
Contemplative Fire is a dispersed community of people who celebrate natural beauty, deep connectedness and the play of wisdom. We believe that the risen Christ is calling us to ‘travel light and dwell deep’ as his companions on this extraordinary journey.
Both in solitude and in community we are called to step into our own authenticity. That very journey awakens us to the essence and energy of God. The spiritual heart of Contemplative Fire is an adventurous engagement with the Jesus tradition. This is a return to the radical simplicity and profundity of wonder, love and thankfulness.
Luke puts it powerfully in the Emmaus Road story: ‘Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him…They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”‘Luke 24: 31, 32, NRSV.
Contemplative Fire was founded in 2004 by Revd Philip Roderick and authorised by the Diocese of Oxford. It is registered as a ‘Fresh Expression of Church’.
Contemplative Fire also attracts those from different Christian or non-faith back-grounds. Creative communication with regional church leaders from the Anglican Church, and/or other denominations is encouraged. When a local expression of Contemplative Fire seeks to establish itself as a praying, liturgical community, our vision and values and core charism are shared with local church leaders and communities and their blessing sought.
Such a context allows for two-way prayer support and the opportunity, along with the inherited Church, to share and wrestle with theological, missional and pastoral issues.
THE NEW CONTEMPLATIVES?
As part of the emergent Church, Contemplative Fire responds to the spiritual needs of those drawn to contemplation-in-action. We are challenged to be attentive to God’s constant invitation to bless the moment. As this discipline of love becomes incorporated into our rhythm of life, we open ourselves to new opportunities to be the body of Christ in a fractured world.
Contemplative Fire provides a route to the radical deepening of personal and corporate prayer and the celebration of creativity, healing and community. Our emphasis on spacious stillness points towards compassionate discipleship. As our metaphor suggests, we hold in creative tension the contemplative discipline of learning to ‘rest in the presence’, with the fire of prophetic imagination and outreach.
At local, regional and even international level, Contemplative Fire’s Companions on the Way are a journeying people, part of the universal body of Christ.
THE CONTEMPLATIVE FIRE COMMUNITY: what does it mean to be a member, a Companion on the Way?
A number of Companions know themselves to be an integral part of our community whilst being in very different parts of the world. Travelling with us in a dispersed yet truly interconnected mode, these individuals or small groups may find inspiration from our resources and website, from linking in with the contemplative intercessions group or from occasional email or Skype conversations with Companions in different locations. Others may meet Contemplative Fire at one off occasions such as Wisdom on the Way events or our Community Weekend. For those who are able to gather geographically, there is a felt sense that whenever we draw together for Gatherings, Pilgrimages to Now/here, Wisdom on the Way days or in small groups, we become pilgrims, travelling companions. Some Companions will choose to travel with us for a short time – others will welcome the opportunity for an ongoing adventure with Contemplative Fire and commit to the longer term, developing their own rhythm of life and “travelling light and dwelling deep” as part of our network community of Companions on the Way.
We offer membership, as Companions on the Way, for those wishing to make a real personal (and preferably also financial) commitment.
Such commitment is helpful to the individual, and vital to the development of Contemplative Fire, in building a sustainable community of prayer and creative engagement.
Pilgrimage in the early tradition was a sacred journey. Entrusting themselves to the love of God, the travellers set out together to follow the Way of the risen Christ.
Aligned with Jesus
Jesus is our model and our mentor, and the particularity of his ministry, death and resurrection informs our invitation to ‘travel light and to dwell deep’ (See ‘Our Rhythm of Life’ below).
Seeking to sustain a healthy balance of contemplation-in-action, each Contemplative Fire Companion is encouraged to discern and embody for themselves a fluid yet focused life pattern, incorporating prayer, study and action, or ‘being, knowing and doing’ – space for grace in the everyday!
Body of Christ
The support and sustainability of the Contemplative Fire community as an emergent network church is in the hands of the Companions on the Way, through the gift of their time, creative energy and financial resource.
Contemplative Fire Companions feel curious about, and in harmony with, the contemplative and mystical Christian tradition. Openness of mind and heart, playful wondering and radical inclusiveness are three key values of this emergent community, whose Rhythm of Life is outlined below.
OUR RHYTHM OF LIFE: Travelling Light, Dwelling Deep
The biblical, desert and monastic legacy is fundamental to the deep structure of our thinking. We are called not only to deconstruct but also to reconstruct language, symbol, sacrament and discipleship, as we strive to embody the life-changing message of Christ through our day-to-day living.
As Companions on the Way, we commit to an individual rhythm of life that weaves together the three strands of being, knowing and doing – or prayer, study and action.
Our emblem and metaphor for this process is the Celtic trefoil, with its three ‘leaves’ and its place of un-knowing at the centre. Engagement with each of these three aspects – ‘Still Waters’, ‘A Learning Journey’ and ‘Across the Threshold’ – as well as with the mystery at the centre of things, helps shape a life-giving and personally authentic path into God.
JOINING THE JOURNEY
People are attracted to Contemplative Fire and the spiritual discipline of Companions on the Way by a number of different routes. You may first have attended a Gathering for eucharistic worship, at the invitation of a friend or by word of mouth. Or you may have come across a local Contemplative Fire event, or looked at the website.
By whatever route you have come into contact with Contemplative Fire, you are welcome. As you explore the interwoven strands of action and contemplation that make up the personal rhythm of a Companion on the Way, we encourage you to consider whether you are ready to step out on this life-changing walk with Christ in the world. If you are drawn to the path, we invite you to join the journey!
Anyone in the Contemplative Fire community will be happy to talk to you about the decision to join. We also recommend, if you do not already have a spiritual mentor, that you consider finding one to accompany you on this profound personal pilgrimage into the enduring mystery at the heart of life. If you do have a spiritual director/accompanier, then you should share with them your calling to this particular path.
What is a Rhythm of Life?
“A model of spiritual development for the average person who intends to live life beyond the superficial or the uncaring.” Joan Chittister
“…a trellis which supports a life of mindfulness, a life lived in fullness.” Esther de Waal
A COMMITMENT ON THREE LEVELS: the personal, the local and the wider Contemplative Fire community
We ask prospective Companions on the Way who are considering making their commitment to the journey, to engage as appropriate with the Contemplative Fire vision at different levels: the personal, the small local group (if one is established nearby), and the regional and national expression of this body of Christ.
The inspiration for each Companion’s, and each local Contemplative Fire community’s, Rhythm of Life is the willingness to be set alight by the fire of God’s love. The idea of a spiritual discipline or rhythm of life is to enable a weaving together in continuous movement the community’s core values of Being, Knowing and Doing (or prayer, study and action) at a personal and collective level. The following are suggestions – not instructions! – for ways in which that Rhythm of Life might take shape for you personally.
PERSONAL RHYTHM – opening to Presence
Still Waters – Encountering the Present Moment in Quietness
A contemplative practice of prayerful ‘being’.
Dwell deep. Drink daily from the well of contemplative prayer, committing to some form of silent prayer, morning and /or evening. Be attentive in prayer to the movement of the heart towards compassionate action and intercession.
Rest in God. ‘Don’t just do something. Sit there!’
Retreat – an annual retreat, with the Contemplative Fire community if possible.
Pray imaginatively. Engage with Scripture and other texts you find spiritual, inspirational, soul-provoking.
Let the Holy Spirit , the beauty of creation and the gentle discipline of love be your teachers in deepening the prayer experience.
Discover the freedom of letting the body express prayer. Receive within it the grace and fire of divine life. Seek integration of the whole person, celebrating God’s presence with all the senses.
A Learning Journey – Equipping, Exploring and Accompanying Others
A creative practice, a ‘knowing’ that aligns theory with praxis. As Companions on the Way we are willing and prepared to:
Explore and ask questions of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
Wrestle with tough theological questions by undertaking a daily or weekly commitment to some form of study that enriches your understanding of the contemplative Christian tradition.
Reflect in solitude, in a spiritual journal, with other Contemplative Fire companions, and / or with a spiritual director/accompanier, on the experiences you have and the knowledge you gain as you broaden and deepen your practice of prayer.
Accompany others on this transformational journey.
Across the Threshold – Engaging with Wisdom on the Boundaries
A compassionate practice, ‘doing’ finding expression as contemplation-in-action.
What do we mean by ‘engaging with wisdom on the boundaries’? It is allowing oneself to be drawn by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, out of one’s comfort zone into a deeper and more costly loving in whatever the context – this is the invitation. The Spirit comforts and challenges every community called together in the name and the energy of Christ.
Companions on the Way find themselves being ‘nudged’ into acts of compassion, into times of dialogue and of story-telling about the deep and the rich things of life. We find ourselves in our responses poised on the boundary between certainty and uncertainty, between knowing and unknowing. We touch humility when we realise that we have so much to gain by simply being present and open to the other: here, in this meeting, is the unfolding of the wisdom of God.
Caring for the earth – a mindfulness towards matters of spiritual stewardship; a commitment to eco-friendly / recycling / fair-trade projects.
Compassionate outreach – costly loving. Meetings on the edge: be they prison-visits, peacemaking, or bridge-building between communities.
Simplicity of lifestyle – travel light…
Generous giving -Love is energy; money is energy. The generosity of God calls for our own generous response.
Contemplative Fire is a generative learning community. Please feel free to share with us your own thoughts, input and insights.
A LOCAL RHYTHM – Sharing with others Christ’s invitation
The trefoil’s interweaving of being, knowing and doing undergirds not only our personal rhythm but also when we draw together in small groups to explore the Way of Christ.
It is optional as to whether or not an individual Companion on the Way chooses to belong to (or help initiate) one or more small groups.
One way in for an enquirer or Companion to sample the different sorts of groups is for those involved in Contemplative Fire in a particular area to arrange a series of five introductory meetings. These will include ‘taster sessions’ of the different Contemplative Fire activities outlined below.
In its more permanent form, a local group may choose to meet in various configurations for contemplative, creative and compassionate practice, deep sharing, stillness, and theological and liturgical exploration. These local Contemplative Fire communities are likely to meet in someone’s home.
Threes – monthly meetings for three compatible people for a structured two-hour session of deep listening.
Way Beyond Religion (7s) – a regular meeting of approximately seven people to celebrate the major festivals of the Christian year, with food for the body and soul, deep sharing and blessing.
Open Circles (12s) – occasions for shared stillness, spiritual creativity and theological exploration for approximately 8-12 people. Scripture and other resources are explored with the mind and heart to discern their wisdom and practical outworking.
Still Waters – shared silence: local groups meeting in homes or in sacred spaces for the refreshment of stillness and movement, centred upon Christ.
Gatherings – share in contemplative communion, enjoy music and chant, and use body prayer and simple movement as part of a reflective prayer process that seeks to integrate creative arts, wisdom and worship.
Pilgrimage to Now/here -Pilgrimage to Now/here combines some input, insight sharing, community building and engagement with the natural world. The great outside (be it in the city or in the wild) is a wonderful context for awareness, attentiveness, stillness and movement.
If you do not know of others in your locality, then the Contemplative Fire office would be happy to put you in touch with Companions who are geographically closest to you. Or you may wish to ask for the support of Companions to gather together some interested people in your area to start an exploratory group.
A WHOLE-COMMUNITY RHYTHM – being the Body of Christ
Travelling Light, Dwelling Deep: living the paradox, embracing the questions within the dynamic of prayer, study and action.
Wisdom on the Way – a day, currently four times a year, drawing on the inspiration of the outdoors, teachings of the mystics and stories of other Companions to deepen our journeying together as Companions on the Way.
Annual Retreat – transformational shared silence and deep journeying over several days in a supportive and creative space.
Community Prayer Cycle – sharing a contemplative approach to intercessory prayer with others across our dispersed community.
Advent and Lent Resources -exploring and journeying together across our dispersed community by engaging with the weekly resources developed by and for Companions throughout the seasons of Advent and Lent.
Community Weekend – one weekend in September during which all Companions on the Way are encouraged to spend time together, exploring and deepening aspects of our collective journey in Christ and commitment as members of the community of Contemplative Fire.
See our ‘Events Section’ for details of some of the above.
Financial giving and Contemplative Fire
Contemplative Fire is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, moving to becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Most of its costs are related to development, administration, events and travel. This ministry is not financed by any external body. Contemplative Fire, like many churches and charities, is entirely dependent on money generously gifted by benefactors, by the core community and by income from its events.
Currently, we celebrate the fact that Companions on the Way contribute within a range of £5 and £250 each month in personal giving.
Please contact the Contemplative Fire office if you would like to offer regular financial, as well as prayerful, support. If you are a tax-payer, by filling out the Gift Aid section of the standing order form that we will send you, you will be able also to ensure that as a registered charity, we receive the tax you would have otherwise have paid on your donation.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Moving into a new quality of seeing and fullness of being
If you feel drawn to ‘travel light and dwell deep’ on a contemporary road to Emmaus, we hope that you will feel both inspired and invited by this vision for the Contemplative Fire community. To register your interest in becoming a Companion on the Way and joining the journey of transformation, please email, write or telephone with the following:
Your name Address, phone and email contact Sentence to describe what attracts you to becoming a Companion on the Way
Someone from the community will then contact you to welcome you and explore how you and we can best journey together, travelling light and dwelling deep as Companions on the Way of Christ.
If you would like to walk alongside Contemplative Fire without making a full commitment to our rhythm of life then please consider becoming a Friend of Contemplative Fire by completing and returning our application form.
The letter to the Ephesians could not put the invitation more powerfully: ‘I pray that, according to the riches of his glory he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’. Ephesians 3: 16-19, NRSV.