Monday, June 29, 2009

Ancient Practice

June 29, 2009

When Rebecca Chopp, President of Colgate University ( gave the Ann Evans Woodall lecure a few years ago she spoke of the importance of spiritual practice in making sense of faith to a generation raised on the internet. Even before her excellent lecture, we were using the term spiritual practice in enquirers’’ classes, sermons and the like. Since then I have noticed it cropping up all over the place as something new in the recovery of the ancient. The emerging church is a network of self described churches that to a large degree draw on ancient practice at the center of their communal life.

A recognized leader of that movement called Brian McLaren ( ) has written an article for Sojourners Magazine (July, 2009 p.23-27) called ‘Everything Old is New Again’ urging that “activism shouldn’t be separated from spiritual practices”. Those ancient practices that are finding a home in post-modern Christianity include, in his view.
• Fixed Hour Prayer or in our tradition, the Daily Office
• Sabbath
• Liturgical year
• Sacred meal or what we talk about when we talk about the centrality of regular and committed gathering around the Lord’s Table
• Fasting
• Tithing
• Pilgrimage, something about which our tenth graders are teaching us and which our strategic thinking group is discussing as ‘transformational journeys’.

It strikes me reading this and reading much of the emergent church literature that we are well poised to be relevant in the next years of the life of the church. It also seems to me, after discussing some of these ideas with our program staff and vestry, we need to take into account the instinct and intuition in each generation that some people need to feel that they are part of something challenging and new, even within the tradition. Many of us may shudder at the memory of folk masses and clown Eucharists, the early unfortunate efforts at introducing liturgical dance or ‘alternative worship’. I suspect that part of preparing ourselves to be real and relevant in twenty five, fifty or one hundred years will be to pay attention to that instinct and include it in our common life in some way shape or form.

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