Sunday, January 1, 2012

Diversity and commitment

"The church is meant primarily to be a community of persons in the sense we have been talking about. It is a place for distinctive vocations to be discovered in such a way that they are a source of mutual enrichment and delight, not threat. It is a place where human difference is nourished. I don't just mean the obvious fact that the church has to be a place of welcome for all races and cultures, but that it must know how to work with the grain of different personal gifts and histories. A healthy church is one where there is evident diversity in this respect, with plenty of bizarre characters... An unhealthy one is a group in which the unity of the church has been reduced to a homogeneity of options and habits, so that certain styles of devotion, for example, or certain expressions of what God means to this or that person are frowned on, virtue becomes identified with uncontroversial ordinariness and there is a nervous cultural 'sameness' in the way people talk, dress and so on..... this is more than 'letting a thousand flowers bloom'. A church that is simply recognising different preferences is stuck at the level of individualism; the real work has not yet been done, the work which is the discovery of God's call beyond the simplistic 'listening to the heart' that we all too readily settle for. This is a work that takes protracted, committed time, which is why the church is so much involved in blessing lifelong commitments- marriage, ordination, monastic life- not as a way of saying that everyone has to be involved in one or more of these but to remind all baptized believers that, because of their baptism, they are bound to the patient, long term discovery of what grace will do with them"
Rowan Williams
Silence and Honey Cakes:the wisdom of the desert pp59


byron smith said...

Before I read the byline, I'd got through the first two sentences and thought, "This sounds like Williams". Then, I kept reading and it was.

But then I realised that it's from a book I've already read, so maybe not so impressive after all.

Still, nice quote.

Mike W said...

Ha ha.
Yes I picked it up on your recommendation!
Great book.
We had some new people at church who do some meditation at a local benedictine monastry, so i thought I'd read it and pass along.
We just finished a series on James and it was interesting to see how much of the desert fathers resonated with that letter.
Hope yourself and family are all well,

byron smith said...

Ah, irony.

Good to hear that it was useful. Can't remember if I said this when recommending it, but I got the feeling that RW was trying gently to evangelise the Cn meditation movement, finding pieces within it that resonate with the gospel and quietly leaving other pieces aside. Not that I don't think he's a big fan of meditation, but what he says is markedly different in emphasis from what the leaders of the movement teach, while being subtle enough to sound similar.

Mike W said...

Yes, I do remember you saying something along those lines, which is why I thought the book might be a helpful way into a conversation about it.
You do get the sense that he is going in a slightly different direction from the questions at the end of the book.
"What has this got to do with John Maine?"
As I understand it, the CM guys are into silence and repetition of a mantra (maranatha??).
Is that about right?

byron smith said...

Yes, with a very eastern feel to it - the mantra's content is basically irrelevant (indeed, the less meaning it has for you, the better, in one sense) as the goal is loss of self, an empty mind. The primary role of Jesus is a hook on which to hang the idea of an authoritative originating teacher in the west (Jesus taught his disciples to pray with a mantra, rather than the Lord's prayer). My impression is that they see themselves as having more in common with eastern meditative traditions than with orthodox Christianity. Or at least, that's the impression I get from Laurence Freeman. John Main seemed to still have a bit more of an anchor in Catholic doctrine.