Phil Foster and I met last night to talk about our proposal for a Contemplative Practice group. Here’s what we’re looking at doing:
- Reading and reflection on Sacred Scripture. We think we’ll begin with the Gospel of John, and use N.T. Wright’s John for Everyone commentary. The purpose is not to do “Bible Study” in the traditional Protestant sense, but rather a group practice of lectio divina with particular attention to the way in which the text supports contemplative practice in our time.
- Opportunity for shared conversation on the meaning, purpose, and practice of contemplative spirituality in our lives. Ideally this will function as a form of group spiritual direction, where we can function as anamchairde (soul friends) to one another, reflecting on our individual contemplative practices and offering support and encouragement to one another, within a context of recognizing that each person’s practice will be unique, thus we will not be promoting one particular methodology or technique. In other words, this will not be a “centering prayer” group, or a John Main-style or Shalem-style “Christian meditation” group, etc. Rather, we hope to draw on any and all contemplative teachers and practices, so that each person within the group will be able to establish his or her own individual contemplative practice, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- Contemplation wouldn’t be contemplation without silence, so each session will include anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes of shared silence, culminating in a short prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer or Julian of Norwich’s prayer.
We’re still working out the details, so some of these particulars, such as the book we’ll be using, are subject to change. Once the group is up and running I’d like to consider reading a book by one of the great mystics in addition to the scripture lectio, but I don’t want this to turn into a “book group” so we would have to see if that makes sense, organically and prayerfully.
We will be meeting at First Christian Church of Atlanta, on Wednesday evenings. This should be up and running soon — stay tuned on this blog, I’ll post a formal announcement as soon as we have the particulars nailed down. But if you’re in Atlanta, please prayerfully consider participating. This group will be open to people of all faiths (or no faith at all), all we ask is a basic openness to spiritual practice and a willingness to engage in respectful conversation, lectio divina, and communal silence. My understanding is that there will be no charge for the group, although we will accept offerings to pay for the use of the facility. We are looking for participants who are willing to make an ongoing commitment to the practice and to the group experience; in other words, this will not be a “drop-in” group so much as a group where, ideally, a small number of persons will make a commitment to be there most of the time. Because developing trust and spiritual intimacy will be an important factor in the group, our goal will be to keep the group at a small size (perhaps no more than 8-10 members). If and when there are more people interested in the group than that, the plan would be to start another group.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them here. If you live in Atlanta and want to talk about participating in the group, please contact me directly at: