Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dream Workshop

Next month, on February 19-20th there will be a dream workshop entitled, "Water of life: From the well of dreamworld". The workshop will be led by Dr. Jerry Wright, a Jungian analyst, lecturer, minister and psychologist. Dr. Wright received his training at the Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. Dr. Wright also has a deep interest in Celtic Spirituality.

The event will take place at Wesley Univerd Methodist Church, located at 1350 Hunakai St, Honolulu. The times are Friday 6-8:30pm, and Saturday 9-11:30 and 2-4pm. Suggested donation is $30. For more information, please send me an email.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Edinburgh Missionary Conference: a teachable moment

A turning point in the Edinburgh Conference took place when a young Indian Christian, V.S. Azariah, a thrity six year old convert from Madras, took the podium. This was Azariah's first time in the Western World, and what he said left a lasting impression on the delegates. What Azariah said was prophetic and has lessons for us in the Church today.

Azariah first commented on how much he had learned from Western culture, and from the missionaries in India. They had after all, introduced him to the message of the Gospel. Azariah then said a startling thing. And that was "Give us friends".  Azariah could have said "give us education, give us money, give us training, give us power" but he did not. Instead, Azariah focused on friendship, on the common work of the church, where folks worked side by side. Three more powerful words could hardly have been spoken at the Conference. Some delegates grumbled, while other applauded. It marked a significant moment, and was a deliberate swipe at the paternalistic way missionary activities were conducted not just in India, but probably throughout the world. Little brother was standing up to Big Brother! The Young Churches were standing up to the Older Churches, and now the Older Churches needed to listed. A new missionary era had dawned.

The more I read about the Conference, the more I began to reflect on my own inner city church work at St. Aidans. For those of us involved in parishes where we are working with diverse populations, the Edinburgh Conference offers some valuable lessons. For instance, in what manner do we approach diverse groups, and what efforts are we making to include them in all aspects of the life of the Church? More to the point, what is the quality of our relationships with these groups, and how are we befriending them? This is a very important question in the Celtic tradition, as the Celtic spiritual tradition seeks to win over people through soul friendship. It seems to me, the Conference offers some valuable guidelines for outreach and inclusion. Befriend others, and invite them to get involved.
In so doing, we can also develop new leaders, who can then lead the community. And perhaps some might even be called to full or part time ministry in the future. And recall the Celtic notion of fosterage? If you can, bring outsiders in, and welcome them, teach them, and love them.

One last note. Events are planned at New College, Edinburgh, to mark the centenial of the Edinburgh Conference. There are many ways to get involved. I myself am, and I will keep you posted as to what I am doing. A slate of lectures, papers, and events throughout the world and virtual world are taking place as we speak. You can even linkup on Facebook and Twitter. And just like the first conference, there are mahor themes being discussed. These include:
  • Foundations of Christian Mission
  • Christian Mission and Other Faiths
  • Missioin and Post-Modernity
  • Mission and Power
  • Forms of Missionary Engagement
  • Theological Education and Formation
  • Christian Communities in Contemporary Contexts
  • Mission and Unity, Ecclesilogy and Mission
  • Mission spirituality and authentic discipleship
For more information click here

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Edinburgh Missionary Conference: One Hundred Years and counting

"The Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 is usually taken as the starting point of the modern ecumencial movement, and this indeed it was. But it was also the end of the great missionary movement of the West as that had gone forward for more than a century. There were good grounds for the tone of optimism and confidence that rang through many of the Edinburgh utterances. Prodigious difficulties had been overcome. The opening up of new areas to the Gospel had gone forward in the preceding half-century with almost unbelievable rapidity."
                                                   Stephen Neil Creative Tension, 1959.

This past Wednesday, there was a service at St. Andrews Cathedral, Honolulu, marking the hundreth year since the Edinburgh Missionary Conference. Given the current spiritual and theological climate, that event seems long ago, and longer than a century. In the great Anglican tradition, marked by both dignity and beauty, clergy from many different denominations participated, including by my count, Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, Orthodox, and of course, delegates from the Celtic Church.

In days prior to the service, I thought back to what I remembered about the Edinburgh Missionary Conference. As a student at New College, this great event loomed in the background, and throughout my theological education there, many of my professors and teachers attempted to weave themes from that Conference into their lecture. The Conference attempted to gather clergy, and missionaries groups from all over the world together under the theme of "The Evanglization of the World in This Generation". As with most significant events, the church was blessed to have several multi-talented figures who helped guide and shape the conference. Key figures included Lord Balfour, from the Church of Scotland, the American missionary John Mott, and Scotsman John Oldham, who at that time was a leader in the Student Christian Movement.

For clarity sake, let me provide a brief overview of the aims of the Conference. The conference, lasted ten days, and took place from June 14th to the 23rd 1910. There were eight commissions which examined different issues. These were:
  • The carrying of the gospel to the non-Christian world
  • The Church in the Mission Field
  • Eduation in relation to the Christianization of national life
  • Missionary message in realtion to the non-Christian world
  • The preparation of missionaries
  • The home base of mission
  • Mission and governments
  • Cooperation and promotion of unity
Even now, a hundred years later, one cannot but be impressed at the ambitious  scope of the Conference. It was in fact, a watershed event for the Christian Church, with lasting lessons even to this day. In a following blog article, I will write a sequel which describes the events surrounding the Edinburgh 2010 Conference.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dreams and Spiritual Growth

Like many, I've been fascinated by dreams and what significance, if any, they play in our waking life. Some see them as "brain farts" while others (myself included) see them as messages from God. Before you immediately leave this site, consider that this is also what the Biblical writers thought as well.

I was helped to understand the importance of dreams when I was introduced to the writings of the great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung while I was in college. Here's a photo of that old sage on the right. I felt an immediate connection to the themes in his books. I liked Jung's stress on the spiritual, and on the second half of one's life, and these themes rang true to my own experiences. There were many parallels between what Jung was speaking about and my own Christian experience, although Jung used a secular language. Later, while in seminary, I had the opportunity to study Jung's thought more seriously. There we were encouraged to read the writings of both Jung and Freud. And I wrote papers on Jung's Answer to Job (1958), Psychology and Religion (1938) and of course Dreams (1974). Later, as a social worker, I read more about Jung, and became familiar with several writers who popularized Jung's ideas including Joseph Campbell, John Sanford, Morton Kelsey, and Robert Johnson. 

One never escape dreams. They pop up at the most unusual times and places. And I am not just speaking about my own personal dreams either. I remember thinking, as I read the lives of several of the Celtic saints, how dreams were common for them, and how they took them seriously. St. Patrick's dreams are probably the best known in the Celtic tradition, yet there are plenty of other examples. And come to think of it, this is what one would expect, as it is in keeping with the Biblical tradition-dreams are positive messages from God which need to be interpreted. Jung, put it this way, "dreams are communion every night". I love that quote because it captures the incredible splendor and beauty which dreams often take. All that is required is the attempt to understand.

I've been part of a dream group for almost two years now, and love having the opportunity to share some of my own dreams with the group, and to hear their feedback, or amplification of my dream. In addition, I benefit from having the opportunity to hear their dream as well. Dreams groups are often located in churches, and are located across the country. Here's a link to find if there is group located near you. If your interested in finding out the meaning to your own dreams, check out some of Kelsey's and  Sanford's books. They are great places to start. You can't go wrong with and Dreams and Spiritual Growth by Louis Savory (1984), or Johnson's Innerwork (1989).

Many churches across the country have weekly dream groups. This is based on the work of Joyce Rockwood Hudson, and you can find a list of church across the country which have dreams groups by clicking here. They also produce a wonderful journal The Rose which has many interesting articles, and lists of church dreams groups located nationwide. If you're looking for something more in depth, and want some formal training, you can check out the Hayden Institute located in Hendersonville, NC. For those who live in Hawaii, there are several dreams groups available. Just drop me an email, and I'll get back with you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Celtic Dailys

One of the many blessings of the Web is that it makes the world alot closer, bringing it all to your desk or laptop. I'm old enough to have witnessed big changes over the years. Twenty five years ago, when I was a student in Edinburgh, Scotland, I remember listening to football games on the Armed Forces Network. That was a cool break from my studies, and helped me to remain in contact with the New World. Yet in retrospect, that seems like light years away, and linked with those orange lite tubes that we all used to look at in our radio's and record players. Ancient history! That's all changed and now you can probably watch the games on the Internet.

Living in Britain for nearly six years, I grew fond of reading the newspaper, always a delight for someone who is from a different country of origin. The learning of names, places, streets, hot spots to go, finding one's way; it's all part of that great experience of living abroad. I miss reading The Scotsman, and The Times, and they were part of "my education".

Newpapers are also a great way to learn and keep up with the Celtic tradition. These sites are great places to browse on a lazy Saturday morning, with a cup of coffee, and of course some Celtic music in the background. Let me draw you attention to the some of the major Celtic which you can then pop into time to time so to check out what is happening on the other side of the pond.

The leading daily in Edinburgh, Scotland is The Scotsman.  If your interested in what is going on in Glasgow, check out the The Herald. Moving down to Wales, check out the North Wales Chronicle. For the Isle of Man (Manx) look no further than The Isle of Man today. And of course, if you want to peek over to see what is happening on the Emerald Isle, see The Irish Times.

Most of these papers have a cultural or history section where you might find something of interest. I like to check and see people are reading. Some even have blogs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Celtic Roots of Benedictine Spirituality

Last month, the abbot of the Benedictine Monastery in Hawaii, Fr. David, invited me to come and speak with the community and oblates. The oblates meet once a month for education and for training. I enjoy having the opportunity to speak with folks, and to share with them aspects of the Celtic tradition. This is an important story, and I am happy to share it. I weaved my presentation around the theme of "The Celtic Roots of Benedictine Spirituality". That subject allowed me to share some of the history and background of Celtic Christianity and to touch on many of the overlaps between both spiritual traditions. In one sense we're cousins, and Celtic spirituality played a role akin to John the Baptist, helping to prepare the way.

First of all, the monastery is located in the most perfect of settings; atop the mountains on the North Shore. One has to pass fields of sunflowers, and scores of peacocks and horses, before finally arriving at the monastery itself. Second, the community is so very welcoming and friendly. This is a perfect setting to have a retreat, or spiritual day away from one's usual daily chores. I met one woman who had been on retreat and you could tell that she loved the place, and was somewhat reluctant about returning home. If you could see the place, you would understand! If your in Hawaii, or even visiting, you should go.

I closed the presentation by citing some passages from Morris Berman's The Twilight of American Culture (2000), a stinging criticism of American pop culture. In this book, Berman finds the model of the Celtic Church, with its emphasis on learning and education, as a potential model to combat what he refers to as "McWorld", a mindless consumer driven world, that has no other goal in sight than consumption.

The quote is worth citing in full:

"The traditional view-which is at least partly correct-is that during the sixth and seventh centuries, when the lights were going out, monasteries, especially Irish ones, began to stow away the nuggets of intellectual achievement from Roman civilization, and to a lesser extent, Greece. By 700, writes the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, "European learning had fled to the bogs of Ireland". While Europe was sacked by Goths, Arabs, and Vikings, a few scholars such as the Venerable Bede (circa 673-735; lived at the Jarrow monastery in Northumbria) preserved a knowledge of the classics, carrying the seeds of Western life "through the grim winter of the Dark Ages". In the seventh century alone, two hundred monasteries were founded in Gaul". (pg. 77)

In other words, monasteries, monks, and oblates, hold a key to the future. They can help claim back a predominantly pagan culture by keeping the learning going, and in remaining true to our Western intellectual and cultural foundations. In this way, classical learning triumphs over political correctness, with the emphasis on the "new monastic" person, the "inner monk", which we all are called to develop. In so doing, each person will reject the false values of our time, and work to preserve the historical treasures of our Christian civilization. To quote David Knowles, that great historian of monasticism, the monasteries "became centres of light and life in a simple, static, semi-barbaric world, preserving and later diffusing what remained of ancient culture and spirituality". (pg 78)

There is hope for our time, and it lays nestled in churches and the monastery. What wonderful irony! A pearl laying there like a hidden treasure. There is a model that has worked in the past, in similiar times to our own. That model is none other than the Celtic monastery, and Celtic Christianity.

Many thanks to members of the Benedictine community and the oblates for their warm and hospitable welcome!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii

Tomorrow I'll be speaking to a group of Benedictines oblates about Celtic Spirituality and some of its overlap into the Benedictine tradition. I've looked forward to this, and have put together a pretty nifty PowerPoint presentation (at least I think) with photos and pictures. The monastery is one of the best kept spiritual secrets in Oahu, and several folks I spoke to, did not even know there was a monastery here. The monastery is located on the North Shore, and is high in the hills, overlooking mountains and the ocean. Here a link if you want more information. Each time I arrive, I find it hard to leave. I'll report more later.

This got me to thinking again about how important it is to be involved with an "oblate" program and in taking regular "time outs" to check one's spiritual bearings. Oblate, which in Latin means "offering", and as mentioned in other blog articles, there are many different oblate programs one can be part of. Find a Rule or Community with which you are comfortable. The major Rules include the Benedictines, Franciscians, Dominician, and of course, Celtic. These are located in many parts of the country and world for that matter. And with the advent of the internet, much can be done on the web. For lovers of the Celtic tradition, please see the Northumbria Community, or the Order of St. Aidan. Typically, these groups meet once a month, centering about books and topics related to the Rule of the Community.

There is a very close link between the Celtic and Benedictine traditions. And in a sense, the Celtic Rule, was something like John the Baptist, preparing the way for something greater, the Benedictine tradition, which is the largest Religious Rule in the Christian World. These close links are demonstrated in the writings of Ester deWall, who has written extensively on both the Celtic and Benedictine traditions. If your not familiar with her books, you need to be. Seeking God, the Way of St. Benedict (1984), and The Celtic Way of Prayer (1997) are two excellent introductions to both traditions.

I've had a spiritual director for over twenty five years, and during that time, had the opportunity to visit monasteries in New York, California, and now Hawaii. Each time I go for a visit or for a retreat, I learn something new, and gain a deeper perspective. Each time I hear the monastery bell ring, I am reminded there is a Rule of life, a pattern of behaviors, which helps me to better understand the Christian experience which is a unique blend of community and individual experience. In addition, you also meet new friends who are also on the Christian path. These experiences are life changing, and ones we all need to make time for.