Thursday, November 20, 2008

WEDNESDAY QWOTE: On Contemplation and Prayer

Today's quotes are from Diana Butler Bass's book, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith.

In her chapter on "Contemplation," Ms. Bass writes an extended meditation on the need for holy silence and making listening to God in prayer a priority in our noisy world. She quotes Richard Rohr, who wrote, "When the church is no longer teaching the people how to pray, we could almost say it will have lost its reason for existence." She records the words of a church member, who reported that she had come to recognize the importance of silence. "Not many churches give you real silence, if you think about it. I've come to value it..."

Then she records this indictment of contemporary churches:
Some church growth specialists think that successful churches entertain people during worship--the more activity, the more noise, the more loud music, the better. From that perspective, silence is boring and an evangelism turnoff. Quiet churches cannot be fun churches. Contemplation is not a gift for the whole church but something practiced only by supersaints. ...Following this logic, it is best, I suppose, to keep everyday Christians distracted with overhead projectors, rock bands, and podcast sermons.
Thankfully, there are churches and pastors who understand the foolishness of this approach. A priest named Gary has come to realize that
"intentional reflection, attention to God, and restraint" are necessary practices of the devout life. He claims that "We need it now greater than ever. Our haste leads us to forget the needs of the soul. We will latch onto anything to feed us. We hope that something--our clergy, a new love relationship--will satisfy our restlessness."
Diana Butler Bass concludes:
Human desire for fulfillment cannot be satisfied by the world. True knowledge of the self, of love and meaning, comes only in silence.

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