St John the Baptist Parish Church

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News from the clergy

Vicar's column- September 2017

To be “spiritual”, it would seem, has greater appeal in contemporary society than to be “religious”. But what is spirituality? I have come across a multitude of definitions in my time which generally touch upon the core issue of an awareness of a deeper level of reality to life; an appreciation of mystery and wonder and engagement with ultimate questions of meaning and purpose. However, we cannot “do” spirituality in a vacuum. It needs content. As Christians, our spirituality will be informed by the Christian faith: it is “Christian spirituality”. The spiritual writer Kenneth Leech defined it thus: “Christian spirituality is a process in which Christ takes the initiative. It is a putting on of Christ, a solidarity in Christ, a sharing in his dying and rising... It is a work of grace from start to finish.” (Soul Friend, p.5) Or, drawing upon the writings of St Paul, we might define it as, “Anything that is lived according to the Spirit of God.”

Christian spirituality is to do with our growing in Christ-likeness; how we experience being drawn into the life and activity of God by the Spirit. It involves prayer, study of the bible and other Christian literature, but more broadly, spirituality is about the whole of life and how it is formed and shaped by our relationship with God. It has its challenges. We need to let go of ways of thinking and relating that are destructive and self-limiting and take on ways of thinking and relating in harmony with the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gal 5:22-23)  In practice, Christian spirituality and Christian discipleship are inseparable; we cannot have one without the other. We are called to grow in our relationship with God so that all we do flows from our life in God; to live out our full potential and vocation in God and to make God’s kingdom a reality on earth.

This has been the Christian endeavour throughout the ages and many saints have struggled with this tough calling before us. This autumn there is the opportunity to learn from some of them in our “Mystics Ancient & Modern” course. Don’t worry if you cannot commit to all six sessions as each one will be self-contained but of course the more you can attend the better.

Rev Lisa Cornwell