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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Friday, December 30, 2011

Practice

I am not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that New Year's 2012 is now upon us, but I am thinking a lot about “spiritual practice” at the moment.

Practice is an interesting term is it not? It suggests that we must actively work at our spiritual disciplines, repeating them again and again. In other words, it is not enough to simply be spiritual; we have to work at it in order to develop our spiritual giftedness.

The classic work on spiritual practice is the book by Quaker theologian and author Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Foster offers guidance about three categories of practice, which he identifies as inward disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study), outward disciplines (simplicity, solitude, submission, service), and corporate disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, celebration). Although this book is now more than 30 years old, it still has a lot to recommend it.

Of course there are more spiritual practices then the twelve outlined by Foster. For example, the practice of music may be of great benefit to many people, whether singing or playing an instrument. While I personally do not enjoy singing the way some others do, I find it a blessing to occasionally include a Taize recording as part of my morning quiet time. The repetition of melodic phrases may either inspire of quiet the soul.

There are benefits to be gained by regular or daily participation in our spiritual disciplines, no matter which ones we choose to practice. For example, much has been written about the practice of meditation in the last few years. Many people have learned to still the mind and discovered the benefits of this activity, including a sense of inner peace and connection with the universe. The benefits go beyond being centred in spiritual peace and tranquility however. People have discovered they are also physically healthier as a result of this (in)activity. Practitioners often find they lower their blood pressure and reduce stress, lessening the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and other physical ailments.

Spiritual practice has important benefits for congregations as well. Diana Butler Bass, in her helpful book, The Practicing Congregation, notes the following correlation.
One of the lesser-noted findings of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research’s massive Faith Community Today (FACT) study was a link between “personal spiritual practices” and congregational vitality. According to study codirector David Roozen, “The study does confirm that the more emphasis a congregation gives to the values of home and personal religious practices, the higher the congregation’s vitality and the more likely it is to be growing in membership.” (The Practicing Congregation, p67).

Do you have Spiritual disciplines that you practice regularly? Do you find it a blessing? If you do not, let me encourage you to find practices that work for you in the year ahead.

On behalf of the staff and leadership team in the Canada East Mission of Community of Christ, I wish you a very Happy and Blessed New Year.

Posted by Carman

2 comments:

  1. LOL … Celebration of Discipline was one book I brought with me to Russia for the Christmas holidays!

    I’m working on working on my spiritual disciplines. Yesterday, I was reading the chapter, The Discipline of Prayer, and highlighted a part where Foster describes various types of prayers including “Flash Prayers”.

    Flashing hard and straight prayers at people is a great thrill and can bring interesting results … inwardly asking the joy of the Lord and a deeper awareness of his presence to rise up within every person I meet. (53)

    I practiced this on the bus ride into the city center of Novosibirsk. I cannot explain it but after praying for every person on the bus individually, I was able to sense such a radical comfort.

    I’m looking forward to working on working on my S.D.s in the New Year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Matthew, Great to hear from you. I hope you and Irena are having a wonderful visit.

    Glad to know you are "working on working on" your spiritual practices. Good work!

    See you soon,

    ReplyDelete