Scripture says that Jesus "journeyed into the wilderness to pray" (Luke 5:16). This was just one of many instances of his finding time to be alone with God in nature. It seemed to be a regular practice for Jesus, so why wouldn't it be a common practice for his followers today? Rev. Barbara Holmes says, "The world is the cloister of the contemplative. There is no escape." It seems that from the beginning, we have had a desire as the human race to immerse ourselves deeper into the presence of our Creator (God) and deeper into creation itself (the wilderness). And so, contemplation becomes a natural vehicle with which to fulfill this spiritual need, carrying us to deeper places. The church and camp properties (nearly 50 acres total) provide a serene setting for both individual and collective, contemplative prayer.
The Center for Action and Contemplation wisely suggests that "contemplation is the practice of being fully present--in heart, mind, and body--to what is in a way that allows you to creatively respond and work toward what could be." Imbedded within contemplation is mindfulness. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.” Affirming the contemplative's need for being present, Father Richard Rhor teaches that "contemplative prayer helps us sustain the Truth we encounter during moments of great love and great suffering long after the intensity of these experiences wear off" (source). In this way through the act of contemplation, we become fully present with the reality around us. Some see contemplative practice as withdrawing from the world, but we see it as the opposite. For us contemplation becomes a way to be fully engaged with the world, reminiscent of a return to our basic relationship with Creator and creation. In this way, "God's spirit and our spirit bear common witness that we are indeed children of God" (Romans 8:16), and this harmony provides a catalyst for new spiritual awakening.
Some will call us mystics simply because we strive to live more deeply into our spirituality. Regarding mysticism, Jesuit missionary William Johnston said, "The authentic mystic can never flee the world. He or she must resonate with the suffering and agony that is common legacy of humankind...and active mystics who live in the hurly-burly enter into the same inner silence as those who live in the desert." Sound familiar? We have found this to be most ideally embodied within the life of Jesus. So many of us feel that the intersection where inner-silence and suffering-along-side meet is a natural phenomenon born out of living in community with each other. Discussing this domino effect, Rev. Barbara Holmes says, "In this sacred interiority, contemplation becomes the language of prayer and the impetus for prophetic proclamation and action. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were classic contemplatives, deeply committed to silent witness, embodied and performative justice." To be a contemplative community is not to be limited by quiet witness only or self-isolation; though silence and intentional, mindful practices are key components of our community's peacemaking ethos (inward and outward work), we also believe a community more often than not must rise up in support of social justice to create positive change. Some refer to this as the new monasticism. Trappist monk Thomas Merton exemplified this sort of approach to facing injustice, but through the lens of introspective awareness: “Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” This is not to say that we don't place our bodies in harm's way, in advocacy for others. Jesus, in fact, teaches us that there is no greater love than to lay one's life down for others (John 15:13). And when Jesus chided the "religious" of his day for not caring for the poor, the suffering, and those in desperate need (Matthew 25:35-40), we feel strongly that he was warning us too. In response, our founding co-pastor Bev Cosby boldly reminded us, "... when we are in the presence of these people [those who are suffering], we are in the presence of Christ. We are dealing in that moment with the world’s judge, and whatever we do or don’t do with the least of these people, we are doing it to or with him—that is, Christ." So, it is within this same framework that our spiritual community strives to engage with self, God, and the world contemplatively. Though we value silent contemplative prayer as a common community practice, we do not value it more than alleviating the suffering all around us.