Brian rightly notes in the comments on my previous post that I may indeed have some “structure, function, goals and objectives” in mind for how I’d like to see work on spirituality proceed within our church. Here are some thoughts on these…
As the church moves towards some form of restructuring, there’s been a lot more talk about “networks” that will be relied upon to do some of the heavy lifting. I don’t know a whole lot about the state and extent of these networks but am looking into them. I’m envisioning a “network” that focuses on researching and presenting our core spiritualities to the wider church. A network implies a number of people doing work on the local level contributing to a wider goal that can be used, shared, and felt on a regional or national level. Furthermore, it implies a nexus of some form that serves to collate member activities, identify best practices, and share information about resources—books, curricula, speakers, etc.—that work or don’t work.
As a for-instance, one of the objectives that I envision would be a promotion of the work of Martin Thornton, English priest and ascetical theologian. I had him in mind when I was writing the previous post and fully intended to make reference to his work English Spirituality but neglected to do so. Both this work and his more foundational Christian Proficiency are key resources for the spirituality we’re discussing here. In fact, if you read this blog regularly but don’t have a dog-eared and well-underlined copy of both, I’d heartily recommend that you remedy that situation immediately; thanks to the good offices of one of our comrades both are now available from Wipf & Stock: Christian Proficiency and English Spirituality. (And many thanks to Paul for reminding me of my neglect to mention Fr. Thornton here!) Reviews and summaries of these books and perhaps articles and curricula on using these books with a congregation would be precisely the kind of thing I’m thinking of.
In our digital world, the obvious answer seems to be a web site that would have several sections including but not limited to book reviews, downloadable curricula, and perhaps a forum where people could ask questions and look for answers. There is so much good stuff now out of copyright and in the public domain that ebooks on the topic could be made available for a nominal fee (because clean-up and mark-up do take time and effort).
The major issue here is funding or the incredible lack thereof. Web sites imply administrators, fora imply moderators. Either you use paid staff or you rely on the generosity of volunteers who need to have both a passion for the topic and expertise in it. (And passion and expertise don’t always travel together…) As far as I can see, paid staff are completely out of the picture which means cultivating a volunteer corps up to the challenge—which is a challenge in and of itself!
I have been involved in discussions about a lay association parallel to the (Anglican) Society of Catholic Priests. My initial sense was that this lay movement would want to focus on these kinds of spiritual practices. There’s no doubt in my mind that there would be a close connection in purpose and intent between a lay SCP and a core spirituality network, I just don’t know if it would be advisable for them to share the same structure. However, a lay SCP organization (as well as the SCP itself) would mostly likely be a good source of volunteers.
So—that’s what I’m thinking about. A set of local people and groups who are actively researching and teaching this stuff to their congregations and communities who would then be linked and reinforced by decent electronic tools.
[Updated: Let me add to that I see a certain possible breadth here; I don’t necessarily see this as a strictly “Episcopal” endeavor. I think there would be space here for a variety of folks who believe strongly in living into the liturgy: Roman Catholics, Lutherans, US and non-US Anglicans, etc. Certainly my stuff would be Anglicanearly EnglishBCP-focused but not everything would have to be. (A system of labels/tags might be useful for any items that might stray into “Dead Horse” territory but we’d cross that bridge if it even came up.)]