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Spiritual nourishment

Spirituality concerns the very core of our being, who we are, what we believe, our identity, our relationships, including our relationship with God, and how these affect our lives and everything around us. It is something deeply personal, but it is also something which must be shared, not least as it is both shaped by and influencing to others

Maintaining a sense of spiritual direction can help a person deepen their connection with God. Sometimes this can involve retreats and quiet days or one to one work with a Spiritual Director. For others, the community of their local church, the fellowship of friends or reading particular books can help to provide nourishment and guidance. As with many things in the life of the United Reformed Church, there are many different ways of exploring, engaging and growing our spirituality and connecting it with others around us.

The items shared through this page will help you to explore Spirituality in innovative and fresh ways, perhaps encouraging you to try something different in order to develop different aspects of your spirituality or give you an opportunity to consider source of spiritual nourishment which you may not have thought of previously.

Some suggestions to get you started will be posted here soon.

By Mark Argent

ShockMy eye was caught a little while back by an anecdote from someone returning to the USA to teach in a theological college, who was taken aback by the first student sermon he heard, which boiled down to ‘God is love. God loves us, so we should love each other’. What he missed were central Christian themes like the death and resurrection of Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit or a call to be more Christ-like. The theologian was subsequently shocked to find how often he was hearing the Gospel reduced to proclamation of love.

The anecdote probably reveals something of the theologian’s own doctrinal position, but he is right to warn. The love of God makes sense in the context of the Christian story, but leaving out the awkward bits misses something important.

Read more: Shock, horror

Mark Argent

ImaginativeOne of the more flexible ways of praying with scripture is imaginative contemplation. The essence is to take a bible story, read it a few times so that it becomes familiar, then settle oneself to pray, perhaps breathing slowly and deeply to clear the mind, and then slowly imagining oneself into the story.

Often the easiest way is to begin by picturing the scene, imagining the weather and what people are wearing, and slowly let the story unfold, perhaps being one of the characters in the story, perhaps being a bystander. Helpful additions can be to repeat the exercise as different characters entering into an imaginary conversation with one or more other characters...

Read more: Imaginative contemplation

By Mark Argent

Direction ReformedWhat does spiritual direction look like in a Reformed context?

It’s usually thought of as an ecumenical activity, helping people to appreciate and benefit from other traditions. Whilst this can be a very powerful experience, there are also profound concepts, ideas and traditions within denominations which are worth their own members exploring further.

Both as director and directee, there are always influences of heritage in play as the stories of those who have influenced us personally merge with the bigger picture of the churches where those stories have been nourished.

Read more: Spiritual Direction in the Reformed Tradition

By Mark Argent

WrongTalking with the participants on a weekend of cooking and spirituality, I found myself saying that one of the consequences of being a member of a small denomination is that I can’t suggest that my Church is right, or the only Church. This is a real blessing, because it’s a constant reminder that God, as approached through my URC heritage, for all its riches, can’t possibly be the whole story. It’s a gentle nudge that God is always more than we think.

My sense is that a similar sentiment lies beneath the commitment of most Churches in the UK when it comes to ecumenism. From time to time, usually when things are particularly pressured, we lapse into denominational bunkers, but for the most part we all recognise that no one Church in isolation has a monopoly on God. It’s as though the good Spirit gently nudges us to be aware that there are insights outside as well as inside our own Churches, and bad forces seek to use moments of crisis to try to cut us off from that.

Read more: Being wrong

By Mark Argent

ExercisesThe Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius are one of the cornerstones of contemporary Christian spirituality. They were put together by Ignatius of Loyola in the early sixteenth century. They draw on his own spiritual journey and the resources he found helpful in guiding others. Significant new departures include extensive use of the imagination in prayer and his own exceptional spiritual and psychological awareness.

By the time they’d reached their final form, it’s clear that Ignatius expected the Exercises to be undertaken by someone in a silent, individually-guided retreat, typically lasting around a month. Flexibility is key to the process, hence Ignatius suggests that, where it’s not possible to go away for a month, the Exercises be incorporated into daily life...

Read more: The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola

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