I am doing a lot of reading at the moment about Spiritual direction.
It makes for really interesting reading. I am supposed to be concentrating on how the Eucharist is a key context for pastoral care but I keep getting side-tracked by all the other chapters in books devoted to exploring soul care.
Robin Green's 'Only Connect' is proving a good read. A little off track, I have been enjoying reading D Benner (look him up on Google books). He has a lot to say about our 'somatic-psycho-spiritual' status and the relationships that can develop between Christians as you journey alongside each other in explorations of God.
I have also been to some 'praying using the imagination' workshops. If only I had always known that life with God was this exciting.
Since Andrew Greystone visited college, I have also been thinking about how we might further grow God's Kingdom on the web. Andrew really held my attention as he spoke about how he supposes the church can not ignore our fast-pace culture.
I am wondering about my own 'on-line life', which is hectic and fun. So, can I really think that rather than
Dr Elaine Storkey in yesterday's CEN said 'the place of television in the lives of younger generations was shrinking as the internet took its place. Social networking sites and user-generated content media sites like YouTube were now the arena in which the Church should be concentrating on establishing itself.'
If God can reach us with the printed word (at first people struggled with tracts and pamphlets after Gutenberg, supposing that real evangelism happened from the pulpit with people present) surely his Holy Spirit can travel through our WI-FI connections, if the earth and everything in it belongs to him.
Pete Ward describes how, 'In Paul's vision of the body of Christ, unity does not arise from living in the same place; rather, it comes from a common allegiance or connection to Christ.' Pete Ward, in his book Liquid Church, does not deny that the church is the body of Christ but he also wants us to understand that the body of Christ is the Church, if you're with me, a subtle but important difference. He does not accept that church is the only way to express the corporate Christ.
And so when we make connections with one another, we are communicating Christ, if we share and pray and enter into each others' lives. There is something quite profound about the quality of the relationship.
So as I have been reading I have been reflecting on my 'on-line' relationships and one in particular, with someone who I meet to pray with by typing prayers together, sharing experiences of the Holy Spirit and our theological education and discussing what we have seen God do that day or that week. We regret there is no accompanying cup of coffee or sharing of the peace, but it is all still very profound and deeply engaging.
I have found a piece of writing which helps me to express some of the connectedness God is giving me to experience of late, levels of friendship I did not know were possible.
I have adapted the following article a little because it is about the therapist and client and I think that there is a level of mutuality in relationships where Jesus is Lord that is quite exquisite. It helps me to express, from a scientific point of view, some of what I am experiencing.
From a contemporary neuroscience perspective, attachment creates a brain-to-brain bridge, a "neural WiFi" connection (Goleman, 2006). The two brains...become functionally linked--or "coupled"--crossing the barrier of skin-and-skull. Each brain is then online with respect to the other as they actively communicate and mutually influence each other. In a very real sense, the two brains become "wirelessly" connected, forming a feedback loop in which the output of the one brain becomes the input of the other's brain, and vice versa. In neural WiFi, then each brain has access to the resources of the other's--the information it processes, and the way it processes information. Becoming attached ... means, in part, that ... emotional communications are received by our brains, and translated into relational meanings through our own subsymbolic (gut level) processing (Bucci, 1997). This is, neurobiologically speaking, how we take on each other's suffering. In other words, we enter into each other's emotional range and subjective experiences, yet without losing ourselves and our own emotional range. Furthermore, .... our brains ideally have more influence, [through the Holy Spirit we]... enter into each other's emotional range. In short, attachment creates a brain linkup that in turn creates a "therapeutic brain circuit" across two brains.
Adapted from "Psychoanalysis, Attachment, and Spirituality Part I: The Emergence of Two Relational Traditions", Journal article by Todd W. Hall; Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 35, 2007.
I think that these connections happen through the power of the Holy Spirit. Relationality is at the heart of the trinity. In their perichoretic dance, God the Father, God the Son and God the holy Spirit exist in perfect communication with one another. I suspect it is this level of connectedness that we all crave with one another, with our partners, our children, our parents and our friends. We seek ultimately connection with God and love. Scripture explores relationship. God walks with the people made in his image in the coolness of the garden (Genesis 3:8). God calls Abraham and in his covenant with God all people are to be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3). God created Israel for a monotheistic relationship with himself (Deuteronomy 4:32-40). God entering our history by the incarnation and revealed immeasurable depths of love and desire for an intimate relationship with us (Matthew 1:18-23). Jesus intimately related to his disciples as vine to their branches (John 15:4). And through the giving of the Holy Spirit brings us into relationship with him too.