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Issue 28

Interim Chaplains Letter

Interim Chaplain\'s Letter

I said a rude word as my car\'s shock-absorbers complained yet again at the rough treatment meted out by yet another sunken drain-cover that I hadn\'t been quick enough to avoid. Is there, I thought to myself, some bye-law that states: \"Drain-covers must be set at least one inch below the road surface, and preferably tilted.\" Then, to lower my blood pressure, I set to thinking about what the drain-covers actually cover: the infrastructure of pipes and conduits and wires and fibre-optics that sustain life above ground. Finally, by way of penance for my expletive, I spent the rest of that journey (and many thoughtful moments afterwards) considering how contemplative prayer is very l ike infrastructure for the Church, even for religion as a whole.                                                                                                                                      


In a vibrant and properly-ruled State or country, there will be visible proofs of successful governance and social living to be seen in its buildings, its networks, its systems and living spaces, all plainly evident in the work and play of everyday life and social interaction. These are the outward forms of normal civilized existence. The outward forms of religion are an essential human expression of the inward reality of God. They comprise prayers and liturgies, ceremonies and rituals, theologies and temples, art and artefacts, all of which spring from the basic need of humankind to respo nd to, to set forth and to celebrate in tangible terms the loving-goodness, the wise-beauty and the powerful truth of God. 

It doesn\'t take much thought to realise that the visible expression of a civilized country is utterly dependent on a robust infrastructure. What you see and experience above ground requires what has painstakingly been put in place below. Destroy the infrastructure, and the superstructures are in jeopardy. Baldly speaking, if there is a power cut now, I cannot finish writing this article on my computer. By the same token, the outward forms of religion, however apparently beautiful and eloquent, are of little consequence without the underground network of God-centred prayer.

I see contemplative prayer as the essential infrastructure of the Church. Our Scriptures a re witness to this. The Biblical prophets, and Jesus among them, were all schooled in the outward forms of religion which they were ready to affirm. Yet they felt strongly called to remind the people and their leaders to balance their religious practices with a deep and constant inward seeking after God and his righteousness. As one contemporary theologian put it:- \"They stood humbly in the council of Heaven so that they might speak out boldly in the councils of men.\"

We may not all be called to speak out boldly, but contemplatives are called to under-gird the outward structures of religion, and of the Church in particular, by paying constant and sometimes costly attention to the Word of God which is spirit and life. This is the necessary infrastructure without which the Church and all its outward expressions become anaemic and ineffective. As individuals and as a Fellowship, we are entrusted with this task which we are to carry out for the Church and for the world. May God bl ess us in our endeavours to persevere in this work, in His Name, and for His Glory.

With my love to you all,

Martin Tunnicliffe