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Issue 32

Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word


A Fellowship member wrote to me recently and it occurred to me that my response might be helpful for other members trying to spread the FCP message among fellow-worshippers in their church.


“Next Wednesday we are having a meeting to be a mini focus-group to explore what a ‘contemplative parish’ might look like.

From your experience over many years, I wonder if you can rattle off some bullet points that would provide solid foundational ideas.

At this short notice it's more broad-brush ideas I would appreciate.”


I replied as follows:


Thank you for your message. It is so good to hear from you as always, and about the church and the group work you are involved with. I think the only way to respond to your request is to do it quickly while I have a moment. So, yes, bullet points and broad brush approach about a contemplative parish, and you can get back to me if it’s unclear what I am on about:

1.  People are called, not pushed, into contemplative work and silent prayer (they could be nudged a bit), so don’t be disappointed if groups are small: where 2 or 3 are gathered there I AM in the midst. When I AM is truly in the midst then the group will (in modern parlance) be punching above its weight.

2.  I reckon that a parish should have and maintain close links with a religious order if possible: they are (or should be) specialists in prayer.

3.  Teach people about the need for stillness and silence, a counter-intuitive notion in this over noisy and over busy world.

4.  Where possible, encourage silences in the context of the liturgy, especially following Bible reading, within the intercessions, and after the sermon. Sometimes not an option in all-age worship, but even children can stay mousy-quiet for a bit if asked.

5.  To counter feelings of frustration and disappointment when the above aims seem difficult or impossible to achieve, remember that “The Opposition” (I avoid the theological language) is pretty good at throwing spanners in the works because IT doesn’t really want us to pray. Treat it with derision: it doesn’t like that, and “plod on”.


A brief comment about finding the right language to express spiritual truths: obviously it is ultimately impossible to find human speech that can describe the ineffable, which is why so much of our communicating of spiritual experience is in the form of myth, symbol and poetic utterance. ‘A sense of more than’ is about as far as we can go.

One thing I am sure about is that the Fellowship’s threefold ‘way’ in contemplative prayer is a truly wonderful gift that we can share with the Church. It seems to me to be quite basic as we strive to follow ‘the way into God’.