I am thrilled to announce that Gareth Higgins PhD and I plan to facilitate a Contemplative Spirituality and Social Action experience in Northern Ireland next August.
Ireland is a society birthed in deep spirituality and profound
artistry; its stark and beautiful physical landscape parallels the
ruggedness of the Celtic soul. It has also experienced
civil conflict in the recent past, as the struggle over our identity
and questions of social justice found expression in sectarianism and
Religion has played a role in both the conflict and the process that
has led to enormous change and political stability.
You're invited to see this amazing place for yourself as part of a unique communal gathering in Summer 2010.
Gareth (a native of Belfast) and I will lead a week of intensive experiences - we'll deconstruct and re-imagine
questions of spirituality and activism, trying to find the fingerprints
of radical spirituality and make connections between an ancient
landscape, a modern conflict, and a better way of being in whatever
world each us will be returning to.
program will include excellent speakers and conversation and enjoying
the land, visiting centers of reconciliation and
meeting participants in the conflict and the negotiations for peace, and enjoying everything the northern Irish culture has
to offer in the evenings (which will of course include live music).
We'll use film and literature as lenses through which we explore the
fusion of contemplation and action; and it is our hope that everyone
who joins us will have a life-changing encounter.
stay in the beautiful character-filled setting of the North Coast;
there will be visits to Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle
and other fascinating sites; there will also be ample free time to
explore on your own.
The retreat will be open only to 15-25 people; all (home-cooked) meals will be provided.
We’ll be announcing
further details, including confirmed dates and costs soon. For now, if
you’d like to register your interest (with no obligation), or if you
have any questions, please fill in the form here.
I gave a talk this afternoon titled The Contemplative Artist at Willow Creek Church’s Towards Wonder Arts Conference. Here’s a brief excerpt from my talk. I opened with a poem by Wendell Berry, The Wild Geese.
The Wild Geese Horseback on Sunday morning, harvest over, we taste persimmon and wild grape, sharp sweet of summer's end. In time's maze over the fall fields, we name names that went west from here, names that rest on graves. We open a persimmon seed to find the tree that stands in promise, pale, in the seed's marrow. Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear, in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here.
“What we need is here. It’s hard for us to believe this is really true. Most of us believe that what we need is anywhere else but here. But when St Paul writes, 'For in him we live and move and have our being’ he is not handing us a notional theological abstraction. He is saying that we live in a God drenched universe. He is agreeing with the Psalmist when he says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” A few hundred years later St Augustine put it this way: “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.” A few hundred years after Augustine, Pascal wrote, “God is that reality whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
If all this is true, if God’s loving presence suffuses the whole of creation then we don’t need to maintain this manic, striving life. Everything we need is already here.
Sadly we don’t see it. We rarely enjoy the urgent immediacy of God that is in everything our eyes behold and in every human transaction in which we participate. As a result of our narcissism, utilitarianism, and unbridled restlessness (thank you Ronald Rolheiser and Andrew McNamara) there is a tragic gap between what we see and what is available to us to see.
So what makes a contemplative different?
A contemplative is someone who is being graced with a new perceptive appreciation, a capacity to see God in all things. They are arrested by God’s presence in the wind moving through trees, his majesty in the sight of a cardinal perched on a snow laden bush, by his glory in Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony. The contemplative has a growing capacity to recognize the Vestigia Dei—the footprints of God everywhere she looks. As a result of receiving these new eyes the contemplative moves through life radically amazed, full of awe, graced with a rich awareness that all of life, as poet Elizabeth Barrett Brown wrote, is “crammed with God.” In short they are living lives full of wonder.”
Thanks to Willow’s Nancy Beach for inviting me to speak on a topic that probably pushed the envelope for some people. She is a remarkable and thoughtful leader.
I am flying back to New York tomorrow morning to sing with Rob Mathes in Manhattan at the Rubin Museum of Art.
I have posted this list of resources for those who will attend my breakout session titled The Contemplative Artist this Thursday, June 11 from 1:00-2:30 at Willow Creek's Toward Wonder Art's Conference.
Each of these books represent great introductions to what the contemplative life is about and how to get started. All these books are available on Amazon. Pope John Paul's Letter to Artists can be downloaded from the web.
Since I have posted these resources two days in advance of the session I am praying that we will have a meaningful time together. Wonder on!
Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale-Ian Morgan Cron The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God—Fr Ronald Rolheiser Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation—Martin Laird Living in the Presence: Spiritual Exercises to Open Ourselves to the Awareness of God-Tilden Edwards Word Into Silence: A Manual for Christian Meditation-Fr John Mains Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer-Fr Richard Rohr
The Attentive Life: Discovering God’s Presence in All Things-Leighton Ford
A Letter to Artists from His Holiness Pope John Paul II
There is a good article about my leaving Trinity Church in today's Wall Street Journal. The only bummer about the article is it does not speak about the amazing staff that is remaining and about what's next for the church. There is a terrific amount of hopefulness and anticipation in the community about the future of this cool church (as well there should be!). I also disagree that 10 years after we started "as rebels" that we are now "the establishment." If you come on a Sunday you will see that's hardly the case!
There is much I am going to miss about my faith tribe but it is on a great trajectory.
Folks from my church received a letter two days ago letting them know that after ten years I am leaving Trinity to pursue new adventures. What an amazing ride it has been founding and leading a church in New England. Below is the letter that went out. More details to come on what's next for the Cron clan.
For the past ten years I have had the remarkable privilege of founding and leading Trinity Church. It has been a wonderful adventure watching God take the dream of a small band of crazy pioneers and grow it into a vibrant community of hundreds of people seeking God together.
A little over one year ago I let the leadership, staff, and congregation know that in June of 2009 I would either decide to remain at Trinity in a new role or seek a fresh challenge. In the past few months I have sensed the Spirit nudging me to leave Trinity to serve God in new ways. And so it is with that strange mixture of sadness and anticipation that I let you know that June 7th will be my last Sunday with you as a member of the Trinity staff and Council.
In the coming year I hope to complete my doctorate, write a new book and develop some ideas that have been kicking around in my head for some time. One project I am particularly excited about is partnering with the Reverend Jim Lemler of Christ Church, Greenwich, to create a center for spiritual formation and leadership. Our hope is that this center will help inspire people of faith to think in new categories about what it means to follow Jesus in the postmodern world. Jim has also kindly offered to help me further explore my interest in Anglican theology, worship and spirituality, which is something my heart has felt drawn to do for many years.
You will continue to see the Cron clan around the community and we trust that the many friendships we have developed with so many of you over the years will continue forward.
Words cannot capture how grateful I am to each of you for allowing me to be part of your lives for the past decade. I will cherish my years with you and will leave in June with a settled assurance in my heart that the best is yet to come for all of us.
I am sitting in the Phoenix, Arizona airport en route to New York City after a wonderful three days at the Emergent Church Conference hosted by the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. My friend Don Chaffer (the very talented songwriter and leader of the band Waterdeep) and I led worship along with his pal Greg LaFollette. Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Richard Rohr and Alexie Fleming Torres spoke and it was a great three days from top to bottom.
As with most conferences some of the best stuff happened in the hallways and over meals and beers. I spent a lot of time with my dear friend Gareth Higgins, hung out a little with Karen Sloan, and other miscreants. Its been a long time since I laughed as hard as I have over the last three days.
I led a worship service last night where we had the people do a three minute chant of the word 'shalom' followed by a time in silence. It was very stirring to hear 1000 people doing a free form chant of the the word shalom in harmony. Heavenly.
I am on the board of new effort to start a Greenbelt-like event in the US and it is really ramping up. Mike King, Karla Yaconelli, Bill Hartnett, Robin Fillmore and I are driving the effort along with Brian Mclaren, Richard Rohr and Jim Wallis. This is going to be a very cool festival focused on issues of justice, the arts and faith. Go to facebook and sign up to be a fan. This thing is going to take off like a rocket so get on board. More on this later.
My pal, Trinity Church's co-founder and esteemed high priest of our worship team Rob Mathes is the musical director for the pre-inaugural concert event at the Lincoln Memorial. I hear its one of the only pre-inaugural events that Obama will be attending.
Rob will be performing with Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, John Legend, Usher, Shakira, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp, Jennifer Nettles and Heather Headly, among others. Rob is the musical director for the Kennedy Center Honors which is how he got this sweet gig. You can see more of the story on Roger Catlin's blog for the Hartford Courant.
The concert will be in HBO later that day. Rob will be back at Trinity the Sunday after the inauguration. Couldn't happen to a better guy.
Tony Jones preached at Trinity this morning and it was great. It was a treat for me to get time with him and to have him see what God is up to in our anomalous little faith community...an 'outpost' in New England as he calls it. Check out the video he took with his iphone of our opening worship song.
I just came home after eating a great dinner with my wife and Tony Jones. Afterwards we went to see Rachel Got Married which left me emotionally wrung out. The movie was filmed locally and some of the characters and situations hit a little too close to home. I will have a lot to talk to my spiritual director about next week. Its been great having Tony here leading a retreat on spiritual practices for Trinity. Very memorable few days. Grateful.