February 8, 2016
“We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer. Our demon says: ‘We are too busy to pray; we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, too many wounds to heal. Prayer is a luxury, something to do during a free hour, a day away from work or on a retreat. The few who are exclusively concerned with prayer are not really involved in ministry. They are set free for single-minded contemplation and leave Christian service to others.’ But to think this way is harmful; harmful for ministers as well as for contemplatives. Service and prayer can never be separated; they are related to each other as the Yin and the Yang of the Japanese Circle.”
– Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Living Reminder
I cannot, and I wouldn’t try to, improve Nouwen’s words in any way whatsoever. I echo his sincerity and urgency, though. I have had my fair share of unfortunate conversations asking:
“What do we need a Spiritual Life Development department for? Don’t we do that in everything else?”
“Do we really believe in that stuff?”
“You guys are great. We have a few people in our (division/corps/area) who are really into that touchy-feely stuff.”
“How many different kinds of prayer do we need?”
I don’t know… How about as many as it takes to get every person in your church engaging with God in a way that transforms his/her life…
There have been stronger comments, but I’m not writing this for shock and awe. The truth is that the Holy Spirit can be mightily present in these ancient practices. That’s how something endures for a thousand years. In fact, we will not endure as a church without these anchors of personal and community spirituality.
I’ve learned to take it in stride. The conversations still happen, but they are getting to be fewer and fewer in number.