Interfaith, Contemplative Christianity and dialogue with the Secular World
Religion is becoming more, not less important in the world today. It is urgent that the deep changes taking place in religious consciousness across all faiths and in their relationships are connected to the contemplative power residing at the heart of all the great wisdom traditions.
Meditation opens us to the common ground of humanity – and the essential goodness of human nature. The differences between traditions and cultures are as important and enlightening as their similarities. Meditation establishes a spiritual friendship between the members and practitioners of all faiths and ensures that the differences do not become divisions or false justifications for intolerance or violence.
Meditatio initiates and participates in many interfaith endeavours at the local and global level. Meditators are encouraged to build bridges with neighbouring faith communities.
The Good Heart Seminar of 1994 in which the Dalai Lama commented on the Gospels and dialogued with both Christian and Buddhist participants was a ground-breaking model of contemplative interfaith dialogue. It also produced a major book. The Way of Peace initiative led by the Dalai Lama and Laurence Freeman grew from the Good Heart Seminar and has continued to highlight the different forms of dialogue that a contemplative consciousness can enjoy: pilgrimage to each other’s sacred sites, meditative practice together, shared action for peace and justice and religious scholarship.
In the early 1980s, John Main wrote of the ‘searching hunger’ of many in the younger generation for authentic, personal knowledge of the truth. This need drew many to the practice of meditation even as they turned away from more established religious structures. More recently, Rowan Williams spoke of the significance of contemplative practice and how it enables many who have ‘drifted away from the regular practice of sacramental faith’ to reconnect with the deep roots of the tradition and awaken to its transformative dimension.
The Contemplative Christianity focus within Meditatio aims to encourage dialogue and exploration concerning the contemplative renewal of Christianity and what this means for the church in every aspect of its life and witness.
Importantly, this is not simply about teaching meditation or encouraging meditation groups to form in parishes, schools and chaplaincies. It is to do with discerning an emerging new form of Christianity itself.
- What happens, for example, when we no longer see a meditation group simply as one activity among others in the parish context, but ask how a contemplative perspective might inform and transform the whole life of a community – its worship, theology, governance and mission?
- Is it possible that with the emergence of contemplative Christianity, traditional ecclesial divides between denominations, as well as between ‘progressive’, ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, ‘catholic’ and ‘evangelical’, will become less significant?
- What kind of formation in contemplative practice is being called forth here? And how will it affect the language and form of Christian proclamation in the secular world?
Meditatio seeks to promote dialogue among contemplative communities, with the institutional churches and the secular world in relation to such issues.
In August 2017, members of the WCCM formed part of a group of 20 young Christian contemplatives from different forms of life – practitioners, teachers, scholars – to spend four days in prayer, discussion and celebration at Snowmass Monastery, Colorado. They came from four leading contemplative networks working today to strengthen the contemplative dimension at the centre of Christian life: Contemplative Outreach, The World Community for Christian Meditation, the Centre for Action and Contemplation and the Shalem Institute.
A Meditatio seminar is being planned for May 2019 to build on this collaboration and to continue to discern this movement of the Spirit in our time.
Dialogue with the Secular World
Watch here all the videos from the Meditatio Seminar: Spirituality in a Secular Society in Prague, 2016