This week I am attending a session of the Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation at Camp Sumatonga in Gallant, Alabama. One of our topics is Protestant Spirituality taught by Amy Oden. We were encouraged to read some books in preparation and we are hearing daily lectures and spending time in silence reflecting on what we are learning.
In the first day of learning we were given a broad overview of how we got to where we are today as protestants, helping us to understand the seasons, traditions, and what was being protested and why in the 1500s. We were reminded that we are as formed by the things we react against as by the things we embrace and that Christianity itself is a ongoing reform movement.
As we celebrate many of the things that the protest has accomplished, it also gives us an opportunity to grieve some of what has been lost that I believe need to be reclaimed as we continue to reform as individuals and as the church.
1- The shift of the spiritual center moving from the church and clergy to individual spirituality has caused us to minimize the need for community and the church. Many Christians don’t feel the need to gather with others regularly to worship and serve together. We need each other and we were created for our gifts to knit together to fulfill God’s purposes.
2- The shift from a focus on the Eucharist to our primary focus on the sermon has caused us to put way too much pressure on those delivering a message and has caused us to lose sight of the fact that the worship experience should not be focused on our being “fed”. It has encouraged the consumer mentality and has made us receivers of, rather than participants in, worship.
3- We focus at least as much on what we are “against” as on what we are “for”. This one is hopefully self-explanatory.
4- Protestants are often concerned more on conversion than formation. Conversion is important, but without formation it is keeping us from being the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
Among other things we were asked to reflect on the sources, people and places of spiritual authority that we trust. I began to make a list and saw a common thread. I trust those who clearly spend time in prayer and contemplation with God and an openness to be led by the Holy Spirit. I trust those who participate in Sabbath regularly. I trust those who, after demonstrating an openness to be led by the Spirit, boldly proclaim what they believe, regardless of the risk. I trust those who read scripture with an openness to further revelation from God, who are more interested in embodying Christ than in “believing in” Christ. I trust those who participate in action oriented love, who are more interested in an openness to where God is leading us forward than in a struggle to maintain the status quo. I trust those who are more “for” than “against.”
I invite you to join me as I continue to reflect on what sources, people or places of spiritual authority we trust and how this came to be. My prayer is that as we identify these sources that we trust spiritually, that we can become more like them ourselves.
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Claire – Gifts Lost in the Protestant Reformation
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