Saturday, 2 October 2010

Rowan Williams on perceiving and living unity

One of the reasons I buy books is that then I am allowed to scribble in them and go back to my scribblings.
At the end of Rowan Williams Silence and Honey Cakes there is a section of questiosn and answers that he took from the original audience for the lectures, The World Community for Christian Meditation. What follows below is part of his response to a question on "Can the institutional church teach the contemplative path?" Reading it I was reminded of some of the reflections by both Cardinal Walter Kasper and Bishop Kalistos Ware on spiritual ecumenism and an ecumenism of spirituality which we were privileged to listen to when they came to the ecumenical centre a few years ago.
Anyway the insights Williams offers here are a challenge for anyone working for the church as institution but then they come from someone who very much also works for the church as institution. Some more from the same question and answer session about the challenges of that role as Williams sees them in a later post.

"Nearly all Christians have inherited a functional idea of what the local Christian community is for: it gathers us for sacramental worship (with the sacraments seen rather as routine duties). But i think we need to break free a bit, recognizing that, in addition to the sacraments we meet for other kinds of togetherness, in study and prayer - which means challenging any model based on Sunday patterns alone.
Another thing harder to express, is that those of us who have the function to do so need to go on asking where the unity of the church lies and in what that unity consists. I believe it is a unity which exists fundamentally in a shared gazing towards Christ and through Christ looking into the mystery of the Father (which is what the sacraments celebrate and make possible). If we believe our unity comes from that looking together into a mystery, occasionally nudging each other to say, "look at that!", we can perhaps recognise that the unity we enjoy is not first and foremost an institutional matter; it is the common direction in which we strive to look. Of course we must be willing to nudge each other, as I put it, and tell each other what we're seeing. I think if we began with something a bit more like that, we'd see more space in the church for the contemplative dimension. If there aren't enough people looking into the mystery, unity comes to be seen in functional terms - meeting for events, discharging our obligations - and we miss the vital and living element of unity." p.110