This is the fourth post in a series that I started by saying that I know in my heart what I mean, but I may express it so poorly that I will be misunderstood. I have been trying to write about communities that focus more on prayer than on programmes, more on God than on gimmicks. I struggled to find a word for such communities, and settled on contemplative communities – the concept matters much more than the term.

The first post in the series was on contemplative community.
The second post in the series was contemplative community 2.
The third post in the series was contemplative leadership.
I suggest you read those as a context for this post on forming such leadership.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is intent on keeping no statistics, but estimates are that about 7% of those being ordained have been to residential formation. Ie. 93% of those being ordained have no residential formation.

One fifth of our diocese’s parishes are looking for a vicar. There is no shortage of ordained people, but there is clearly a shortage of ordained people appropriate for these positions as parishes advertise overseas for months, sometimes closing dates more than once.

This has been the development for about two decades.

Two decades ago the norm was: if you were called to ordination you (and your spouse and family) moved to Auckland to the national residential theological college. You (and your spouse) resigned from working and were provided with a living allowance during your, normally, three years there. There was a required discipline of prayer, community life, study, and pastoral formation. Now that has normatively been replaced with a meeting day once a month and distance study.

After seminary there was a period as curate, two to four years of being closely mentored by a very experienced priest.

The RC Church still follows that traditional pattern. Seminary for RCs begins with a strong spiritual focus and continues that discipline by requirement.

In the 1980s the Anglican Church went through the lengthy process of General Synod discussing and passing a motion, all diocesan synods voting on this, and finally General Synod passing it again to… remove the requirement that clergy pray Daily Prayer!

In the RC Christchurch diocese there is a pre-seminary, Good Shepherd House. This is a residential spiritual year with three offices daily, an hour of silent prayer, daily Mass, lectures, retreats, and some pastoral work.

I have already mentioned the Eastern Orthodox tradition of only drawing bishops, the primary leadership, from those with monastic formation.

What can we dream, what can we brainstorm, what can we imagine – no idea being too extreme to be put into the discussion, to help us think outside the box – in the hope that we come to a way of forming contemplative leadership in our current context?

Here’s some points to start the discussion:

  • A (residential) year devoted to spirituality, a month retreat, four offices daily, daily eucharist, an hour of silent prayer, lectures on spirituality, worship, liturgy…
  • Rescind the General Synod motion and expect our leaders to have a daily discipline of scriptural prayer (Daily Prayer)…
  • Use contemporary technology to encourage and enhance spirituality. Sites like this should be the norm, not the exception; skype, youtube video series, video conferencing,…

What are your ideas…

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