What is Contemplative Christianity?
In the early 1980s, John Main wrote of the ‘searching hunger’ of many younger people for authentic, personal knowledge of the truth. This draws many to the practice of meditation even as they turn away from more institutional religious structures.
More recently, at a WCCM seminar Rowan Williams spoke of the growing significance of contemplative practice which enables many who have ‘drifted away from the regular practice of sacramental faith’ to reconnect with the deep roots of the tradition and reawaken to its transformative dimension.
The Contemplative Christianity focus within the WCCM encourages dialogue among all Christian traditions concerning the contemplative renewal of Christianity and what this means for the church in their relationship with each other and their collective witness to the relevance of Christian life to our contemporary crisis.
This is not simply about teaching meditation or encouraging meditation groups to form in parishes, schools and chaplaincies. It points to an emerging new form of Christianity itself.
What does it mean, for example, when we no longer see a meditation group simply as one activity among many others in a parish context, but ask how a contemplative perspective can inform and transform all aspects of the life of a community – including those aspects which is often most resistant to change, its worship, theology, governance and mission?
With the emergence of contemplative Christianity, traditional religious divides between denominations, as well as polarisation between ‘progressive’, ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, ‘catholic’ and ‘evangelical’, will become less hostile.
Karl Rahner famously stated that he believed that the Christian of the future would be a mystic or there would be no Christians. He wrote this a generation or more ago and his prophecy is being fulfilled. John Main believed the most important thing for modern people to rediscover is the power and meaning of silence. The hunger for the silence and stillness of contemplative experience is growing with every generation. This calls for a need for formation within a community with a sense of deep tradition. The WCCM is committed to the formation of a new generation of teachers of meditation around the world. How this will affect the structures and language of evangelisation in a secular world is what we are beginning to discern.
WCCM encourages dialogue and collaboration among contemplative communities of all kinds, within the institutional churches as well as those operating mostly in the secular world.
In 2017 younger teachers of the WCCM formed part of a group of 20 Christian contemplatives of their generation representing different forms of life – young clergy, teachers, scholars who spent several days in prayer, discussion and celebration at Snowmass Monastery, Colorado. Together they came from four leading contemplative networks working today to strengthen the contemplative dimension of Christian life: Contemplative Outreach, The World Community for Christian Meditation, the Centre for Action and Contemplation and the Shalem Institute.