This is part two in a journal series by Rachel Davies about her theological studies at the University of Duham in England.
My first term at Durham is winding to a close, so as they say here in England, I thought I’d “have a go” at another journal entry. Thank you for the many encouraging responses to my first piece.
I begin this series with some hesitation—unsure, even, if it will be a series. Bonnie Dwyer has suggested and requested it. I hesitate from fear that chronicling my spiritual and intellectual journey down the path of PhD studies may turn into a narcissistic enterprise. I suppose I’m also afraid that no one will be interested.
But maybe, with grace, these journals can be useful to someone. To understand why I’m doing what I am, it’s necessary to speak openly about my background.
This week the Sabbath School quarterly has as its key thought the statement “Christ’s victory on the cross defines the scope of the victory into which the Christian may grow.” It is a true and aptly phrased observation drawn from this week’s key text, Colossians 2:15: “He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, triumphing over them in him [Christ].”
When midnight stuck this January first, I was in a different time zone. My New Year was spent with the nuns of Carmel de la Paix in Mazille, France. There were no imacs, iphones or television sets on which to watch the big ball drop in Times Square. But there was a lot of time. The seeming surplus of it meant that hours (literally) were offered freely, generously to silence in the chapel—simply sitting, being.
Philip Sheldrake is one of the leading voices in academic spirituality today. His book Spirituality and History (London: SPCK, 1991) is a significant and probing analysis of how records of history, namely the history of spirituality, can be and have been shaped by the needs and interests of the world's powerful. The resulting distortions have silenced the stories of the powerless and those religious groups on the “losing side” of history, allowing important events and movements to be misunderstood or even forgotten by future generations.
Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the most influential religious and political voices of twelfth-century Western Europe, and as a result, his eighty-six sermons on the Song of Songs had a significant impact on future generations of Christian thinkers and mystics. Like Origen before him, Bernard viewed the Song of Songs as spiritual allegory rather than as a record of physical passion shared between two created beings. Its intimacy reveals the soul in love with a most lovely Divine lover (85).
Paul Conneff, an Adventist pastor and marriage and family therapist, has developed a ministry dedicated to praying people free from guilt, anger and addictive behaviors. Spectrum asked Paul what makes his ministry both unique and effective.
RD: What is at the heart of "Straight to the Heart Ministries"? What is your spiritual and theological philosophy, and how do you embody it practically?
Although union with God has been the major project of most Christian mystics through the ages, no two mystics have ever shared identical views about what “union” means, what it looks like, or how it is achieved. As instigator of the sixteenth-century reform of the Carmelite monastic order, Teresa of Avila articulated her understanding of mystical union for the benefit of her cloistered sisters in several written volumes, but most notably in The Interior Castle, her mature work.