Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

 Please enjoy the reflections of Stephen Parsons as he visits the Island of Crete. (The post in its entirety struck me as so lovely and deep using a powerful analogy that I have not even noted here, it is well worth the visit to Surviving Church to read it.):

So many Christians visualise the work of the Spirit as being a bit like a blinding revelation of what we should do in life. But it seems to me that the Holy Spirit for most of us is experienced a bit like a slight nudge or touch. [. . .] The important thing is to believe that such encouragement and prompting is on offer as long as we are looking for it.

In my further ruminating about the way the we are prompted or nudged by the Holy Spirit through fairly insignificant events... I thought about the task that we have to minister to each other. All of us can be part of the way that the Spirit speaks to other people. Helping other people to hear the Spirit of God is of course an important part of the work of ordained ministry. But of course any Christian can be involved in this kind of service.

For myself the most important principle that people need to hear (I don’t want to call it advice as that sounds prescriptive!) is that what God wants from them is first of all to be themselves. Each person needs to be in touch with their inner longings, their passion and their uniqueness. So often, even in a church context, individuals have taken on board a life agenda set for them by others. 

The sensitive and pastoral counsellor will always be wanting to help an individual to strip off layers of artificiality and falsity which impede them in their task of authentic living. We all have the task of traveling the journey in order to grow spiritually as well as become the person that God wants to be. A piece of wisdom that was given to my wife and me many years ago is one that applies to anyone. The words were: Be yourself so that God can be himself through you...

I hope that the reader does take the opportunity to visit Surviving Church to read the whole post. I know that Stephen would love to hear feedback, too. 

Stephen Parsons is a retired Anglican priest living near Carlisle, England. His interest in cultic and high demand religious groups goes back to the 80s when he researched material for a book on Christian healing. He realised that among practitioners of spiritual healing there were some whose healing practice was abusive and exploited the vulnerability of the sick. This led eventually to a study of abusive Christianity, Ungodly Fear, which collected and interpreted stories of individuals who had joined certain fundamentalist Christian groups in the UK but suffered in the encounter. Since the book appeared in 2000, and especially since retirement in 2010, he has been reading widely in the areas of social psychology and psychoanalytical theory to understand this phenomenon of abuse within certain churches. He runs a blog, which attempts to set out the fruits of this study and reflection. He has the hope that it will be of use to those coming to terms with an encounter with a religious institution or church that exploits and abuses.
Other books by Stephen Parsons:

(After Hurricane Matthew and the storm of the POTUS election,
I needed a bit of a break from blogging.
A few more posts regarding cognitive biases
that often play into spiritual abuse
still wait in the wings.)