Who we are
Contemplatio has been founded in the Anglican Church tradition and includes people from different Christian churches and denominations (as well as those who may not be a member of any church but value silence) who meet weekly for a contemplative prayer gathering. We started in November 2019 and transitioned to meeting on Zoom in March 2020 due to Covid. However, of the fourth Sunday of the month we meet at St Columba's Anglican Church in Scarborough for a Eucharist.
The gathering usually includes a bible reading, a reflection on the reading, 15 minutes of silent meditation, prayers and music. Holy Communion (Eucharist) is celebrated on the last Sunday of the month. Music is currently either pre-recorded or sung unaccompanied.
Those who come along are typically members of their own churches and who feel the need for more silence in community. However, it is not necessary to be a member of a church to participate. We warmly welcome spiritual seekers and/or people who just feel the need for some more quiet in their week.
Why 'Christian' meditation?
Christian Meditation (also commonly called 'Contemplative Prayer' or 'Centering Prayer') is firmly founded in the Christian monastic traditions. It can be traced from Jesus himself (Matthew 6:5-13); St Paul (1 Cor.16.22 'Maranatha); the Desert Fathers and Mothers (see esp. John Cassian's Conferences (10)) 5th century; Philokalia, Eastern Orthodox 5-14th centuries; Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century; The Cloud of Unknowing, 14th century; Julian of Norwich, 14th century; St John of the Cross, 16th Century.
Christian Meditation has had a strong resurgence in the 20/21st centuries led my monastic and lay teachers including Evelyn Underhill, Thomas Keating, John Main, Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton, Laurence Freeman, Richard Rohr, Rowan Williams, Sarah Bachelard. A number of communities currently focus on practicing and teaching contemplative spirituality and prayer including The World Community for Christian Meditation; Contemplative Outreach; Taize Community; Centre for Action and Contemplation, Iona Community, Benedictus Contemplative Church (Australia).
In the context of the World Anglican Communion, we 'locate' contemplative prayer within the 'Five Marks of Mission' (the mission of the church is the mission of Christ), as follows
1.To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
The Kingdom of God is the in-breaking transforming, forgiving movement of God in the world, in Christ. In the Bible the Kingdom is typically described as something that is given as a gift or which we enter into (in contrast to something that we heroically 'build'). Either way is all grace. Meditation is a discipline of prayer in which we let go of the attachments of our ego so that God's Spirit may deeply heal and transform us; lead us more deeply into the self-giving and self emptying (Kenotic) love of the Trinity; so that we might be more fully available to God's kingdom being realised on earth. To meditate in this way is to resist a narcistic, even quietist, preoccupation with 'my personal experience of God' AND to also resist an equally self-focused extraversion that risks confusing vocation with self aggrandising good works. To say the prayer word 'ma-ra-na-tha' is to say 'thy kingdom come'. The word 'maranatha' means 'come Lord' or 'The Lord is coming'. It is one of the few Aramaic words preserved in the New Testament (the language spoken by Jesus) and therefore some scholars speculate that it may have been a word commonly used by Jesus himself.
2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
As a contemplative prayer group we have a vocation to teach Christian Meditation wherever there is an interest. We believe that learning to pray in this way is an important part of the catechumenal process of preparing for baptism and growing more deeply in the Christian life after baptism (mystatogia).
3. To respond to human need by loving service
It has always been a core understanding of contemplative prayer that it is a kind of 'schooling in love'. Those who meditate regularly will often report that they feel like they are becoming more loving, noticing more of the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, to which St Paul refers - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. The manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit in every day life is a practical expression of loving service to meet human need. This makes sense when we consider that the attachments of the ego (which we practice 'releasing' in meditation) typically underlie non-loving behaviour.
4. To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
Peace is at the absolute heart of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus said, 'My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid' (John 14:27). For St Paul this meant reconciliation - with God and between people (Ephesians 2:11-2) as we recognise ourselves as all brothers and sisters. For Christians, transforming unjust structures, and challenging violence, must be done nonviolently, otherwise we just become part of the problem. Nonviolence is not just a set of political techniques and strategies. Nonviolence starts within, as we recognise our internal ego attachments which so easily get projected onto others in the form of blaming, scapegoating and demonising (Jesus was crucified by this very human dynamic of scapegoating - 'Don't you know that it is expedient that one man die for the sake of the nation'). The practice of meditation is a 'practice of peace and reconciliation starting with ourselves and then being expressed in our relationships with others.
5.To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
The care of the environment is a deeply spiritual issue. The challenge of global heating and other forms of environmental destruction has deep spiritual roots in fear, mimetic acquisitive desire, competition and rivalry. Unless these deep seated sicknesses of the soul are healed and transformed, we will not change our outer patterns of consumption. As with the living nonviolently, living simply (having a lower carbon footprint) flows out of an inner condition. Meditation helps to foster trust in receiving our 'daily bread' instead of an anxious striving to accumulate more 'things' to secure ourselves. For more on this theme, see article, 'Climate Change - a Theological Reflection'. https://www.ias.uwa.edu.au/new-critic/ten/wood
Want to know more?
If you'd like to know more, contact the group convener, Michael Wood (click on the 'contact us' tab at the tope of the page). Michael is an Anglican Priest with a long standing interest in the connections between theology, contemplative prayer and the practice of peace in daily life. Michael works part time as a Chaplain at the University of Western Australia and is self employed as a leadership coach and facilitator.