School for Christian Practice

The School for Christian Practice

Contemplative Posture

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Compassionate Embodiment

We have launched our first session of the School for Christian Practice!

Here is an introductory video:

The class is designed as an intentional conversation that fosters what Beverly Lanzetta calls “an alphabet and vocabulary of the Spirit.”  We are making a theological claim that only through the cultivation of a contemplative posture (a practice of prayer that trusts in the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ) can we engage in the challenges we face today in our culture (a compassionate embodiment).  We recognize the difficulty many have in understanding how our practice of faith intersects with the way we live in the world–leading to frustration and defensiveness.  For too long the institutional church has neglected to focus on the necessary formative life–the life of prayer and spiritual development–within our communities of faith.  How can we resist the ego-driven reaction the wider culture evokes in us when we do not have a basic proficiency of faith and practice?  How can we bear fruit when our roots are not nourished?  Clergy leadership and congregational development (inherently inter-twined as they are) are absolutely dependent on the cultivation of a posture of prayer, an attunement to the Spirit’s indwelling presence.

I feel convicted to focus my attention and my resources on the connection between a contemplative posture and a compassionate embodiment.  This movement from prayer to embodiment is what we are calling the Trajectory of Transformation.

We will track the class with the following framework.  Links are included to scanned documents for participants to explore as our conversation continues.

Section One: Our Primary Concern for Oneness

Week 1: Introduction to Language and Images

This week, we will begin our conversation, laying out the challenges the institutional/traditional congregation faces.  We will also identify key markers of the Christian contemplative tradition as we begin to make our argument that a contemplative posture is the necessary grounding for the needed reformation within the church today.

Click HERE for the link to read materials.

Here is a wonderful introductory video by Fr. Thomas Keating, where he reflects on Christian non-duality, or transforming union.

Week 2: Basic Framework of a Non-dual Posture

Here are notes for our second week.  Feel free to read these and see what thoughts/feelings they stir up in you as we continue to explore the Christian non-dual framework (or as Fr. Thomas Keating would describe, the perspective grounded in transforming love rather than in separation).

Click HERE for the link to read Week 2’s materials

Click HERE to explore an important article by Br. David Steindl-Rast that we will continue to reference.

Here is a helpful video reflection where Fr. Thomas reflects on Christian Non-Duality.

Week 3: Glimpses of Contemplative Wisdom

While there are MANY resources to explore, when it comes to sages, teachers, and saints, here is a broad outline that at least gets us started with a language.  Click HERE for Week Three’s notes. This week, we will continue becoming more proficient with the language and images within the Christian contemplative tradition.

(I know I keep drawing on Keating, but this is good.  Here are two reflections on the tension within Christianity as a whole, the “Western Model” as opposed to the “Scriptural Model.”

Week 4: The Contemplative Posture within the Spiritual Community

This week, since it is Labor Day Weekend, we won’t dig into anything new; rather, we will use this time together to reflect back on the prior three week’s conversations.  You can review Weeks 1 to 3, looking at handouts, etc.  Also, here are two images of the Trinity that we discussed last Sunday, reflecting on the Trinitarian grounding for our understanding of a Christian non-duality, our essential unity with God and each other in Christ.

Image result for images of the trinity       This figure is far more “scholastic” as we discussed.

Image result for russianimages of the trinity                         (notice the relative size of the figures)

You may also find it interesting to “google” your own images of the Trinity and continue your own theological reflection.

Section Two: Openness of Heart: Practices of Prayer

Week 5: What is Prayer?

This week, we turn to the image and practice of prayer. (I have inverted sections two and three, because the conversation organically turned toward prayer).  How does our understanding of a contemplative posture inform/shape the way we understand prayer?

Here is a very good video reflection with Richard Rohr describing the grounding of contemplative prayer.  Pay special attention to the way we describes how a non-dual contemplative posture informs the way we understand our relationship to and within God.

I have to include this reflection by Howard Thurman, that great mystic and teacher: “What do you really want?”  “One word: God.  And the answer is the same….”

Week 6: Self-emptying and Putting on the Mind of Christ

This week, we will explore the image of “the mind,” both our own minds–and our tendency to seek to control and grasp–and the greater Mind of Christ, that image from Philippians.  What does it mean when St. Paul says, “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus?”  How do we see the pattern of self-emptying as the essential type–can we even say the meta-practice–of Christian practice?

Here is a reflection by Howard Thurman, where he reflects on religious experience, the mind and its tendency to “put a bead on the religious experience,” and how religion is best understood as a contagion.

Also, we continue to draw on the marvelous reflection by Br. David Steindl-Rast and his image of “the Mystical Core of Organized Religion.” That link is HERE for easy reference.

As well, here is a brief interview with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, where he reflects on prayer.


Week 7: The Experience of the Incarnation: Sacramental Understanding

Week 8: Praying Shapes Believing

Section Three: What does it mean to “be a Christian?”

Scriptural Witness and Teachings of the Tradition

Week 9: The Ten Commandments and Wisdom Literature

Week 10: Glimpses of Blessedness: The Beatitudes

Week 11: The Fruits of the Spirit

Week 12: Love: The Great Commandment

Section Four: Contemporary Challenges and Witness

Week 13: Prophetic and Wisdom Literature & Social Justice

I place this video here of the Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, who speaks of the important horizon and development of theological education.

Week 14: Non-dual Identity and Racial Justice

Week 15: The Body of Christ and Environmental Ethics

Here is a breath-taking video about the scale of things, the perspective we have–and the potential for a widened perspective, a heightened consciousness.

Week 16: The Household of God and Economic Justice

Section Five: Personal Conversion and Embodiment

Week 17: Spiritual Gifts & Responsibility

Week 18: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: Writing our own Obituary

Week 19: Give us a Word: It’s Your Turn to Preach

Week 20: Giving Your Personal Testimony: Stories of Reorientation

In this way, the entire 20-week class will follow this trajectory of how a contemplative posture nurtures a compassionate embodiment.

We are drawing on representatives from the fullness of our Christian tradition as we ground ourselves in both pedagogy (basic didactic learning) and mystagogy (shared experiences of prayer and practice).


  • Contemplation and Community: A Gathering of Fresh Voices for a Living Tradition  (Crossroad)–many aspects will be drawn from this upcoming volume (should be published in early August).
  • New Revised Standard Bible or Common English Bible (translations)
  • Book of Common Prayer
  • Three-ring binder for handouts
  • Journal for notes and personal writing
  • Other articles and copies will be given out throughout the class, enabling each participant to delve more deeply into various aspects.  We will build a library as we go!

Contact me with any questions you may have:, or Jessica Voyles at

More coming soon!


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