When I trained as a psychotherapist 20 years ago in a body-centred school, one of the key elements was called Body and Energy. The body was viewed as a psychodynamic organism in which people learnt to contain and suppress energy, diminishing their feeling of aliveness. Body work enables people to work through the anxieties and neuroses leading to a release of their latent energy and becoming healthier, more alive human beings (that’s a grossly over-simplified summary!)
The psychotherapeutic approach to body and energy ought to have a resonance for Christians, we are people of the incarnation, people of the body, flesh and blood, broken and transformed, transfigured, a people of energy and life, radiant with the life-giving dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.
One of my intense frustrations with the Church, even more than its attitude to LGBT sexuality sometimes, is its compulsive addiction to the containment and suppression of energy. At the 10am communion yesterday in Devizes, I was aware that almost every dimension of the service – language, voice, liturgy, posture, movement, readings, communion itself – was used to inhibit energy rather than encourage the real presence of people and the flow of energy which could bring life, eternal life, to people’s bodies and souls, hearts and feelings.
Anglican worship (and that of other denominations) is designed to suppress energy. Active involvement is physically contained and discouraged. Sermons are careful, thoughtful, biblical, theological, ‘delivered’, head not heart, written text not spontaneous.
Twenty years ago, I, orthodox Christian that I am, approached the Body and Energy training with suspicion. It was a bit new-age, tainted with Buddhist ideas, and I wasn’t sure whether to trust the theories and ideas that were introduced. I went on to use the training, not to practice as a psychotherapist but in my contemplative prayer life. I’ve gradually become more deeply and intimately engaged with God, more trusting of my intuition and my body, more able to map the emotional and energy patterns of my body. I’ve become more alive and more fully myself, more filled with ‘life in all its fullness’. Some mornings my body literally fizzes with energy, from my heart beat to my finger tips.
Hebrews 7.16, read in the weekday lectionary this week, talks of “the power of life that cannot be destroyed” and of the law bringing nothing to perfection. We live in critical times, when the gatekeepers of tradition in the Church, the conservative evangelicals and catholics, George Carey, Michael’s Nazir-Ali, Scott-Joynt and Langrish and others, think that obedience to the law is everything and life in the Spirit as an experiential energy phenomenon is nothing.
This way of being church is dying, and rightly so. It is half-dead already in heart, soul and body. Christianity has too much invested in the control and suppression of the individual life force, the life force of God, Spirit and creation.
I’m fed up with going to church to be contained and suppressed! I fizz with energy and life outside the church environment and get irritated, passive and depressed when experiencing routine Anglican services. Now wonder HTB, Pentecostal and charismatic worship is so attractive to some. Thank God for places like Southwark cathedral where liturgy brings life to people’s hearts and souls, minds and hearts, where people can form risky relationships with God and one another.
Another ingredient of my psychotherapy training was Charge. Charging a person’s energy in subtle ways until the charge was released and new life and energy flowed. Let’s charge! Let’s charge the Church with dereliction of duty towards God’s life-giving Spirit, let’s charge ourselves with the energy released in the resurrection, let’s charge ourselves with the energy LGBT people can bring to the Church. Let’s charge the Church with energy – now there’s a formidable challenge!!!