Changing Attitude is campaigning for a change of attitude in the Church of England towards the place of LGB&T people. We are campaigning for a transformation of attitudes, way beyond grudging acceptance to a celebration of the gifts of all, LGB&T people integrated with the whole body of Christ, women and men, equal in ministry and in the love of God.
The Holy Spirit keeps presenting books for my attention. A month ago the Spirit’s medium was Kate Smith, atheist trustee, who brought Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic to the last trustee meeting. Spufford described my experience of prayer and meditation in a non-dogmatic, creative, emotionally-connected, truthful way. It was such a relief to read someone who was able to describe what happens in the deepest interior space of attention.
On Tuesday, Church House Bookshop was the Spirit’s medium. I found Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation by David G Benner. David is a Canadian Anglican, a psychologist and spiritual guide. In the Preface, he says he wrote an outline of the book in 1974, but was far from ready to write it or, more importantly, to experience it until now. He flirted with ideas but was not ready to respond to the deep call of Spirit to his spirit that drove his interest in human unfolding and awakening.
Spufford and Benner have written books that I have been wanting to read for a very long time. I have been almost craving a recognition of my deepest, inner, core spiritual self with increasing urgency for a number of years. This desire is more fundamental than my involvement with the campaign to change Church attitudes about human sexuality.
I have a longing for the Church to provide the context for my spiritual journeying and exploration and for the core experiences which speak to my true self in the divine presence. It’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that I met my spiritual director on Wednesday morning and a soul friend of nearly 30 years on Tuesday evening. Changing Attitude’s vision is being inspired by people (and the books they write), people who may or may not have a connection with church, but who are deeply spiritual, alive and creative.
Changing Attitude’s work is about the sacred journey of transformation. We are working in a complex dynamic of networks and relationships to change the Church as institution at one level and to change individuals at another level. The institution can and will only change insofar as individuals are being changed and transformed in a sacred, holistic, holy, healthy way.
The only place where this most profound movement of change can happen is in the present moment. NOW God is fully present, creation is aflame with the holy, but the majority are unaware, lost in dreams or anxieties about the future and regrets and wounds from the past. None of this is rocket science for the Church. It’s all there in the Desert Fathers, it was there in my priestly formation at Westcott, it’s there in many of the soul friends I have met along the way.
But it’s rarely there in the routine life of the Church, in Sunday worship and Deanery, Diocesan and Synodical events and processes. I have been enduring church (still without a P.T.O.), frustrated by the lack of depth and vision and basic competence, the inappropriate hymns, the sometimes manipulative sermons, the lack of passion for the Gospel.
What David Benner’s book is about is fundamental to my Christian path and vision. It is fundamental to the evolving of a Church which recognises the universality of spirituality and the equality of all people, irrespective of race, gender and sexuality.
God is not absent in life, as many people feel, nor distant, which is a common experience for many Christians. To quote David Benner: “It is we who fail to notice the divine presence. It’s all a matter of awareness.”
“The invitation of the present moment is always to awaken, to respond rather than simply react, and to become full participants in our lives.”
“Much of the emphasis on spiritual formation and transformation that exists in Christianity [closes people down], as do the ways we relate to each other in Christian communities and churches. But I am convinced that we can experience transformational awakenings much more frequently and fully if our families, churches and communities can learn to support them rather than fear or resist them.
“Given how hard change of any sort is, we need to be realistic about these grand ideals of becoming, awakening, enlightenment, and transformation.
“It is possible to experience a profound reorganisation of the very foundation of our identity, values, meaning, and consciousness. It is possible for our whole perspective on life – on our self, on others, on the world, and on God – to shift dramatically. It is possible to awaken and move from blindness to seeing, from captivity to freedom, and from separation to oneness. It is possible for us to experience the emergence of our larger, truer self that we in reality are. These sorts of quantum shifts in the organisation of our being are never something that simply results from things that happen to us. Nor are they simply the cumulative result of the small incremental steps of growth associated with our efforts at spiritual or psychological self-improvement. But when we respond to life and the continuous invitations of the Spirit to become more than we presently are, with consent and openness of heart and mind, it can be our experience.
“These sorts of changes are deeply spiritual. Genuine transformation never happens without profound spiritual implications.”
If this book is for you (and Spuffords and many others for that matter – we’ve just added three new books) you can purchase them from Amazon via Changing Attitude’s bookshop on this web site – and benefit us financially to boot!