Ian Cowley writes about 'Wild times and the love of God' in a new blog for BRFonline
Ian Cowley has written two books for BRF, The Contemplative Minister: Learning to Lead from the Still Centre (2015), and The Contemplative Response: Leadership and ministry in a distracted culture (2019). The third book in the series, The Contemplative Struggle: Radical discipleship in a broken world, will be published in 2021. Here he shares his hopes for transformation when we emerge from these strange days.
Wild times and the love of God
It is 2020 and we are living through a time when the coronavirus is changing everything. A new world is being born. No-one knows now what this will mean or what this new world will look like. But one thing seems sure to me: we will never go back to everything being just as it was B C – before coronavirus.
These are strange and wild times. Established habits of life are being tested and many are being found wanting. The old is passing away and soon the new post-coronavirus world will emerge. Could these be the days of the great correction, the great turning back to a more humane and just future for our world? Certainly many of us have been longing for such a turning, and have been aware that it was not likely to happen unless somehow or other we were all stopped in our tracks. Covid-19 is a terrible disease, bringing untold suffering to millions of people. But it has brought us to a point of having to stop, to ask some big and important questions, and to start learning to live in ways which would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.
In the times that lie ahead, beyond Covid-19 and this pandemic, I believe we will need to look to the kind of world that awaits us in the coming decades of the 21st century. Already we see giants looming up out of the fog: the climate emergency, poverty and disease, nuclear weapons, nationalism and populism. Many young people, and some older people, believe that we can change the world for the better. We believe that we should be able to face the challenge of climate change and learn to care for our planet. We want a world where everyone receives decent and fair wages, where everyone has access to good healthcare and education and a clean environment. We want a world that is free of nuclear weapons.
My hope and prayer is that, as we head into these uncharted waters, we will have a clearer sense of what is truly important. As a result of this pandemic we have an opportunity to re-calibrate; perhaps even to start afresh. Much is being pruned away. This is a great refining, such as the world has not known for over half a century. Many of us have lived through a time of excess, of unparalleled indulgence, with the world as our playground. We have behaved like huge spoilt children, heedless of the mayhem and the consequences that our behaviour has left behind. Now we all know we are not in control. We cannot treat the natural world as our servant forever. There are things out there that are too big even for the largest banks and multi-nationals.
It seems to me that we are being pulled back to a slower pace of life, to the contemplative heart and I believe this is where the hope for our future lies. It begins not with regaining control and carrying on as before. Instead we have, first of all, to come back to our own hearts, our own true and deepest selves. We have to rediscover who we are and what we have been created for. We are not here on earth simply to enjoy and indulge ourselves. The invitation that the 21st century now offers to each of us is this: will you return to your true self and make you own unique contribution to the saving and healing of our world?
So this is a time to step back from our busy driven ways of living, and to reconnect with our Creator God, with the people who matter to us, especially our families and friends, and to learn again to listen. This time brings to each of us an invitation from God to enter into a new pattern of life; to go deeper and to live more simply and quietly and generously.
The contemplative way begins with stopping, with solitude and being still, with waiting and hoping and trusting. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead we have the ultimate declaration of the victory of divine love over all the powers of darkness and despair. We are the Easter people; we believe in the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what gives us hope and saves us from despair.
Without faith, without this great hope in Christ, we have only ourselves to turn to. We can look to science, or technology, or capitalism; but none of these has the power to save us from ourselves and our own greed and self-interest. It is faith that changes everything, and it is faith in Christ and his resurrection that reveals to us the unconquerable power of love. The love of God in Christ Jesus is the final word upon which all our futures depend.
When our hearts are aligned with the heart of God and his everlasting love, then we will find the way to live in the world that lies before us. We may be asking: what is God’s will for my life, now and in the days to come? It’s simple. God’s purpose for me – and, I believe, for each one of us – is to live a life of love, kindness, goodness, patience, generosity, gentleness and mercy. If we all do this, then surely a new day will dawn for the healing of the nations. Then we will begin to see justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream (Amos 5:24).
Ian Cowley has been a parish priest in Natal, South Africa, and in Cambridge and Peterborough. Before retirement, he was Vocations and Spirituality Coordinator for the Diocese of Salisbury, where he set up and developed the Contemplative Minister programme. He now writes, speaks and leads retreats.
Today, many church leaders are looking for a different way of being in ministry, a better way of serving Christ than the relentless busyness and pressure that have become the norm. But how? Ian Cowley finds answers in the disciplines of the contemplative tradition. Click here for more details and to order.
Following on from the success of The Contemplative Minister, Ian Cowley offers new insight and greater depth for church leaders in a distracted world. Click here for more details and to order.