Saturday 7 November 2009

Charles M. Olsen on Rhythms of Spiritual Formation

Charles M. Olsen, ‘Waltzing to the Eternal Rhythms’.

This link above is to last week’s electronic newsletter from The Alban Institute.

Olsen joins with a considerable number of others who have been reminding us recently that ‘the seasons of the church year tell the story of the life of Christ and God’s redemptive work in the world’ which create space in the cycle of the year for teaching others and deepening personal faith, allowing us to ‘connect our own personal and group stories to a larger picture and mine them for wisdom from a deep and rich history of faith’.

Olsen focuses on the three primary Christian festivals – Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost – connecting these with the trinitarian work of God: the giving Father (Christmas), the risen Son (Easter), and the indwelling Spirit (Pentecost).

But he suggests that each of these has a prelude (that which leads up to the festivals) and a postlude (that which flows from the festivals) as well, corresponding to three moments of spiritual formation – letting go, naming God’s presence, and taking hold. Hence there are three triads, what Olsen calls ‘the waltz of the gospel – one, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three’. The journey of faith, he writes, ‘becomes a lilting waltz, not a rigid march’, where the ‘unfolding narratives in our life connect with the church seasons and the eternal rhythms of the gospel’.

The article is adapted from Olsen’s book:

Charles M. Olsen, The Wisdom of the Seasons: How the Church Year Helps Us Understand Our Congregational Stories (Herndon: The Alban Institute, 2009).

I’m reading the book at the moment and while some of it goes against the grain of my Hot-Protestant Nonconformist (liturgy-might-just-be-of-the-devil) tendencies, I’m interested in this sort of work which is seeking to connect individual believers and whole congregations back into the big story of God’s redemptive work.

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