Hark, the MB Herald says, listen to the silence…
On the opening page (p. 2) of the October 2010 Mennonite Brethren Herald is a descriptive story called In the shelter of God’s wings. This is an imaginary account about prayer, visualization and conversations with angels that ultimately leads the author to ‘the silence,’ a place of altered consciousness reached only by shutting out noise and distractions by going inward until you hear your heart beat and then the voice of God in the stillness within. It’s written by Esther Hizsa, a writer, pastor, and spiritual director. Hizsa also leads an Imago Dei Community in Port Moody, B.C. (Canada) and serves part time at New Life Community Church in Burnaby, B.C. (www.newlifecom.org). New Life Community Church is a member of the Reformed Church in America. The church website tells us that she is a graduate of Regent College (M Div), a trained spiritual director at the extremely contemplative SoulStream.
Why has the MB Herald published such a story by this writer, a spiritual director in contemplative spirituality, in their opening page? Have the influences of this new spirituality finally infiltrated the Mennonite Brethren so deeply that its effects now seem normal enough to publish in a magazine that states it is primarily written to equip the MB community for ministry by reflecting MB theology, values and heritage? Is contemplative spirituality now the theology, values and heritage of the MB’s?
Many pages could be written about the contemplative spirituality of Imago Dei (affiliated with the MB Conference of BC) which links to the Ignatian Jesuit Centre and teaches Ignatian spirituality. [If you don’t know who Ignatius of Loyola was, click here.] The small groups of the contemplative Imago Dei Community (one of which the MB Herald writer leads) are encouraged to use Guided Prayer Liturgies to keep the mind “focused and guided” in 5-10 minutes of silence between each passage that is read. These Contemplative Liturgies include selections and meditations by Christian mystics from the past like St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill, and Julian of Norwich, to name a few. They have even included one by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who teaches the equality of Buddha with Christ and the indwelling of God in all things.
Is it any coincidence that it takes 5-10 minutes to achieve altered state of consciousness during relaxation meditation? Is this biblical Christian meditation? Should we be concerned about compromise by linking to those who believe Buddha and Christ are equal?
Should readers of the MB Herald be concerned that at SOUL STREAM (where MB Herald writer Hazsa is a trained spiritual director) a myriad of contemplative courses, retreats, links and resources can be found? For example, this November they are promoting a Continuing Education Event for Lower Mainland Spiritual Directors. The topic is The Enneagram and the presenter is John Kiemele, SoulStream Partner, recently returned from Loyola University in Chicago. [Source: http://soulstream.org/blog/continuing-education-event-for-lower-mainland-spiritual-directors/%5D
Here are the links recommended by Soul Stream:
SoulStream Home / Resources / Links
Contemplative Fire Canada
(A Monastery without walls, Contemplative Fire in Canada is just in the early days, founded in 2009 by a team in Toronto led by The Rev Anne Crosthwait. Their resources included everything contemplative imaginable, see here.)
Selah Center – A place to pause in Gig Harbor, Washington.
(Note: see their videos of Richard Rohr and Thomas Keating, father of the modern day contemplative prayer movement, here)
Fresh Wind Press
Fresh Wind Press is a small publishing company dedicated to helping quality authors take their manuscripts through editing, proof-reading, layout, and cover-design to final print. Kevin Miller (author, teacher, editor, screenwriter) oversees the work of a network of professionals who get self-published authors onto the bookstore shelves.
Fresh Wind Press specializes in the “Listening Prayer Resources” of Brad and Eden Jersak. These include books and study guides that equip all of God’s people to hear the voice of God more clearly, more accurately, and more frequently.
Henri Nouwen Society
Henri Nouwen spent his life helping people respond to the universal “yearning for love, unity, and communion that doesn’t go away”. Is it possible to touch and taste the love of God? How can we live a spiritual life that embraces the pain and suffering of our lives and in the world, and gives us the freedom to love deeply wherever we are? Join us in this way of the heart!
Imago Dei Community
King’s Fold Retreat and Renewal Centre
Carey Theological College
Programs include a number of non-degree initiatives including a Centre for Spiritual Formation which provides interactive engagement focused on the disciplines and practice of the spiritual life. Academic programs include Master of Pastoral Ministry and Doctor of Ministry Degrees.
[Also of interest to some might be the fact that Brad Jersak is on the board of directors at Soul Stream. For those who have studied his teachings on Listening Prayer, this will make perfect sense.]
Why has the MB Herald knowingly chosen to publish a writer with such intertwined connections to Roman Catholic contemplative spiritual formation and Ignatian spirituality? Is there any spiritual harm in it? What does it mean? Is it because Imago Dei is affiliated with the MB Conference that they are turning a blind eye to this compromise?
Since the founder of the Mennonites left the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, have those who name themselves after Menno Simons come full circle back to Rome (with a New Age twist)? If you are a reader of the MB Herald, are you concerned about this?
These and many more questions will be asked in the next few postings as this blog continues to shine the spot light on the latest MB Herald which has clearly revealed how wide spread contemplative spirituality has spread among the Mennonite Brethren. In the meantime, here are some informative articles for those who are concerned.
An Introduction to Ignatian Spiritual Discernment – or a Bridge to Rome?
Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram
(Christian Research Institute Journal)
Should We Wait in Silence?
by Pastor Larry DeBruyn
Who is Ignatius of Loyola?