Clergy and laity are being encouraged to write about faith for newspapers and secular publications by the local author of many successful articles.
Retired vicar Revd Peter Dodson, lives and worships in the parish of Holy Trinity, Ripon and has notched up five years of providing thought-provoking copy for the Ripon Gazette every month.
Now 86, he is still active in main ministry and continues to lead silent retreats.
“I have always enjoyed writing. After my retirement from parochial ministry, I became a member of various creative writing groups and, later, tutor for adult education classes,” Revd Peter said.
“Years before, as a vicar in a West Yorkshire parish, I was invited to write 300 words a week for the former Holme Valley Express.
“Since 2014, I have written monthly 600 word columns for the Ripon Gazette.”
Revd Peter (pictured) views his prodigious output as an act of mission.
“My task has been to encourage those who might be, or become, open to the creative wisdom, burning love, and boundless power of Christianity's Threefold God.
“This includes the sanctifying effect on human attitudes to, and relationships with, people, the world and all creation.
“A main focus, for me, has been contemplative praying and living; my literary output of books, articles, letters and sermons, are regular channels for communicating the truth as I see it,” he said.
Below is Revd Peter’s August column for the Ripon Gazette:
PRAYING AND LIVING
Several Ripon Gazette readers have asked about my references to contemplative praying and living. Most of my published books/booklets on the subject were written in the 1970s/80s. They have titles such as: “Contemplating the Word – A Practical Handbook”; and in 2010, “Fire in the Heart – Contemplative Praying and Living”.
The OED attempts a brief definition of the word contemplation: “the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time ... deep reflection ... [in Christianity] a form of prayer ... in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.” I would rather say that it is the Christian’s Threefold God who draws a praying person “to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.”
Thomas Merton, a renowned spiritual writer, said simply that “Contemplation is nothing else but the perfection of [selfless] love.” Clifton Wolters, translator of the late 14th century anonymous classic “The Cloud of Unknowing”, wrote that “Contemplation is the awareness of God known and loved at the core of one’s being.” Contemplative prayer involves attentiveness, stillness, silence, struggle, and openness of mind and heart. Brother Roger of the famous Taizė Community wrote a 1974 book entitled “Struggle and Contemplation.”
I gradually formed my own definition of contemplative prayer as, “a tool by which human beings are encouraged to open themselves to the penetrating Word/Spirit/Life of the Eternal, to rediscover their own Godlike nature, and to be set free to live wisely, lovingly and powerfully.”
This inspiration sprang from my long-term membership of the international and ecumenical “Fellowship of Contemplative Prayer (FCP)” (see online for further information).
Generally speaking, today’s world, including the local area covered by the Ripon Gazette, makes it possible to pay profound attention to comparatively little. Such worlds as politics, industry, commerce, entertainment, social media, crime and punishment, as well as some church congregations, are like great classrooms of unruly, noisy, inattentive and possibly destructive children. Jesus the Christ perseveres in his struggles to make his true Bible voice heard, in the hope that something of his divine wisdom, love and power will sink in, take root, grow, blossom and bear abundant and lasting fruit (Cf Matthew 13.1-23).
The current secular interest in the “therapeutic” effect of “Mindfulness” needs to be treated with caution. There are several online sites that warn of its limitations, especially its tendency to be entirely self-centred and, therefore, damaging to vulnerable people.
Contemplative Prayer is Christ-centred and, therefore works far more deeply towards, not only mind-fullness, but heart-fullness and will-fullness. The contemplative prayer discipline enables Christians to discover something of the overwhelming joy of being filled to overflowing with “all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3.14-19).
My published books include, “Embody the Word - Being a Temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Bible stresses that every Christian is a temple. The word contemplate contains the words “template” and “temple”. A template is a tool for marking out a space. All Christians are called actively to co-operate in giving Christ space, in terms of time and place. A temple needs to be a mostly silent place where, for Christians, Christ is fully present and doing his holy, transforming, life-giving work.
In previous columns, I have emphasised Christianity’s central act of worship known, for example, as the Mass, Eucharist or Holy Communion. I am privileged to have devised a “Contemplative Eucharist” which includes a great deal of relaxed attentive silence. I am thrilled to say that it has found its way to Christian groups in various parts of the world. There is widespread hunger for silence, stillness and the authentic experience of Christ.