Christian perspectives often get sidelined in our culture, yet people seem to be more spiritually hungry than ever. DAVID COLEMAN reports
What is it like to be a spiritually open person in today’s culture? You might draw inspiration from a range of different practices and belief systems.
You might be interested in astrology or devoted to your tarot cards; you might peruse the Mind, Body & Spirit shelves of your local bookshop for the latest Paulo Coelho or Doreen Vertue title or look for a book of affirmation exercises you can meditate on. Perhaps you’d visit a psychic fair to buy some crystals and have your chakra healed. Or you might choose to explore Buddhism or some other world faith.
The chances are you’d be doing these things to try to enhance your everyday life, to overcome some personal issues or to satisfy your hunger for deeper meaning. One thing it may not occur to you is to explore the wisdom of the Christian tradition.
Church Army researcher Steve Hollinghurst explains: “People need creative and accessible resources that tell stories and share experiences in drawing on the Christian tradition, to help them make sense of some of the key themes and issues in life.”
The Wise Traveller series of books from Scripture Union is aimed at the open and curious reader with an interest in deepening their awareness of spirituality as part of life. The books offer a creative and open-ended approach to inspire and resource an individual in their thinking and reflection on their journey through life.
Wise Traveller draws on the spiritual treasures of the Christian past and reflects on contemporary life and culture using meditations, stories, anecdotes, prayers and poems.
Phil Andrews, Editor of the series says: “Wise Traveller is designed for people who are seeking a more authentic way of living but who recognise that life is not neat or painless, but is instead stuffed full of meaning, mystery, beauty and sacred encounters. Each book explores a theme that relates to common turning points in life, times when people are most inclined to reach for fresh insights to help them make sense of their experiences.”
Steve Hollinghurst has been at the heart of the development of the series and is delighted that the first three books exploring Happiness, Loss and Relationships function like an anthology with a mixture of writings drawn from across Christian history – biblical, evangelical, Celtic, contemplative and other sources – and new reflections written by Kester Brewin, Sue Wallace, Martin Wroe and Bruce Stanley – all authors who are recognised for their experimental approach to reflecting on Christian spirituality.
Steve comments: “I was involved in the launch of the series at the Greenbelt arts festival, where there was a range of events tied into their programme and featuring writers from the series, including mini-pilgrimages and a panel discussion about accessing the spiritual in everyday life. People really appreciate that Wise Traveller shows the reality of people wrestling to integrate faith with life, often at difficult times, or responding to God speaking to them in nature and experience as well as scripture.”
Wise Traveller is a response to the reality that we are living in a culture that is post-Christian but highly spiritual. The familiar touchstones of half-remembered Sunday school stories and laws built from the foundations of the Ten Commandments are things of the past.
Today we can make no assumptions that our neighbours and colleagues know much more about Jesus Christ than the people who first heard the newly-minted Gospel straight from the lips of the apostles. And if they do know anything, it’s often based on negative impressions about the Church gained from the media or, regrettably, fed by ungracious personal encounters with Christians.
So Wise Traveller is not a conventional Bible-reading guide. Like fine rain, almost unnoticed at first but eventually soaking you to the skin, Wise Traveller aims to expose readers to biblical truth in ways that allow the Word of God to speak for itself without trying to control it or channel it by imposing solutions and direction that readers may not be ready for. And yet we are well aware that what we have to offer to those seeking deeper meaning in life is as life enhancing as you can get.
For more on Steve Hollinghurst and the research work of Church Army check out www.sheffieldcentre.org.uk
Experience Wise Traveller at www.wisetraveller.org.uk
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