Contemplative Fire – update Sep10

The vision and call of Contemplative Fire is revealed in the phrase 'Creating a Community of Christ at the Edge'. Founded as a networked community by Revd Philip Roderick in the Diocese of Oxford in 2004, Contemplative Fire is now seeing all sorts of new things emerge. Philip explains more.

We are a 'Community of Christ' because we believe that the risen Christ calls us to journey with him into an ever deepening awareness of what he called 'the Kingdom of God'. It is a call into a relationship of love with God, the whole of humanity and with the created order. Jesus' call requires us to 'travel light' in simplicity of lifestyle and to 'dwell deep' in the presence of God.

We talk of 'the edge' because we value and respect such a place as holding potential for transformation. Edges can be geographical but can also be theological, social, ecclesiastical, cultural, spiritual… To live at 'the edge' is to risk encounter with the unknown beyond the threshold, but is also to recognise that God often beckons us to move beyond self-imposed limitations.

In the past 18 months, we have seen the development of Contemplative Fire Canada. Led by the Revd Anne Crosthwait, it has established a strong base in the Diocese of Toronto and is also generating interest in neighbouring dioceses.

As a dispersed monastic community and a fresh expression of church in the sacramental tradition, Contemplative Fire follows a rhythm of life of 'Travelling Light – Dwelling Deep' that is rooted in prayer, study and action. Drawing from the broad Christian contemplative tradition, we seek to be fully present to the kingdom of God right here and right now. As our name implies we enjoy the mystery and paradoxes of life, of being both contemplative and on fire.

The community may meet in homes, churches, any attractive space or even out-of-doors. In Canada, members meet as a large group for Gatherings (worship services), Pilgrimages (awareness walks and retreat days) and Living the Mystery (study days). They also meet more frequently in small groups for times of deep listening to each other, to scripture, to contemplative texts and trustfully to God. Small groups vary from meditation to study, to food and fellowship times.

Contemplative Fire espouses a rhythm of life based on being, knowing and doing as grounded in the example of Jesus with:

  • silence;
  • stillness;
  • spaciousness;
  • simplicity.

In January this year, I moved to Sheffield as half-time Bishop's Adviser in Spirituality and Chaplain to Whirlow Grange Spirituality Centre, working with Bishop Steven Croft. I continue as Community Leader to Contemplative Fire.

A new Contemplative Fire local community is also growing well in Brighton and Hove, with Revd Phil Ritchie of All Saints Hove and John Watters as prime movers. They are working with Revd Tess Holland, one of Contemplative Fire's regional leaders.

Contemplative Fire was also at Greenbelt again this year to lead two sessions in new eco-spirituality venue, Abide. Also on site was the Contemplative Fire teepee to offer a 'being-before-doing' space. The music and movement on offer reflects the development of the music ministry.

Contemplative Fire

Candles, quiet drumming and chanting. Anointing with oil. The breaking of bread and the sharing of wine, food and sacred story. It could be any century, any country, any community of Christ's followers. But this is a Gathering of Contemplative Fire, a fresh expression of church.

We welcome the pre- and post-church generation and spiritual searchers of any path seeking to understand the way of Christ the contemplative.

This is an invitation to a radical transformation of consciousness on the Way of Jesus: the ancient and contemporary path of unknowing and knowing, of being loved and loving, of letting go and taking hold.

Whilst Contemplative Fire attracts those from different Christian (and non-faith) backgrounds, it is accountable to and in creative dialogue with the Church of England. Wherever Contemplative Fire establishes itself as a praying, liturgical community, the blessing and partnership of local and diocesan leaders is sought. Such a context allows for two-way prayer support and the opportunity, with the inherited Church, to share and wrestle with theological, missional and pastoral issues.

Contemplative Fire resources its individual members and its network of local groups through a combination of learning materials, experiential processes, creative worship and the training and equipping of its local and national leadership.

To learn more about the activities of Contemplative Fire in your area, or to explore membership, please visit our website.

Travelling light, dwelling deep with Contemplative Fire:

A personal rhythm:

  • reflective opportunities for opening to the presence of God;
  • a deep sharing with others;
  • a learning journey;
  • costly giving: an offering of our gifts and ourselves to the wider community.

In small groups:

  • threes – structured silence, deep listening and personal sharing;
  • sevens – table liturgy celebrating the festivals, with stillness and response flowing from texts from the bible and spiritual writers;
  • open circles – stories and pauses, with a chosen book as focus;
  • prayer at the heart – Ignatian group discernment;
  • still waters – quiet reflection and body prayers from the Christian tradition.

In larger groups:

  • living the mystery: the way of Christ the contemplative – series of single days of theological and experiential exploration;
  • gatherings in different places and spaces, for contemplative eucharist;
  • pilgrimage to now/here – walking in beauty, building awareness and community;
  • wisdom on the way: rhythm of life weekends and retreats – the dynamic of prayer, study and action;
  • land, sea, sky: journeying at the edge – seashore conversations;
  • member events celebrating our journey together as 'companions on the way': a community of Christ at the edge.