Derek Olsen on the “core”

The noise is abating, though in some blogs, the same mantras are being chanted over and over again. I won’t go on myself as it is pointless. Perhaps human learning is like training horses, with an electric cattle goad and everything is in the voltage. The problem is who is doing the prodding and who is being prodded. It doesn’t seem very Christian to me.

Our American Episcopalian friend (don’t go on about his being married to a woman priest – I know) writes lovely spiritual pieces, and this one is no exception.

It’s time for us to do a lot more writing and a lot more talking about core spirituality. For me, “spirituality” means practices that nurture our relationship with God (and with one another through our connection to God) and cultivate a direct experience of God and God’s relationship to the created order. By “core” I mean practices that have a direct and intrinsic relationship to the Anglican expression of Christianity. It doesn’t mean they have to be uniquely Anglican, but it does mean that it should have a deep and abiding connection with what makes us distinctive.


I’ve heard—even from clergy who ought to know better—is about the historical development of the liturgy and how that had shaped what we have now. History is interesting (at least to me) but that’s not what people are hungry for! I believe that what the church needs to hear is how to access the spiritual riches of the Scriptures and the prayer book. In order for that to happen we need to start thinking about it and talking about it—and doing it, of course.

He outlines the problem of the liturgy in our contemporary context. People are so far from the symbolic and mystical world of the liturgy. In the history of the Church, there has been mystagogical catechesis, a special kind of teaching to explain the meaning of the liturgy, and not just its history or how the clerics “do their stuff”. Pope Benedict XVI has the constant expression new liturgical movement, not a movement of reinventing the liturgy but of helping people to relate to the liturgy.

There is a question of new wine and new bottles, or old wine in new bottles, since new wine in old bottles will make the bottles burst. I think Jesus would have done well to live in France!

I don’t want to steal Mr Olsen’s limelight, so you can comment on his blog or mine as you wish.

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1 Response to Derek Olsen on the “core”

  1. ed pacht says:

    Splendid! There’s a sentence in his full article that I think is key: “If the last fifty years of biblical scholarship have taught us only one thing it’s that the idea of a single objectively “correct” meaning of any given passage is a deeply flawed concept. Liturgy is no different in this respect.” I’m fond of asserting that the very moment I believe myself to understand anything thoroughly, that is the very moment I’ve missed the heart of the issue and have strayed dangerously wrong. Both Scripture and the Liturgy express the infinite heart of God, and neither can be tied down to a rigid and systematic explanation. Infinity is, by definition, far larger than our finite human minds.

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