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Center for Action and Contemplation

Alumni Newsletter — May 2018

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Note from the Editor

Dear Living School alumni,

Christ is evolving in us. Our Living School formation has taught us that, come what may, the love of Christ is constant. Paradoxically, this constancy of Christ is not fixed and static but ever-flowing and always changing. Life and faith do not fit into a box, cannot be pinned down, and throw us far more curveballs than for which we’ve practiced.

The invitation of faith, then, is to participate in and not resist Christ’s evolution. I know I’m tempted to resist Love’s emergence in me. We all have our blind spots and our cherished “programs for happiness” (Thomas Keating). As an Enneagram Type One, it’s amazing how frequently I’m attached to being “right,” often at the expense of love!

The theme of Christ evolving runs throughout this newsletter:

I interview CAC Board Chair, LaVera Crawley (’15), who shares about major steps the CAC is taking to evolve as an organization. In particular, she tells of a new and transformative “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” initiative underway.

Ilia Delio, a dear friend and guest teacher of the Living School, grounds the truth of Christ in cosmic evolution and invites us to a path-breaking conference hosted by her Omega Center: “Christianity as Planetary Faith.” Alumni and CAC staff Brie Stoner (’15) pens a personal invitation both to the cosmic vision of Christ and to the Omega Center’s conference.

Delores Montpetit (’15) tells how the town of Assisi has propelled her spiritual pilgrimage and called her to lead others on pilgrimage, too.

Living School Director, Tom Eberle, interviews physician Cleve McCintosh (’15) in South Africa about his work of solidarity and healing.

Molly Lannon Kenny (’19) describes how 20th-century African American mystic Howard Thurman’s book Jesus and the Disinherited has deepened her view of Jesus and her commitment to faith-based social justice.

As a film-lover, I’m delighted that Debonee Morgan (’15) has written the Newsletter’s first movie review in which she names the contemplative quest and framing of The Last Jedi.

A black and white photo of Mark Longhurst

And there’s more.

My goal is to curate an alumni newsletter that will richly resource your journey of evolving in Christ. As always, I heartily encourage you to pitch submission ideas to me via [email protected]. There are a lot of sneak peeks here, pointing to the full reflections on the CAC’s website. I invite you to read these contributions slowly, take a break, come back to them another day, share them with friends, and allow your inner being to participate in Christ’s love that yearns to expand in us, even as it is also expanding throughout the world.

Yours in evolution,

Mark Longhurst (’15)

Leadership Spotlight

Interview with LaVera Crawley

CAC Board Chair and Living School alumna, LaVera Crawley (’15), recently took some time to talk with Mark Longhurst (’15) about her life; vocation; work on the CAC Board; an important Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion process that the CAC is undertaking; and more. This interview kicks off an ongoing series with members of CAC’s leadership.

Mark: How did you decide to go more deeply into leadership with the Center for Action and Contemplation as Board chair?

LaVera: Several years ago, I really started an earnest shift in seeking my vocation. It was a very disciplined, well-thought out, emotionally active, heartfelt plan. One of the first things that I opened myself to was listening—not just hearing, the voice of the divine, but seeking it in everything.

After being “sent” through the Living School, I received a call from the CAC’s Board nomination committee. They wanted to find the talents, gifts, and charisms among people in the Living School to help serve the Board. By this time, I had learned to listen to the voice and callings of God. The invitation to serve on the Board felt very much like a calling, so I said “yes.”

Guest Faculty Reflection

Ilia Delio
“Christianity as Planetary Faith”

Let’s face it. Religion is not popular. It tastes like old coffee. It seems to confine or constrain the human spirit. Religion is something old people do. It does not breed adventure, novelty, exploration or future. It conjures up images of mortification, sin, guilt, judgment, repression—images that reflect a lonely Jesus dying on the cross.

The Omega Center conference on “Christianity as Planetary Faith” aims to debunk the myth of old religion. For one thing, old religion is a certain type of institutional religion, not necessarily related to the message of the Gospel. The Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was keenly aware of this problem. His deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his keen eye as a paleontologist led him to see the heart of God in the heart of matter. He devoted himself to bridging evolution and Christianity, to kindle the meaning of Christ and evolution and to construct a new religious myth of religion and evolution. His vision was, and is, revolutionary. . . .

In Teilhard’s view, our thinking about God is too small, too narrow, too rote. As Meister Eckhart exclaimed, “I pray God to rid me of God!” The mystics know from the depths of their inner lives that the name God points to the ineffable mystery of incomprehensible love at the heart of all reality. If we think we know God, we haven’t a clue of what we are talking about. Religion is a technology of spiritual energies that harnesses the endless depth of consciousness toward the absolute horizon of God. The whole point of religion, from a Christian perspective, is new life and future—to become new being, an ever newness in love. . . .

Read Ilia’s full reflection.

Alumni Spotlights

The Call of Assisi
Delores Montpetit (’15)

The peace of Assisi is unsurpassed, beauty speaks here like no other place on earth. —Peggy, Assisi pilgrim, 2017

When we gather with our pilgrimage groups in Assisi, inevitably the friars, guides, shop owners, and servers ask us, “How long are you here?” Their response is fabulous when we say 10 days. They repeat: “10 days, 10 days? No one stays 10 days. They usually come for an afternoon or at most one or two nights and say they have been here. They haven’t. You will truly experience St. Francis, St. Clare, and the blessing of Assisi in 10 days.” And we do!

A panoramic image of Assisi, Italy.

Interview with Tom Eberle (Living School Director) and Cleve McCintosh (’15)

A Confounding Experience of Heart
Denise Davis (’16)

At the same time I began the Living School in 2014, my husband and I moved to Manhattan for a three-year job assignment. In seeking community, I did as I had always done: joined a progressive church and then engaged, advocating and working for social justice. One problem arose.

While others around me rallied with enthusiasm, I flat-lined. Nothing aroused the passion I once experienced as a high school theology teacher of social justice.

Confounding the issue was my increasing desire to spend time in Central Park. I even began taking tours, all of which presented this fact: The annual budget of Central Park Conservancy was $65 million. My old warrior-self couldn’t help but protest: “So much money doing what? Making a park pretty?”

The Heart Covered by the Veiled Universe Longs for You
Matt Mumber (’15)

The heart covered by the veiled universe longs for you
full moon on a clouded night
windblown seed finally nestled in frozen earth
an infant’s midnight sigh

and yet
your attention lies elsewhere
in the fragility that sits within the center of all things
with limitless inclusion
you prefer
the security of known illusion

and still the gentle wind whispers
it does not have to be so heavy
the weight of what you think you are
release and abandon
your firmly rooted explanations
float freely
like a wispy white dandelion seed
for you are the seed
the open air
the fertile soil
sun, rain, leaf and flower

the infinite love in everything
waits eternally for your arrival

Matt Mumber (’15) is an oncologist and writer based in Rome, Georgia.

Letter and Invitation to “Christianity as Planetary Faith”
Brie Stoner (’15)

Dear alumni family,

Since I was “sent” from the Living School, my life resembles one of those indie movies with tragic and sometimes hilarious catastrophes that you just can’t seem tear yourself away from…But I also have to say: I have never felt more here, more tenderly compassionate for the way our love and suffering brings us together, or more alive.

I am strangely certain that we are all of us participating together in a symphony that is playing us more than the other way around.

Do you remember that feeling dawning deep within you, the recognition that our deepest intuition and experience of the cosmic Christ could be true?

Read Brie’s full invitation.

Book Review:
Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
Molly Lannon Kenny (’19)

It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed—this, despite the gospel. —Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman’s short book, Jesus and the Disinherited, is a seminal treatise on Jesus as a radical social change maker—positioned divinely on the margins to encourage and uplift the most marginalized and oppressed among us. . . .

Although first published in 1949 and clearly intended to speak both to and on behalf of an historically Black audience, it is filled with wisdom and insight that is every bit as relevant today as it was over half a century ago and every bit as practical for contemplatives and social justice activists of any race or religion. . . .

Read Molly’s full book review.

Movie Review:
The Last Jedi, or How Action & Contemplation Save the Day
Debonee Morgan (’15)

Many Star Wars fans were completely flabbergasted by the latest installment— The Last Jedi—in the film series. They were certain that “Luke would do that!” and “That’s not the way of the Jedi!” etc.

Yet from a contemplative or mystic perspective, I see this as Star Wars finally hitting its stride and delivering the spiritual epic it’s been progressing toward since Obi Wan’s first instruction to “Use the Force.” And like all good wisdom stories, it begins a long time ago. . . .

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