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Center for Action and Contemplation

Contemplative Christianity: A New Way of Seeing and Being

August 5th, 2023
Contemplative Christianity: A New Way of Seeing and Being

Danny Torrance is a Development Manager at CAC and joined the team in 2023. His focus is to help build a relational and values-aligned approach to fundraising and financial sustainability with CAC’s donors. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and enjoys a good cup of coffee, long runs along the river, and surfing when he’s visiting his home state of California.

I grew up in a Presbyterian church that gave me a sense of order and stability during my formative years. I went to church on Sundays, read my Bible, and believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. My understanding of faith was having the right beliefs about God so that I would go to heaven when I died. In the Christianity of my childhood, life was simple, and all the pieces fit together—until they didn’t.

I moved to Philadelphia in 2013 as a bright-eyed aspiring social worker and accepted a job at a disability-rights organization. In this role, I visited people in their homes who were undergoing deeply painful experiences like poverty, neglect, racism, food insecurity, addiction, and eviction. I also had the privilege of working alongside some of the most loving, resilient, empathetic, and joyful people I had ever met.

Richard Rohr says that great love and great suffering are the two universal paths of transformation. For the first time, I felt like I was part of a community of transformed people working together to repair the world. What perplexed me was that most of these loving people weren’t Christian, and many of the Christians I knew weren’t very loving. If God is love and Christians are called to care for the poor and the oppressed, why weren’t there more transformed people sitting in the pews?

Around this same time, I was introduced to mindfulness meditation in graduate school. I was interested in the psychological benefits of mindfulness, so I started a daily practice. It didn’t take long for me to experience an interior life that I hadn’t accessed before. I started to notice that this practice was somehow strengthening my spiritual life too. Mindfulness helped me to encounter God’s presence, but this felt disconnected from my understanding of Christianity until my mom gave me a copy of Fr. Richard’s book Just This.

Just This opened me to a whole new world of Christian contemplative traditions that transformed me and my understanding of God. Christianity became more than affirming correct doctrine for personal salvation. It became a dynamic, relational religion that inspired loving action and communal restoration. I realized how many parables are about clear seeing. I recognized that contemplation helps us enter into the ongoing trinitarian flow of love. This new way of seeing and being started to change everything for me. Religion became transformational instead of transactional.

I’m deeply grateful for the many ways this little book on the practices and prompts for contemplation impacted my life. Especially now that I have the joy of being on the CAC team in an official capacity, I’m inspired to share this wisdom with others who might be searching for a transformative Christianity that also transcends and includes the Christianity of their childhood.

This reflection appears in the Summer 2023 issue of the Mendicant, our quarterly donor newsletter.

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