Sunday, May 23, 2010. 10:10 AM
Toward a 21st-Century Spirituality
Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III and the Rev. Dr. Alan Jones explore new directions in spiritual life and practice in the twenty-first century.
What is the most significant challenge that Christians face today? “Recovery of the sense of the sacred,” Jones summarizes, adding that Christians need to rediscover a sense of adoration as well as respect for one another and for creation.
“One of the paradoxes of Christianity is that its greatest insights have been so absorbed … at least by a vast majority of human beings, that we lose sight of the oddness and weirdness and strangeness of being alive and being aware,” Jones says. The most revolutionary notion of the first century is not the resurrection, Jones says, but the simple idea that every person matters. From a modern personal perspective, that notion is universal; the notion of someone not mattering strikes us as odd if not unthinkable.
Jones calls this fusion—adoration of God, and accepting our significance in the vast cosmos—“celebrating the obvious.”
Practicing one’s faith should be a “never-ending journey into depth,” Jones comments. However, he adds (citing scholar Stephen Prothero), “We say we’re religious, but we don’t know much about religion.” Many Americans cite the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” as a favorite verse in the Bible. It’s not there. They are quoting Benjamin Franklin. A deeper study of faith would clearly make us better Christians, and it would also help us face whatever life throws at us. Jones describes his own effort a few years ago to face a diagnosis of cancer.
Somewhat mischievously, Jones says that cathedrals are “useless … what is the cost/benefit of Evensong?” Instead of being functional as functionality is commonly understood, a cathedral stands for awesome mystery. Jones adds, however, that a cathedral can serve a practical function, as a crossroads for a great conversation, and a meeting place for the nation in a difficult time.
About The Very Rev. Alan Jones
The Very Rev. Alan Jones was dean of Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church in San Francisco from 1985 until his retirement in January 2009. Prior to joining Grace Cathedral, the Rev. Dr. Jones was Stephen F. Bayne Professor of Ascetical Theology and director and founder of the Center for Christian Spirituality at General Theological Seminary in New York City. A major Christian thinker and writer, Jones is the author of many books on spirituality, including Reimagining Christianity, Seasons of Grace, and Soul-Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality. He inaugurated Grace Cathedral’s Forum, an Internet broadcast talk program and model for Washington National Cathedral’s own Sunday Forum, in 1995.