In this session Robyn Wrigley-Carr interviews Prof John Swinton about the themes of the book in Part One; God perpetually initiating, adoration and the need to slow down.
Professor John Swinton is a Scottish theologian. He is the Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen. John is founder of the university’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability.
Start the session relaxing as a group. You could share a meal, go for a walk, or even just have a chat over a cup of tea. Whatever you do, make sure everyone feels at comfortable and at home. When it’s time to start moving towards the session’s content, shift the conversation towards prayer and ask everyone what their experience of prayer is.
You can structure this how you think best. If the group knows each other well already, a free-flowing conversation will be fine. If the group is less well established, it may be best to go round in a circle giving each person a brief opportunity to share their experience about the topic. Don’t let too much discussion develop at this point (if any). What’s important is that every begins to get comfortable talking and sharing and that you as leader get a gauge on where everyone is at.
Any mature person, looking back on their own life, will be forced
to recognise factors that can’t be attributed to personal initiative
or mere chance. It’s as if a hidden, directive power – personal, living,
free – were working through circumstances and often against our
intention or desire; pressing us in a certain direction, and moulding
us beneath the surface of life, which generally contents us. There
are unsuspected deeps and great spiritual forces which condition
and control our small lives. Some people become sensitive to the
pressure of these forces. The rest of us easily ignore the evidence for
this whole realm of experience, because it’s so hidden and interior;
and we’re so busy responding to obvious, outward things. When we
take it seriously, it surely suggests that we’re essentially spiritual as
well as natural creatures; and that therefore life in its fullness must
involve correspondence not only with our visible, ever-changing
environment, but also with our invisible, unchanging one: the Spirit
of all spirits, God, in whom we live and move and have our being.
The significance, the greatness of humanity, consists in our ability
to do this. When we lift our eyes from the crowded bypass to the
eternal hills, then, how much the personal and practical things we
have to deal with are enriched. What meaning and coherence comes
into our scattered lives.
God initiates and goes before us setting things up in our lives. A ‘hidden, directive power’ presses us in a certain direction and moulds us. We don’t always see this in the present but rather in looking back on situations. God allows us to experience life, in a certain unique, mysterious way that then shapes our future as we follow Him and His ways.
With the perpetual nature of God and how He loves us we have an expectation that God will meet us. Sometimes though, we can lose this expectancy due to the circumstances of life. In these times we can look to the Psalms, particularly the Psalms of Lament and we notice that even when times are hard for David, he takes it to God. we can wade thorough the struggles of life, hopefully; that is with hope in our hearts. As a church community if we spoke about these struggles more, perhaps, it would make it easier to wade hopefully and encourage our faith.
Evelyn Underhill’s repeated emphasis on adoration as our essential response to God makes us question fully our response to God. To start with we need to know who God is and who we are before God. to fully immerse our self in adoration requires that we slow down so we can be more sensitive to God. One way of achieving this is by meditation, however brief. This allows us a break from the rushing and busyness so that we might gain a higher perspective.