August 10, 2012

Is Spiritual Tranquility Possible?

Is our fast paced, change driven culture compatible with congregational spiritual tranquility?

As Episcopalians we pray each week "Sanctify us also...that we may serve you in unity, constancy, and peace." - Holy Eucharist II

We pray for what it is we desire and what we most need.

How do congregations make urgent vitality and viability decisions at the most spiritually ripe time? Simply, congregations must experience spiritual tranquility and constancy.

In The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola describes one of the three spiritual states as tranquility. The other two spiritual states are consolation and desolation (see previous posts 2 and 3 in this 5 part series). The Episcopal Prayer Book's closest term for the Ignatian term tranquility is constancy. Constancy is simply a steadfast sense of purpose.

A congregation experiences constancy when it experiences the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit (patience, love, gentleness and more). Constancy is when the congregation's quality of its spiritual, liturgical, ministerial and communal life is sustained for an extended period of time. Constancy is the congregation's balanced state of equilibrium versus constant flux and change. In their constancy, tranquil congregations are spiritually, open and spiritually free to hear the still voice of the Holy Spirit. Congregations move towards congregational spiritual tranquility when their corporate spiritual center is as natural and as constant as their members' breaths. Congregations enter tranquility when they move out of their fitful and anxious extremes of congregational consolation (peaks) and desolation (valleys). It is out of this experience of constancy and trust that congregations are able to respond courageously and generously to their most difficult and urgent decisions.

Here are a few preliminary reflection questions to help you assess if your congregation is spiritually tranquil:

  • Does your congregation experience a steadfast sense of unity, constancy and peace? For how long has this been so? 
  • Do you experience constancy in your congregation's mission, worship, in the preached Word and in your shared ministries? 
  • Do visitors and newcomers reflect back to you a sense of constancy they feel each time they experience worship with your congregation?
[Post #4 of 5 - "Do You Recognize the Signs of Your Congregation's Spiritual Crisis?"]