communal contemplation

[a bit of a challenging read – but if you  take the time to work through this I think you’ll see something unique that is often missing in Western contemplative traditions]:

Communal contemplative practices in Africana contexts have been hidden from view by the exigencies of struggle, survival, and sustenance…

The spiritual practices become public theology through acts of shared liturgical discernment. These acts of shared contemplation move individual mystical events from the personal private toward the public and pragmatic. Accordingly the inward journey transcends the private imagination to become an expanded communal testimony.

I am contending that communal contemplation is richer than the immediacy of personal experience because the experience, the story, the event is subjected to the gaze of both the individual and the community. In Africana and other indigenous cultures, this unique orientation toward the sacred elements of life begins at a very young age. Children soon learn that when events surprise, frighten, or mystify them, they can face the unknown with a discerning community. It has only taken a few generations to lose sight of this integral aspect of Africana community life.

Such losses can result from inclusion/integration into dominant cultural paradigms. The price for full acceptance is often cultural and spiritual amnesia…

I am offering an understanding of contemplation that depends upon an intense mutuality, shared religious imagination, and the free flow of interpretation within the context of a vibrant and lived theology.

– Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church

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