Archive for August, 2010


Monday, August 30th, 2010

I’ll be doing a talk in Hamburg on the sources of health in October, and this, plus all the activity around the ECSTR, has put me onto to Salutogenesis. What a word! – It’s one of those delightful hybrids, a mixture of Latin and Greek. In Anglo-Saxon it would be something like healthsprings. Anyway it’s about how to concentrate not on the sources of disease (pathogenesis) but health. Of course my theologian’s ears prick up at the use of the salus word – the same as salvation. And lo and behold, it turns out that nurturing the springs of health is about far more than diet etc. The inventor of the term is Aaron Antonovsky, who became fascinated by the fact that whilst some Shoah-survivors were clearly traumatised by their experiences and suffered from bad health, others were not. What were the factors that determined this? Wikipedia takes up the tale:

In his theory, whether a stress factor will be either pathogenic, neutral or salutary, depends on what he called generalized resistance resources or “GRRs.

Most important of the GRRs is the sense of coherence.

The “sense of coherence” is a theoretical formulation that provides a central explanation for the role of stress in human functioning. “Beyond the specific stress factors that one might encounter in life, and beyond your perception and response to those events, what determines whether stress will cause you harm is whether or not the stress violates your sense of coherence.” [3]

And the sense of coherence – this is where it gets religious – is

a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that (1) the stimuli deriving from one’s internal and external environments in the course of living are structured, predictable and explicable; (2) the resources are available to one to meet the demands posed by these stimuli; and (3) these demands are challenges, worthy of investment and engagement.

Three things make up the sense of coherence:

  • Comprehensibility: a belief that things happen in an orderly and predictable fashion and a sense that you can understand events in your life and reasonably predict what will happen in the future.
  • Manageability: a belief that you have the skills or ability, the support, the help, or the resources necessary to take care of things, and that things are manageable and within your control.
  • Meaningfulness: a belief that things in life are interesting and a source of satisfaction, that things are really worth it and that there is good reason or purpose to care about what happens.

According to Antonovsky, the third element is the most important. If a person believes there is no reason to persist and survive and confront challenges, if they have no sense of meaning, then they will have no motivation to comprehend and manage events.

This is fascinating! If we can experience that the world is ultimately meaningful, and that our life-crises when handled properly will lead to deepening and strengthening, we will stay healthier. We’re in the world of Easter, where Christ the healer is revealed to be the meaning of the Earth.

Maybe we feel we knew all this already. But isn’t it lovely to discover that other people with quite different starting-points are arriving at something similar?

Of course it means that there is such a thing as a toxic – or at least unhealthy – worldview. I’m reminded of Steiner’s statement, which he would surely have phrased differently today, that not to know the Father-God is an illness.

Inbox zero

Monday, August 30th, 2010

This with some refinements is how I deal with email. I’m putting this here because people sometimes ask me.

Ways of seeing God

Monday, August 30th, 2010

If the theology of substance saw the Father-God, now Process-theology sees the Son-God. What kind of looking does the Spirit-God need? Self-reflexive, because he is the looking itself. Is the Trinity like quantum mechanics – you see the God you’re looking for. That would explain why merely saying the name Jesus a lot doesn’t make us ‘Christian’ – ie very static ideas about God are propagated in Jesus’ name.

Help for living

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Having spent the last week tidying out kitchen cupboards and creating order in the house, I was intrigued to find this at the very good Zen Habits blog:

Process – becoming and change in God

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Here’s an excerpt from Tenebrae by Celan that fits incredibly well with the theme of my next article, on images of Atonement in the Advent to Epiphany period. I realise that I’ll only be able to cover a small part of the ground in each article – the rest will have to wait for the book!

We are near, Lord,
near and at hand.

Handled already, Lord,
clawed and clawing as though
the body of each of us were
your body, Lord.

Pray, Lord,
pray to us,
we are near.

Deborah’s new web presence

Friday, August 27th, 2010

We’re redeveloping Deborah’s web presence. For the moment it’s at The idea is that she’ll be maintaining the blog, with pages where her latest pictures will be displayed along with comments, and a page with links to all her essays and articles.

If you’re wondering why this site now has a new design, that’s why – Deborah liked the old one from my site, so I changed to differentiate between them.

Leadership and the Trinity

Friday, August 27th, 2010

In Free from Dogma I talk about the Trinity as an image for leadership. Pure monotheism justifies an image of hierarchical power: ultimate power resides in a single, isolated authority which is quite other. If the ground of existence is relational and communal, structures of leadership should model this.

This is not the same as saying that there should be no differentiation, or that we should have structures where no-one is ever confronted with their own relationship to their own and others’ roles, which can be painful. The three divine persons of the Trinity are involved in very different activities, so different that it’s sometimes hard to think of them as one God. What unites them? Classically theologians talked about the one divine substance. They share a common nature. Perhaps more enlightening is the image of the perichoresis, the perfect dance of the Three. We can perhaps imagine a dance so perfect that from a distance the distinctions between the people dancing are blurred, and yet when we look closely we see there are indeed three, perfectly attuned to each other. What unites them is the common purpose of the dance; what keeps them in their perfect movement is that each watches the others, and attunes what he does to their place in the dance.

This brings us closer to the mystery of leadership in the spirit of the Trinity. No role is supreme; there is a strong differentiation, but the purpose is clearly articulated and everyone is accountable to each other. When this is in place, we can start to dance!

One organisation that worked with these principles described a fascinating problem: once they really committed to working in this way, their work became so effective that meetings could be very short. They realised that the drama of sorting out misunderstandings had been important to them as it gave them a reason to meet. Now that they didn’t have the drama any more, they were free to decide how they wanted to nourish their relationships even when the work was going well.


Thursday, August 26th, 2010

What kind of community is The Christian Community? People associate all sorts of wishes and dreams with something that calls itself community. Depending on how far these wishes are connected to the reality, this reality may be a disappointment. Doubtless this is sometimes because of our limitations. But we must be careful not to fall into degenerate love, where we want to promise to make everyone happy. I remember how shocked I was when I went to study in Stuttgart, having met The Christian Community in a Camphill community. How could this huge group of seeming strangers call themselves a community? Yet with time I saw that they were fulfilling the task of our community very well. The church was impressive, there was a full programme and a whole college of priests was supported. I had unconsciously imported my idea of community into this different context, and at first I couldn’t distinguish between my wish and reality.
The central task of our community is wonderfully clear – to create spaces where the Act of Consecration and the other sacraments can be celebrated.
The pain that is sometimes expressed – ‘you’re not the community that I was hoping for’ can be the spur to formulate our task positively. After all, there are many places where people can experience a closeness of soul, or the community that comes from sharing in an activity. The Christian Community is the only community that has the task of celebrating the Act of Consecration of Man. This is a vital part of the great work of gathering the splintered shards of creation into the work of art which is the new creation.

All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe — people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
Colossians 1:18, The Message

The mystery of the Act of Consecration is that we can share in this great work even if we don’t know – or don’t like! – the person sitting next to us. The experiences, hopes, thoughts and feelings that we bring to the altar join with theirs in the cup, and become part of what is transformed and shared in the communion. This utterly objective communal deed is part of the foundation on which the Act of Consecration stands. There is something inspiring about the fact that it doesn’t rest on liking, or sharing a common world-view, or occupation. The spirit of utter freedom that obtains here is also an invitation to us to exercise our freedom wherever it seems important to us – including taking an interest in our neighbour, and finding out more about his or her life, if we want to. It wouldn’t be appropriate to make a rule about this – the Act of Consecration is our work, and it creates a space of freedom, which we are free to take up.