Why this course?
A major question facing theological education is to ensure that faith make a difference to life. Yet exactly how we make a connection between our faith practices and the rest of our life is not always obvious. However, most would agree that personal devotions are an important part of the answer. It is as we find some space for God at the start and end of the day that we allow the day to be shaped by the values of faith. In short personal devotions are the engine of faithful living.
This issue is important for ordained and lay: for the ordained, we know that growing churches encourage personal devotions; and that a major problem with the mainline liberal churches is the inability to challenge and encourage such commitment. For the lay, it is important to discover some daily practice that enables one’s faith to make a difference and enjoy the space of this course to reflect on how and why the daily practice is making a difference.
- To enable the student to reflect on the different types of daily devotions and the ways in which the devotions underpin faithful living
At the end of the course, students will have:
- Reflected on the challenge of personal devotions for their own lives;
- Understood how different forms of personal devotions reflect a different history and theology;
- Appreciated the challenge of building a bridge between personal devotions and faithful living;
- Lived in these different traditions – in an empathetic way – and therefore appreciated the diversity of forms in the Church;
- And thought about the many factors that must be taken into account in the creation of daily devotions, including the appropriate use of Scripture.
Non-Christians are welcome to take this course. Although the focus of the course is on the daily devotional practice of Christians, there will be an opportunity for members of other faith traditions to reflect on their devotional practices and to seek to implement during the course alternate practices from within their tradition.
Three major approaches to personal devotions will be examined: the Daily Office, Evangelical Quiet Time, and Spiritual Meditation.
- The Daily Office. The practice of set prayers for different times during the day has its roots in Judaism. The Early Church encouraged the saying of morning and evening prayer. It was in its monastic form that it developed further complexity. The course looks at the history of the Daily Office and the various forms that enable busy lay people to participate.
- Evangelical Quiet Time. The course then turns to the 19th century phenomenon of the aided Bible reading. Starting with the Scripture Union in the UK introduced a system of daily bible reading notes in 1879, it has grown considerably. We examine the vast variety of different forms, including those available on the internet.
- Spiritual Meditation. In the final section of the course we look at the ‘spiritual meditation’ method. This includes the use of ‘inspirational music’ and a wider use of texts (e.g. Native American, Mystics, non-Christian religions). Again we examine the various internet providers, e.g. www.dailyom.com
Each week the class will be invited to discuss various issues arising from our exploration of these different forms of personal devotions. Including:
- Does the Daily office just become an habit? Do the Daily notes ignore the hard texts in Scripture? Is meditation just ‘new age’?
- How do you use Scripture in daily devotions? Relationship of ‘critical study’ to ‘devotional study’.
- Distinctive ethnic expectations surrounding daily devotions.
George Guiver, Company of Voices.
Mark Wallace, Finding God in the Singing River.
- Keep a journal. It is important to look at how the act of devotion shapes a day. In what ways it makes a difference.
- Participate over three weeks in each type of devotion.
- Construct a folder of ‘daily devotional’ material. This folder should include materials that the student finds helpful in faithful living.
- Concluding Reflection Paper.
Sample bibliography. The complete bibliography will be provided at the first class.
Douglas V. Steere, On beginning from within
W. R. Inge, Personal religion and the life of devotion
Roman Catholic and Episcopal
Terence L. Wilson (ed.) Daily office readings
John Main, Moment of Christ : the path of meditation
M. Basil Pennington, Daily we touch Him : practical religious experiences
Barry Ulanov, Prayers of St. Augustine
Mark Link, Challenge: A Daily Meditation Program Based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
Mark Link, Vision: Praying Scripture in a Contemporary Way
James M. O’Toole (ed.) Habits of Devotion: Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America.
Spirituality and Meditation
William Johnston, Christian Zen
Scott Crom, Quaker worship and techniques of meditation