Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church


Editor’s note: In his doctoral dissertation, Pastor Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church is claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. To that end, Pat did an exhaustive review of contemporary thought in theology and mission and came up with his own, brilliant post-modern approach, which he calls “Inter-dwelling.”  This week Pat presents the project portion of his doctoral thesis, a retreat program called “Four Meditations in Nature.” The post is the last in the series based on the dissertation. Pastor Pat receives his Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary on May 25, 2013. Sing “Glory Hallelujah.” And give Pat a pat on the back.

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

I am often surprised to find how narrowly people experience Nature, interpret Nature, and how little Nature influences their overall perspectives and stages of consciousness. While some clearly have peak experiences in Nature, few have a developed spiritual practice involving Nature in ways that help provide deeper and fuller life-integration and expansion of consciousness and wholeness.

Some view Nature as a gymnasium within which to strengthen the body while skiing, hiking, kayaking. Nature as a place for recreation — golf, jeep rides, fly-fishing. Again, peak experiences sometimes occur – but within a narrow perspective.

Some enjoy and are inspired by the beauty of Nature while maintaining a third-person perspective in their relationship to it. Others integrate limited entities, locations, or environs into their sense of self, but never consider the broader ethics of social-ecological interdependence.

A more integrated spiritual practice that expands awareness of one’s experience in the inter-dwelling of Nature and Spirit can help illuminate the spiritual aspect of every experience of life in all its dimensions.

The ideas discussed in the dissertation that most inform this project are:

•  Both Nature and Spirit as essential starting points for theology and mission (George Tinker, Mark Wallace, Kirsteen Kim).

•  The inter-dwelling of Nature and Spirit, each having their home in one another with human experiencing occurring intersubjectively within that inter-dwelling (my theological model for an integration of Nature and Spirit).

•  The call for a natural, contextual theology and for an earth-focused, contextual model for mission (my proposal for refocusing Christian theology and missiology).

•  The locating of world views and perspectives to enable a widening of perspectives and an expansion of consciousness (Ken Wilber).

•  A focus on spirituality and spiritual practice as a desire for and experience of life-integration and expansion of consciousness as an authentic and multidimensional person, living interdependently within the inter-dwelling of Nature and Spirit in ways that effect increased wholeness in the individual and in the world (my perspective of practical spirituality).

• The possibilities of intercommunication and shared experience between entities in Nature (in very different ways affirmed by Bergmann, Griffin, and Wallace).

•  The subjective turn with its emphasis on experience (Charles Taylor, David Tacey, Wade Clark Roof, Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead).

•  Recognition of the dialogical and intersubjective nature of constructing truth in the late-modern era (Mark Wallace, Ken Wilber).

•  The urgent need in this age to affirm Nature and to find new ways of affirming our existence in and as Nature and the role that Christian thought and practice will play in addressing that need (George Tinker, Mark Wallace, Richard Louv).

•  The inadequacy and demise of metaphysics in post-modern thought and culture (Mark Wallace, Ken Wilber).

•  A vision of mission as promoting, resourcing, and celebrating holistic spiritualities of inter-dwelling within Nature and Spirit and providing accompanying community on the journey toward wholeness while upholding the integrity of the other, the plurality of perspectives and world views, and the rich spiritual tradition of the Christian movement (my model for mission at Christ Presbyterian Church).

These four meditations in Nature are designed to evoke an awareness of the inter-dwelling of Nature and Spirit and of our life experiences and perspectives within that inter-dwelling.

The exercise is in effect one meditation involving four multidimensional perspectives taken from the four quadrants of the Integral Operating System (It, Its, We, I) and applying states of consciousness to those quadrants.

I am trusting the evocative quality of Nature to pique awareness in all the quadrants of experience and through several states of consciousness. The meditations will not only provide experiences of their own, but also will be instructional in spiritual practice and development.

The meditations will take place over a two-day period.  Participants will arrive the afternoon before the first day and depart the afternoon of the second day. A camping environment and wilderness area are the preferred settings for the program.

The audience for the project includes teens, through adults with an interest in Nature and spirituality and who want to expand their experience of Nature and Spirit are perfect for the exercise.

The first iteration of Four Meditations in Nature was conducted in September 2012 at the High Camp Hut.  The next iteration will be June 2013.

Christ Church hopes to conduct the program about four times a year.

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