14 June 2015

A visit to St. Gregory's Abbey

This past week I visited St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan. The following gives an idea of what that looked like this time:

Over the two days I was there, I spent at least three hours in the woods. I saw 3 deer, 1 raccoon, 1 large rabbit and 4 wild turkeys, plus numerous birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and 3 cats :)

I slept at least 6 hours every night and took an extra nap each day. I would have slept longer each night, except that first service starts at 4 a.m. The first service has about 15 Psalms, so I really like that one. And I go back to bed (and sleep) after it until the next service at 6. I spend almost 3 hours in church each day when I'm at the monastery. It's not that I have to. It's more that being in church is my way of remembering and re-learning how things can and should be. The many prayers that have been offered in this place, and the beautiful woods, help me further to be still and turn towards God to listen and ponder.

Besides walking and church, I tend to read and write when I'm there. This time it was Rachel Held Evans' Searching for Sunday, which I appreciated (it's actually the next book the monks will be reading at meal time). I also looked through Ruth Tucker's Walking Away from Faith, read 2 articles for my dissertation, and read the books of Judges, Ruth, and most of Acts. I wrote some emails, blog posts, and even a bit on the dissertation.

It was a wonderful break. A bit more energy spent on my dissertation might have been nice, but it felt good to catch up on other things, as it gives space in my head to work on the dissertation. The only thing lacking was Matthijs's company, but that's now resolved as he's back from the class he was taking. I feel refreshed and hopefully ready for the next adventure(s) and challenge(s).


Anthony said...

Is the walking away from faith a helpful book to read for those who struggle with doubts? Your assessment

Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink said...

I found Walking away from a faith an interesting read in terms of wondering how it is possible that people walk away from faith. I don't think, though, that it's the best fit for people struggling with doubts.

A book that I've appreciated lately (and am studying with our graduate students) is called Faith Shift, by Kathy Escobar. It helps those who are struggling with questions and no longer feeling at home with how they used to think about and do Christianity. Her website gives some helpful thoughts: http://kathyescobar.com/faith-shifts/. I'm a little uncomfortable with how she makes so much space for people to move forward in their questions, even to some degree giving her blessing to people who walk away from faith as it might be more honest. At the same time, as a Reformed Christian, I also want to make space for people to question honestly and search for God, knowing that I can trust that God will protect them and hold on to his saints. The book is also helpful for how to be there for (and not condemn) those who are struggling with faith.

Perhaps a somewhat more evangelical book would be Christina M H Powell's book, Questioning your doubts (http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3678), which the InterVarsity Graduate book is looking at this summer.

As a side point, I'm not sure how helpful either of these books would be outside the American/Western context.