Spirituality ‘for the long haul’

“YOU can’t give what you haven’t got.” That was the message from James Catford, former Chief Executive of Bible Society and Chair of Renovarè Britain and Ireland during a day on Spiritual Formation at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, in Oxfordshire.

James and Debbie Thrower were training the theological college leavers who were just about to begin their curacies around the country. They received advice on how to develop their own spirituality ‘for the long haul.’ The day-course took students through the six streams relevant to sustaining the spiritual life, arguing that each of us has a default position in one or other of the streams (or lives) depending on our background and temperament.

James Catford teaches at Cuddesdon

James Catford, Debbie Thrower and Bishop Humphrey

Some people sit most comfortably in what one might call the evangelical or Word-centred life, while others are drawn to the Sacramental (or incarnational) life, or would describe themselves as drawn most powerfully to the prayer life, or the virtuous life. Others would describe themselves as more charismatic, drawn to the Spirit-empowered life, and yet others to the compassionate (or social justice) life. It is argued that Jesus exemplified all these ‘streams’ or facets of what it is to be a fully-rounded, integrated, human being.

Debbie set such ‘soul-work’ in the context of increased longevity in the 21st century. A former television and radio presenter, Debbie is now team leader for The Gift of Years, a programme run by The Bible Reading Fellowship to support the spiritual needs of people in later life. She reminded the soon-to-be curates that their congregations were likely to be dominated by men and women over the age of 65, and helped them to understand better the issues for those in their so-called Third and Fourth Ages of life.

James and Debbie were invited by college principal the Rt Revd Humphrey Southern.

Renovarè provides tools for people to become more like Jesus.  Many are based on the work of writers Dallas Willard and Richard Foster.

One of those on the course wrote to say: “Thank you so much for the training day that you did with us at Cuddesdon on ‘Sustaining the Spiritual Life’. Personally, I found the subject matter fascinating, challenging and exciting.”