In last week’s episode we reflected on The Alpha Course and the kinds of tensions and sub-cultures that can emerge between those running Alpha and the host church. This is a tension between the regular experience of Church and the kinds of experience expected on The Alpha Course.

In this week’s episode I get to speak to Lehlohonolo Lepele and explore how they’ve evolved The Alpha Course to avoid such sub-cultures and tensions in their church. It's a clear example of how one can solve it without sufficiently addressing the question of intimacy with God. Yet it’s also a window into how others are thinking about integrating the course in the broad tapestry of African spirituality and the South African context.

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When considering the language of values, priorities, and practices we can see the disconnect between our values and our practices. Many value relating to God and yet this is often not what's practiced. In this episode we reflect on the practice of the presence of God in the context of churches hosting the The Alpha Course. Here sub-cultures emerge around the experience of God and the place thereof in church and spirituality.

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In seeking to establish a Relational Spirituality on the foundation of our value for intimacy with God several things come into focus. Here there’s an interplay between the Personhood of God of a God understood as transcendent, understood as universal cosmic presence, and understood to draw near in Person.

In this episode we dive into the false binary between God being confined as a religious offering and God as a universal and cosmic presence we're never separate from. We propose that this is a false binary as neither pole has reciprocity or intimacy in view.

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In seeking to establish a Relational Spirituality on the foundation of our value for intimacy with God the question of whether our experience is constructed is important. Here there's a difference between on one hand relating to a religious service or activity and pressure dynamics and on the other relating to God as a Person who draws near to speak and act.

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In seeking to establish a Relational Spirituality on the foundation of our value for intimacy with God several things come into focus. Here there’s an interplay between the Personhood of God of a God understood as transcendent, understood as universal cosmic presence, and understood to draw near in Person. 

In this conversation we pick up on a quote from Sarah Bessey on FB. Are we really caught between charismatic/pentecostal experience in meetings and a universal presence of God found in the appreciation of life? I think personhood differs to universal presence and, without setting these against each other, let’s recognise that a personal relationship is a reciprocal dynamic between two persons. It is not between a person and an abstracted or conceptual presence. 

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In this episode we continue speaking about our value for ‘intimacy with God’. I put forward that there is profound difference between the ‘faith as intimacy paradigm’ and the ‘intimacy through relational engagement paradigm’.

The ‘faith as intimacy paradigm’ has a low value for intimacy with God as there’s no intent to cultivate relational engagement. It wraps the bow of peak experience around meaningful engagement with God and then defines such as for the needy and immature. The ‘faith as intimacy paradigm’ sounds awfully like taking a relational partner for granted while not valuing their presence or seeking their attention. The result is that the ‘faith as intimacy paradigm’ is a very tough environment to make headway toward intimacy with God within.

We’re exploring the possibility and potential of a genuine relationship with God. Is there a bar or a standard for this? Or are we to expect relational engagement to be few and far between if possible at all? These are important questions for anyone seeking a Relational Spirituality.

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In this week’s episode we take a break from our current exploration of foundational values for relational spirituality, to feature a guest, Jackie Barker. In many ways this episode reflects the kinds of conversations we have with our listeners.

Jackie is a Presbyterian minister in Johannesburg, South Africa, and runs a foster home, Omphile House, where they give a small group of children their ‘forever home’. Please support this initiative (link below) - as this family is doing amazing work and it is a cause close to both my and Tim's heart.

In this episode we spend much time teasing out the experience of “abandonment”.

How are we understanding abandonment?

Is there room for growth in relationship when we experience a stepping away?

But what if there’s been no experience of God's presence? How do we then understand that...?

Omphile House

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In this episode we dive into another of our key values: intimacy with God.

Though we can draw on a number of analogies from our human-to-human relationships these often support the idea that God is practically distant and that engagement with God constitutes a peak or mountaintop experience. This is, however, untrue as the image of intimacy is presented by God to us as the true depths of what a relationship with God can be like and what we can attain in this life. Are we perhaps selling ourselves short and substituting faith and limerance for genuine relationship? And, if so, what beginnings do we make at exploring and establishing intimacy with God as our highest and deepst value?

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When editing this episode I noted that we spoke a lot about "deep listening" which mirrors the mystics saying a tremendous amount about "silence". This sparked a conversation and Steve suggested we speak of this value as "active silence". This works really well and helps us distinguish our value for "active silence" from the priority and practice of "reflective listening" in our one-on-one sessions and "deep listening" in group sessions.

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"I want to be right there at the coal face of meaning because I think that’s the truest true: to be there in the meaning at the depths of the relationship."

– Steve Carter

In this episode we dive into one of our key values: storytelling.

Storytelling is vital to Relational Spirituality as its vital to relational depth. We all live in relation to stories, and yet we can live more in relation to stories than to the people those stories are about. And, we also often live more in relation to our own story and so can bound to it and lost within our own self.

The art of storytelling lies in self-discovery and then the sharing of this discovery with others. Through storytelling we can arrive at the true depth of living and loving and enter deeply into  our relationships.

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