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Practicing Celtic Spirituality by Connie McNeill

My community group includes a home cooked Irish or Scottish meal. We have a wonderful fellowship through the meal then we clear off the dishes, eat our dessert and have our discussion about that month’s chapter. The subject of Celtic Spirituality has been new to some and enriching to all. For those who are curious, here’s some information about Celtic Spirituality.  

Who were the Celts? In the centuries BC, the northern neighbors of ancient Greece and Rome were known by the description KELTOI meaning strangers or hidden ones. The word CEILT which translates ‘an act of concealing’ is that from which the word Kilt, the short male skirt of traditional Celtic dress comes.

A southern flank of these peoples had come South of the Black Sea and had settled in that part of modern Turkey known as Galatia in biblical times. The Celtic peoples and languages were also to be found in much of Europe including Brittany, Gaul, and the British Isles. Then, following the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons the Celtic people were largely pushed to the western extremes settling in Cornwall, Wales, Isle of Man, Cumbria, SW Scotland and the whole of Ireland. So from the earliest times, almost all of Britain and Ireland was, culturally at least, Celtic. So that the word Celtic covers a whole culture which included pagan and pre-Christian elements as well as the so-called Celtic church.

They were rural, tribal, always on the move people, ‘pagani’ and as such, they were different to the Roman church which identified with the dominant power of the cities. The Roman church was unsure how to respond to these people as they were relational rather than rational, inspirational rather than institutional. Ireland (unlike Britain and Gaul) was untouched by the Roman Empire, thus it was from Ireland that Celtic spirituality had its roots and passion and expansion. Patrick went to Ireland in 432 to bring Christianity to a people so savage that he went without Rome’s permission, who had believed they were beyond God’s grace and salvation.

What are the characteristics of Celtic Spirituality? The Northumbria Community suggests several:

  1. Community. Francis of Assisi is famously quoted as saying that we should preach the gospel and if necessary, use words. A characteristic of Celtic Spirituality is a community which has a central emphasis on ascesis, to live, which is relational and personal instead of our very Western emphasis on gnosis, to know, resulting in a rational, propositional presentation of the gospel facts. It is rather a come and see (John 1.43) and be home with Jesus. Who do we seek and how shall we live. It was observed that Roman Clergy said ‘Do as I say and expected to be obeyed, the Celtic clergy said ‘Do as I do’ and hoped to be followed. Or as another in the Celtic tradition taught, ‘Teaching what we live by living what we teach.’
  2. Sacramental Principle. This is a celebration of ordinariness and earthed humanity. They believed that nothing was secular because everything was sacred. Nothing is outside of God’s love and grace. ‘The Celtic approach to God opens up a world in which nothing is too common to be exalted and nothing is so exalted that it cannot be made common.’ Celtic Spirituality is where an integrated life, of body and soul, work and worship, wonder and ordinariness, prayer and life are the norm. A sacramental outlook that because it sees God in everything, encourages a reverence for God’s creation and a respect for the care of God’s world. An everyday spirituality of ordinariness accessible to all. Never anti-intellectual, it is an earthed spirituality that meets people where they are. People do not have to climb ecclesiastical walls or learn ‘holy God speak’ to encounter ‘a thin place.’
  3. MissionLiving on mission means connecting with people, having a community on the road, building relationships, exploring spirituality; living in the story and living out the story. It is consciously putting personhood before productivity; it is acknowledging that ‘I’m a human being not a human doing.’ Frederick Buechner wrote ‘Faith is a journey without maps’ and part of our availability to God and to others is a willingness to walk in the paradox of life’s uncertainties; to be content with living the questions without having to know all the answers. Moving into the unknown as well as the known, wandering for the love of Christ (wondering for the love of Christ too) aware that our God is a God of surprises. Our life may involve pilgrimage and peregrinati, the place of our own resurrection.
  4. Hospitality. Welcoming God into their hearts each day but also welcoming others because that person could be Christ. It is an all-embracing welcome of people as people, not seeing labels or sex or religion or race or anything else that could be used as an obstacle to extending hospitality.
  5. Creation Affirming. Columbanus, ‘If you wish to understand the Creator, first understand His creation.’ Not pantheism, which is a worshipping of the stones but an affirmation of the wonder of the One who made the stones. Not New Age extremes that substituted Mother Earth for Creator God but love for, respect for, the physical environment. Celts had a strong sense of place and knew the importance of the land, of roots and identity. They spoke of thin places, holy ground. Many of the problem spots in our world are all about land, roots, identity, holy places.
  6. Spiritual Warfare. They understood spiritual warfare as an everyday reality – the Sign of Cross was Trinity affirming and Cross exalting. A saving sign of protection to keep away evil, not superstition but a statement of fact. 
  7. Trinitarian Belief. It is a living awareness that God the Father is FOR us, God the Son is WITH us, and God the Holy Spirit is IN us. ‘Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world’ wrote the Apostle, John. The emphasis on the Trinity cannot be understated. It’s always good to remind ourselves as Christians, that Community began in the heart of God.  And that all Community flows from this. God is Trinity, that is, Persons in relationship and the profound truth is that we are made in God’s image and likeness. Our Christian faith and traditions tell us that it is God’s purpose in and through Christ to work towards fully restoring that image and likeness in every expression of His Church.
  8. Love of Learning. Learning that includes a deep love of the Scriptures as God’s memory book of relationships and encounters to listening & learning from the Scriptures, with both the prayerful reading of Lectio divina and studied research of the Bible encouraged. They had a great love of learning but it was a yearning for wisdom not necessarily knowledge. And the wisdom to be pursued? They wanted to learn how to live in Christ, how to follow Jesus as Lord as a way of life. They also embraced the arts as windows into Heaven- music, story, calligraphy, jewelry, poetic imagination, creative artistry (Book of Kells etc), dreams, imagery, symbols, storytelling-to pass on what they had learned about life in God.
  9. Time: Kairos. Time is a sacred dimension and has to be used wisely and well. They understood that when God created time, plenty of it was created. We all have all the time we need to do anything we want to do – the problem is not ‘I don’t have the time' but the problem is in what we truly value which of course can be seen in our prioritizing. Events do not mark time. Only eternal God does and God’s name is I AM.

Mike Yaconelli put it well in stating that ”Spirituality is not a formula, it is not a test, it is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency, it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection, it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality, not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the One who is present in the tangled-ness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed, it is about God being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

In my community group, we are always aware that the relationship we want to have with God and each other is in a long tradition of others who sought those relationships before us. Maybe you too will be interested in exploring Celtic Spirituality in the future?


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Posted by Connie McNeill at Friday, January 18, 2019
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2BC Missions Here, There and Everywhere! by Karen Rogers

Second Baptist has a remarkable history of engagement in missions in Liberty, across the nation, and around the world. The MISSIONS: SEND INITIATIVE is the way the Missions Committee organizes and manages the continuing effort to keep our congregation engaged in missions her locally, in our nation, and around the world. The SEND INITIATIVE has these purposes:

  • Sending people to people, not people to places
  • Experiencing missions as a pilgrim, not a tourist
  • Valuing people, valuing their story
  • Making space for God's transforming presence.
  • Transformation for yourself, those you meet, and the Second Baptist faith community.

Here’s a peek at a few of the SEND INITIATIVE projects which have already been scheduled for 2019. Each project will require a team of volunteers who will participate through prayer, donations and, sometimes, travel. Our desire is for each and every member of 2BC to sense a connection with one or more projects. If you’d like to be a part of any of these, or if you’d like to discuss others, contact Interim Missions Coordinator Karen Rogers or the contact persons listed below.

Learn more about 2BC's Mission Philosophy here.

To Learn more about the SEND INITIATIVE check out this page.

at Thursday, January 17, 2019
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When Tailwinds Prevail by Neita Geilker

When I was Dr. Harvey Thomas’s senior assistant in the Psychology Department at William Jewell College, he drew me aside one day to talk to me about my past. He knew that my background as a child of divorce, with an absent father and a mother who had died when I was ten, placed me in an at-risk category. He wanted to assure me that I was successful enough to rise above that risk. And thus he gave me increased confidence to do just that. 

Recently I have encountered the terminology of headwinds and tailwinds employed to address our experiences and attitudes in life. Technically, says Wikipedia, “A tailwind is a wind that blows in the direction of travel of an object, while a headwind blows against the direction of travel. A tailwind increases the object's speed and reduces the time required to reach its destination, while a headwind has the opposite effect.” 

I have always found that labeling a thing makes it more understandable and manageable. Dr. Thomas was telling me, without employing that language, that my tailwinds could propel me forward with greater energy than my headwinds could hold me back.

In considering my life, I have realized that, in addition to headwinds that were blowing on me because of my past—headwinds that embarrassed and shamed me—there were, and continue to be, headwinds that I create for myself. When I spend time focusing on things beyond my control, I have less time and energy to actually deal with things I can control. When I misinterpret other people’s behavior, when I obsessively ruminate about an issue, when I try to rewrite the past, I am creating headwinds that can have a negative effect on my life. And research suggests that we risk focusing on the headwinds to the detriment of embracing the tailwinds.

But, I am so grateful for the tailwinds that I have experienced. Teachers have offered me encouragement to rise above poverty and have guided me, encouraging me that I could be my best. I remember Miss Guffin, my very demanding home economics teacher, who made sure the sewing class actually produced professional-looking apparel: skirts, dresses, suits, and coats, providing me a wardrobe through college and beyond.

Calvary Baptist Church in Kansas City where I grew up offered me an enriching experience through Sunday School, Training Union, Bible School, and YWA, where my winning the Sword Drill competition (“Attention!” “Draw Swords!” “Charge!”) awarded me an eye-opening trip to Ridgecrest, never mind that it was on a hot and bumpy school bus. 

Dr. H.I. Hester rescued me when he located/created funding to support my continuing at William Jewell, and Dr. Thomas wrote me a fine recommendation that admitted me to a fine graduate school. The tailwinds have continued: a wonderful and supportive husband, two amazing children, a richly loving congregation at Second Baptist Church, a stimulating college—where I both attended and taught.  And so many more.

Yes, the headwinds continue, including multiple surgeries, insecurities, regrets, and mistakes. But with a growing faith supported by the leadership from Second Baptist, the blessing of relationships in small groups, and an opportunity to serve in a variety of ways, the headwinds are diminished and the tailwinds prevail. I am blessed.

at Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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