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Why religious orders have declined

11 April 2014


From the Revd John Brown
Sir, - The decline of religious communities lamented by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his recent address to some of their representatives at Lambeth Palace (News, 4 April) is symptomatic of a wider malaise: the widespread neglect of contemplative prayer throughout the Church.

Archbishop Welby referred to them as being treated by the mainline of the Church like trainspotters on the platform "doing something esoteric and different" compared with commuters busily going to and fro.

On the contrary, our congregations need to be taught that contemplation, the quiet waiting upon God in silence with "the mind in the heart", is accessible to every man, woman, and child in his or her workaday world.

In his Holland Lectures published in 1964, Michael Ramsey spoke of seeing "some significant signs of a new discovery of contemplative prayer, the prayer of quiet waiting upon God is the setting of everyday life", with a growing interest in mysticism. Sadly, we are still waiting for the mainstream of the Church to become aware that "the pearl of great price" of silent prayer is available to every seeker after a more direct apprehension of the living God in his or her personal experience, without which the renewal of the Church will never be achieved.

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