Silence, stillness, movement, sound . . . Solitary and corporate contemplative Christian practices like meditation, labyrinth walking, chant, and lectio divinahave become increasingly popular among North Americans since Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, began publishing decades ago. What is the allure? Living in an information age of innumerable cultural, economic, and sociopolitical spheres, many people now find exclusive, doctrinally narrow systems of belief untenable. Even so, people continue to long for the divine. In many guises, contemplative Christianity’s ritualized ways of life intentionally foster ambiguity alongside intellectual knowledge and social activism. Paradoxically merging knowing and unknowing, doing and not-doing, the contemplative stream leaves room for wonder and possibility – for “the subjunctive” – in an ever-expanding world in which so much is unsure. Based on years of ethnographic research among monastic and non-monastic practitioners of Centering Prayer meditation, cultural anthropologist Paula Pryce’s work shows how a growing number of North Americans have turned toward the intentional, transformative cultivation of ambiguity to discern and craft a hospitable, justice-oriented openness in a chaotic globalized world.
Join us on Friday, May 11, at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Nelson to hear Paula Pryce–former West Kootenay resident, cultural anthropologist and student of Cynthia Bourgeault– detail her research within the contemplative community. Paula is currently a post-doc fellow and lecturer at UBC, and author of The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity as well as a study of the Sinixt community entitled Keeping the Lakes’ Way: Reburial and the Re-creation of a Moral World among an Invisible People. Before becoming a cultural anthropologist, Pryce worked as a playwright and theater designer.