17 September 2012

The Soft-Launch (Actually, Just the Move-In Day) of ‘Gravity :: a Center for Contemplative Activism’

Today we launch Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

Actually “launch” may be too strong of a word—at least today we move into a little start-up office on the north side of downtown Omaha that we will work out of for the next year as we imagine what the Center can become.

For many of you this may come as surprising news. Others know this has been a yearning and dream we’ve held since the spring of 2007 when we walked the Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. Regardless, since stepping out of our leadership roles in Word Made Flesh earlier this summer we’ve been working hard towards opening the Center.

We understand there are all sorts of questions people have about the Center and our continued participation with Word Made Flesh so we wanted to take a quick moment to address some of those:

What is the purpose of a Center for Contemplative Activism?

The Center will offer education, formation and support to nurture a contemplative imagination for accountable and effective social engagement.

The Center will resource people with active vocations to recalibrate their motivations for social engagement while cultivating a deep spirituality that helps avoid burnout through reflective soul care.

The Center will introduce contemplative spirituality in ways that demystify the common barriers to the contemplative tradition by making prayer practices accessible through contemporary application.

From the Center we will facilitate trainings and retreats on centering prayer and other contemplative practices; we will organize solidarity pilgrimages to places like Assisi and Spain as well as India and Thailand, Peru and Bolivia; and we will work from the Center to support our writing and speaking vocations around notions of Contemplative Activism.

What is “Contemplative Activism?”

This is a question we get a lot and over the next several months we will be developing a position paper that will better answer this question, so stay tuned…

In the meantime, we can at least suggest that Contemplative Activism reconciles our inner and outer lives through the disciplines of solitude, silence and stillness, helping bring adequate attention to our true selves so that we can offer the best of ourselves to the world.

Contemplative Activism supports those who are concerned about the needs of their neighbors by nurturing their inner life to authentically energize their active life.

How does the Center relate to Chris and Phileena’s vocation among people in poverty?

The essential core of our vocations has not changed. Our lives and message will continue to be given to a prophetic witness and engagement with our global neighbors in poverty.

The Center will enable us to do more speaking, teaching and publishing; offer more spiritual and practical support for workers at the grassroots; and consultation for other communities and organizations like Word Made Flesh.

Through the Center we will continue to fight on behalf of our friends and neighbors trapped in poverty.

How does the Center relate to Word Made Flesh?

We will continue to serve Word Made Flesh as Word Made Flesh community members.

Word Made Flesh has pledged to incubate and support the Center by covering rent for the first year. This will give us some time to work out all the intricacies of clarifying vision and values; defining the programs and services; and establishing a tactical plan to enable the Center’s long-term sustainability.

The Center will also support Word Made Flesh community members. They will be able
 to receive the various programs of the Center for their formation and sustainable work in urban poverty.

How can you support Chris and Phileena and the Center?

As you can imagine, this is an exciting and delicate time for us. In some ways we have transitioned from something secure and comfortable (our positions as International Co-Executive Directors of Word Made Flesh) for something new and unknown (founding the Center). With every new venture, there is risk.

We can’t go it alone.

We need partners who share in a vision for a better world to stand with us as we dare to create a new platform that will allow for focused formation of people eager to engage the social concerns of the 21st century. If you’re interested in joining us or supporting us please let us know and we’ll help you find opportunities to get involved.

In the meantime we simply ask that you celebrate with us.

Today is significant.

Though it’s technically more a “move in” day than a formal “launch,” we’re still excited for what all this can and will become.

Follow the Center on Twitter and stay tuned for many exciting developments as this all unfolds over the next few months.