A Quiet Alchemy: Conversations on Encountering Silence

In 2005 — back when God was a boy —was the coordinator of a monthly Meetup Group devoted to Christian Mysticism, that met at the Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta. We were a small group, about 10-15 of us, and most of us frankly had silver or gray hair, even back then. So when at one meeting a carload of young people in their 20s showed up, we took notice. They were all from a house church that met out in the suburbs, but it was clear that they balanced a meaningful spirituality with a thoughtful and intelligent approach to life. After the meeting, I had a nice chat with the group’s apparent ringleader, an articulate young man named Mike Morrell. I learned that Mike was involved in a movement known, back then at least, as the Emerging Church. Soon Mike was introducing me to some of the most interesting voices in contemporary Christian literature, including Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, and Peter Rollins. Many years have gone by, but I know I can still turn to Mike for insight into what’s happening at the cutting edges of theology, spirituality, interspirituality, and culture.

So begins Carl McColman‘s very kind introduction to our two-part interview together on Encountering Silence, in my opinion the best contemplative Christianity podcast today. Carl co-hosts with filmmaker and minister Cassidy Dale, and professor and priest Kevin Johnson:

Carl’s recollection is basically right, but — as I say in our first episode together — I actually encountered his work years before I met him, via his early Web repository The Website of Unknowing, a compendium of interspiritual wisdom I discovered in undergrad days. His insight and resources simultaneously frightened my somewhat-fundamentalist self, while filling me with wonder at what was possible in the mystical life, described by Carl’s and my favorite Evelyn Underhill as “the art of union with reality.”

You can tune in to our two-part interview here:

Mike Morrell: Silence in the Divine Dance (Part One)

Mike Morrell: Silence in the Divine Dance (Part Two)

In these episodes, Cassidy, Kevin, Carl and I discuss:

  • The silence of ‘God the Father’ in the Trinity
  • Experiencing the ‘apophatic trinity’ of humility, darkness, and silence in a world of pride, light, and noise
  • Where younger people today are discovering contemplative silence – and meaning
  • The future(s) of Christianity
  • Unlikely contemplative heroes, from Jeanne Guyon to G.I. Gurdjieff
  • The transforming power of poetry, experienced here in a selection by my friend, Simona Chitescu Weik

I found it to be a rousing conversation, among friends old and new. I hope there’s something here for you, too, in these catalytic times.

And hey — if you have time to listen, please don’t stop here. One of the reasons Encountering Silence is a real leader in spirituality podcasting is their unflinching commitment to examine systemic injustice today, showing how rootedness in the spacious silence of Christian mysticism helps us find our voice and speak up against racism, homophobia, and the forces of dehumanization everywhere. One of the ways they do this is by highlighting contemplative and theological visionaries of color.

To this end, they recently featured my friend and colleague Dr. Lerita Coleman Brown, whom you might be familiar with if you’ve had an opportunity to participate in our Wisdom Camp at the Wild Goose Festival. Please do yourself a favor and feast your ears on this:

Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD: Silence, the Disinherited, and the Wisdom of Howard Thurman for Our Time

Want even more? Then check out this interview with Dr. Barbara A. Holmes, whose ground-breaking book Race and the Cosmos was just re-released in an updated second edition by the Center for Action and Contemplation:

Barbara A. Holmes: Silence as Unspeakable Joy

Dive into how a contemplative witness translates to the academy and the streets with my friend and colleague Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza and their work with Activist Theology here:

Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza: Silence and Activist Theology (Part One)

Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza: Silence and Activist Theology (Part Two)

Finally, check out this pair of interviews with the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network:

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part One)

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part Two)

I know that this podcast is a labor of love for Kevin, Carl, and Cassidy, and it’s also resource-intensive. If their work resonates with you, consider supporting Encountering Silence on Patreon!

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