“And in our bodies, we shall see God”: Announcing the Hines Center for Spirituality & Prayer

*Christ Church Cathedral announced this month the creation of the Bishop John E. Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer, which is slated to open Fall 2015.  This is an incredibly exciting development in life of the both the Cathedral and downtown Houston.  Here is a link to the article:

http://www.christchurchcathedral.org/2014/11/hines-center-open-fall-2015/

What follows is my column announcing the Hines Center:

“And in our Bodies, We Shall See God”

In his very good book on the mystical theology of William Law, my seminary professor Alan Gregory distinguishes the bodies of angels from the bodies of men. About angelic bodies, Alan says this:

“Angels are spirit; they enjoy a heavenly materiality.  Entirely subject and obedient to their wills, angelic bodies are the immediate music of their desire.  When their love turns from God, at once all is discord and loss.”

It’s an interesting notion: Because angels have no physical bodies, when their spirits turn away from God, they are lost entirely.  (That is, after all, the biblical story of Satan.) There is no physical, bodily anchor to keep angels tied to place and prevent them from spiraling into hell.

The Hines Center will be located adjacent to the Cathedral in the Episcopal Health Foundation Building (formerly the Wilson Printing Building) at the corner of Fannin and Prairie.

The Hines Center will be located adjacent to the Cathedral in the Episcopal Health Foundation Building (formerly the Wilson Printing Building) at the corner of Fannin and Prairie.

But about human bodies, Alan says, “Our bodies are not like that; they have their own way, acting alongside and even upon our thoughts and intentions.  Their rhythms exceed our knowing; their demands resist our wills.”

When our souls rebel, our very bodies can sometimes save us.  That’s counter-intuitive.  We think of our bodies as the locus of our lusts, our addictions, and our gluttony.  But consider also those times when our spirits desire destructive things, but our bodies hesitate, seemingly of their own accord.  Recall those moments when our bodies resist the vices of our souls by dropping to our knees in prayer.  Sometimes, indeed, it is our bodies that check the harmful inclinations of our spirits!

Alan Gregory goes on to say that, “Since we are embodied, we have our being in a material world through which we are to hear, find, and make trial of the love of God.  Our bodies give us time, a stake in change, an arc of movement and possibility.”

Conceptual drawings for the Hines Center include a labyrinth built into the floor of the sanctuary space.

Conceptual drawings for the Hines Center include a labyrinth built into the floor of the sanctuary space.

In other words, with the exception of those few who have had near-death, out-of-body experiences, it is unavoidably through our bodies that we encounter God.

When we combine these two ideas—that our bodies can redeem our souls and that in our bodies we encounter God—the importance of orienting our bodies toward God becomes obvious.  With spiritual practices and holy habits we can, indeed, attune our bodies to the Creator and move in concert with God’s purposes. And where are bodies are directed, our souls will follow.  Mystics and sages have understood this throughout Christian history, and it is toward this end that Christ Church Cathedral is engaging in the exciting endeavor to create the Bishop John E. Hines Center for Spirituality & Prayer.

The Hines Center will provide myriad spiritual practices designed to put our souls in harmony with our bodies, and both in harmony with God.  Through the Hines Center, we’ll be able to participate in contemplative prayer, labyrinth, visual art, sacred dance, yoga, one-on-one spiritual direction (which is a kind of spiritual counseling) and interfaith lectures.  The Hines Center will also be a primary way that the Cathedral reaches out to the growing downtown residential community.

Dean Thompson and Melissa White walk through the mezzanine level on a tour of the future Hines Center space.

Dean Thompson and Melissa White walk through the mezzanine level on a tour of the future Hines Center space.

The Hines Center project is a cornerstone of our Vision Action Plan, “A Future Filled with Hope.”  As your Dean, I am incredibly excited by all it will offer.  In the words of Alan Gregory, by forming our bodies and souls, the Hines Center will give Christ Church, “a stake in change, an arc of movement and possibility” as we look toward our future.  I know you share this excitement.  We’ll celebrate together—in our bodies—when the Hines Center opens next year.

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