There is an ancient Buddhist text, the Samyutta Nikaya, that recounts teachings from the Buddha’s lifetime. One verse describes the Buddha’s right-hand man, Ananda, turning to the Buddha to exclaim, “Lord, I’ve been thinking that spiritual friendship is at least half of the spiritual life!”
“No, Ananda,” the Buddha replies. “Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.”
So it was at the Collegeville Institute last July. Twelve participants in the writing workshop Apart & Yet A Part met as strangers, and deep friendships were kindled over the course of the week. During our last evening together, we seized on the idea of continuing our connection through a shared writing project. Several of us decided to write about our encounters with the divine, attempting to answer the question, “How do you know that God exists?” For me, the friendship experienced in the writing of these pieces became in itself an important encounter with the divine.
The resulting essays—my piece examining ecology and faith, Kurt Armstrong’s reflection on Christian commitment, Paige Eve Chant’s family memories, and Porter Taylor and Jamie Howison’s stories of how their pastoral careers began—will be published here in Bearings Online in the spring of 2016, and are listed below. We hope that our words stir in you a recollection of your own significant encounters with God.
—M. Sophia Newman
Apart and Yet a Part writing workshop participants, 2015
Encounters with God, Part One
by M. Sophia Newman
Is some aspect of spirituality innately wound together with nature? It wasn’t what I came to Collegeville to consider, but it wasn’t far off.
Encounters with God, Part Two
by Jamie Howison
Jamie Howison shares a story of ten voices who helped him hear God’s call on his life.
Encounters with God, Part Three
by Kurt Armstrong
Nowadays big-picture meaningfulness is highly contestable. In spite of this, I place my bet on genuine meaning, held by a God who minds the details.
Encounters with God, Part Four
by Paige Eve Chant
When people ask me where I’m from, I tell them I’m from California. But what I really want to say is that I come from the place that is my grandmother.
Encounters with God, Part Five
by Porter Taylor
In the years since Emory, I seldom cry when I eat the bread and drink the cup in church. But for me they are still the doorway into the mystery.