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RECOVERING P.A.T.H.S.

OF CELTIC CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY:


EVERYDAY EXPERIMENTS
FOR ANGLICAN PARISHIONERS IN WEST SAINT JOHN.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM MCMULLEN

B.A., Mount Allison University, 1976

M. Div, Emmanuel College, Toronto School of Theology, 1981

Thesis
submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Ministry

Acadia Divinity College,


Acadia University
Fall Graduation 2019

© CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM MCMULLEN 2019


This thesis by Christopher William McMullen was defended successfully in an oral

examination on 25 June 2019.

The examining committee for the thesis was:

Dr. Stuart Blythe, Chair

Dr. David Sherbino, External Examiner

Dr. Stephen McMullin, Internal Examiner

Dr. John McNally, Supervisor

This thesis is accepted in its present form by Acadia Divinity College, the Faculty of

Theology of Acadia University, as satisfying the thesis requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Ministry.

ii
I, Christopher William McMullen, hereby grant permission to the University Librarian at

Acadia University to provide copies of my thesis, upon request, on a non-profit basis.

Christopher William McMullen


Author

Dr. John McNally


Supervisor

25 June 2019
Date

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: A Biblical Foundation for the P.A.T.H.S. Experiment 4


I. Introduction
II. God’s Spirit and the Human Spirit in Genesis. 7
III. God’s Spirit and the Human Spirit in the Psalms. 12
IV. Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. 22
V. Paths of Spirituality in the Pauline Epistles. 33
VI. Conclusion 40

Chapter Two: Celtic Christian Spirituality 42


I. Introduction
II. Is There a “Celtic Christian” Spirituality? 43
III. Is Looking to “Celtic Christianity” A Legitimate Exercise? 48
IV. Daily Praying the Psalms. 64
V. Adventures in Blessing: “Following the ‘Wild Goose’.” 67
VI. Prayer To, With and In the Holy Trinity (“Trinitarian Prayer”) 72
VII. Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation 79
VIII. Soul-Friends (Anamchara) 89
IX. Conclusion: “Thin Places” 95

Chapter Three: The P.A.T.H.S. Experiment in the Church of the Good Shepherd 99

I. Introduction
II. The Church of the Good Shepherd 99
III. Passionate Spirituality 104
IV. Praying the Psalms 109
V. Adventures in Blessing 114
VI. Trinitarian Prayers 119
VII. Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation 124
VIII. Soul-Friends (Anamchara) 128
IX. Conclusion 135

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Chapter Four: Research Methods for Assessing Spiritual Growth 137
I. Introduction
II. NCD “Passionate Spirituality” and the “Spiritual Style Test” 138
III. The “Nine Spiritual Styles” of NCD’s “Passionate Spirituality” 144
IV. A “Qualitative” Assessment of the Experiment: Focus Groups 149
V. The Rector as Researcher and “Participant Observer and Leader” 152
VI. Conclusion 157

Chapter Five: Observations and Evaluations of the P.A.T.H.S. Experiment 158


I. Introduction
II. The “Spiritual Style” Tests 159
III. Learnings from the Focus Group Discussions 167
III.1 Commencing Questions (1-4)
III.2 Key Question 5: “Praying the Psalms” 172
III.3 Key Question 6: “Adventures in Blessing” 174
III.4. Key Question 7: “Trinitarian Prayers” 176
III.5. Key Question 8: “Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation” 178
III.6. Key Question 9: “Soul-Friends (Anamchara)” 180
III.7. Key Question 10: Overall Assessment 182
III.8 Ending Questions (11-13) 182
IV. The Post-P.A.T.H.S. NCD “Church Health Survey” 184
V. Recommendations for the Church of the Good Shepherd 187
VI. Summary Reflections: “Delighting” in the Spirit 188
VII. Conclusion 191

Conclusion 195
I. Summary
II. Lingering Questions and Recommendations for Further Research 198
III. A Final Prayer 202

Appendices
Appendix 1: P.A.T.H.S. Parish Newsletter Story and Invitation 204
Appendix 2: P.A.T.H.S. Poster for the Parish 205
Appendix 3: Consent Form 206

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Appendix 4: P.A.T.H.S. Participant’s Guide 210
Appendix 5: Outline for the P.A.T.H.S. Daily Quiet Time 214
Appendix 6: P.A.T.H.S. “Seven Trinitarian Prayers” 219
Appendix 7 Focus Group Questions 221
Appendix 8 “Celtic Christian” Hymns and Songs 223
Appendix 9: Tables of NCD “Spiritual Style Test” Results 226

Bibliography 229

List of Tables

Table 1: P.A.T.H.S. Aggregate Scores (Ch.5) 226

Table 2: P.A.T.H.S. Lowest Five Scores (Ch.5) 227

Table 3: P.A.T.H.S. Highest Four Scores (Ch.5) 228

Illustration

Illustration 1: The Trinitarian Compass and Nine Spiritual Styles (Ch. 4) 145

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Abstract

This thesis project explores the current renewal of interest in “Celtic Christian

spirituality” and its efficacy for parishioners in an Anglican Church in Saint John, NB. It

identifies, recovers and adapts five characteristic practices of the Christians of the “Celtic

Fringe”. Volunteers were invited to practice these spiritual disciplines for a three-month

long “experiment”. The spiritual growth of the participants was assessed with before and

after Natural Church Development “Spiritual Style Tests” for measuring its defined

church growth “quality characteristic” of “Passionate Spirituality”; and also with post-

project Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups.

The thesis gives a definition of “Celtic Christian spirituality” and outlines a Biblical

foundation for it. A literature review defends the very idea of such a distinct “spirituality”

from primary sources and historical scholarship, with particular attention to five selected

characteristic spiritual disciplines: Daily Praying the Psalms; engaging in Adventures in

Blessing; offering Trinitarian Prayers throughout each day; deliberately experiencing the

Holiness of God in Creation, and partnering with a Soul-Friend. The rationale for

selecting these practices is presented with reference to contemporary proponents of both

Missional spirituality and Celtic Christianity. The adaptation of these practices for the

experiment subjects is explained and outlined. The results in their spiritual growth is

measured and reported quantitatively, using the numeric value results of the Natural

Church Development “Spiritual Style Tests”; and qualitatively, using the participants’

own reflections and comments during the Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups.

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Dedication

It is my honour to dedicate this thesis in thanksgiving for the many people who made
it possible. Ministry scholarship, like Christian life generally, is a corporate phenomenon,
where this researcher has been gratefully dependent upon many virtual anamcharas.

To the Wardens, Vestry and parishioners of the Church of the Good Shepherd, for
allowing me the time to engage in this research, and their active support of my studies.

To the Right Reverend Doctor David Edwards, my bishop, for giving me his
permission, support and constant encouragement in my doctoral studies.

To Mr. Bill Bickle, the Canadian Director for Natural Church Development, for his
permission to apply NCD resources in my thesis project, and his encouragement and
support.

To Dr. Jody Linkletter and all the D. Min. faculty of Acadia Divinity College, for
their inspiration, education, counseling and support throughout my studies.

To Dr. John McNally, my thesis supervisor, for his deep wisdom, spiritual
compassion, and loving encouragement throughout.

To my spouse Valda McMullen, for giving up even more family time to an already
busy priest and rector, and allowing me to turn the dining room into a book-piled war-
room for my research and writing. She has been selflessly supportive of my life-long
dream to finish advanced degree studies, which were started in 1986, but postponed for
the sake of raising a family.

And above all, to the “God of the Elements,” Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for
continually inspiring me and guiding me through the great creation in which I am
privileged to live; the gracious redemption he has won for me in “Mary’s Son”; and the
ongoing journey of sanctification by the “Spirit Holy”, in the company of so many saints
–living and in glory, “Celtic” and otherwise– my “High King of Heaven”, to whom be
glory, praise and thanksgiving, now and forever.

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Recovering P.A.T.H.S. of Celtic Christian Spirituality:
Everyday Experiments for Anglican Parishioners in West Saint John.

Introduction

This prayer by the Rev. Alistair Maclean, Minister of the Parish of Daviot and

Dunlichity, Inverness Shire, Scotland, was published posthumously in 1937:

O pitiful heart of God,


Make us meet for the bestowal on us of Thy good Spirit.
Since without Him we cannot walk with a high heart:
Nor come by the secret of the inner quiet:
Nor give our wills to our conscience.1
This prayer illustrates the working definition of this thesis: “‘Celtic Christian spirituality’

attends to the inter-communion between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit which

enables the work of sanctification.”2 It will be explained, defended, and then tested in

relation to the following Research Question:

“How may an intentional path of five recovered and adapted Celtic Christian
spiritual practices effect the spiritual growth of parishioners in the Church of the
Good Shepherd?”

A three-month “experiment” was conducted, in order to address this question.

Chapter One will provide a Biblical foundation for the P.A.T.H.S. experiment of five

recovered and adapted “Celtic Christian” spiritual practices. This will be by the means of

an analysis of the interplay between God’s Spirit and the Human Spirit in Genesis, the

Psalms, the Gospel record of Jesus, and finally the spirituality that is attested and taught

in the Pauline Corpus.

1
Alistair Maclean, Hebridean Altars. The Spirit of an Island Race (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock
Publishers, 2013, first published, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1937), 41. (Versification added.)
2
See below, p. 6.

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Chapter Two will demonstrate and defend the very idea of a “Celtic Christian

Spirituality” itself, presenting as pertinent examples the five ancient “Celtic” spiritual

disciplines which provide the basis for the P.A.T.H.S. program: “Praying the Psalms”;

“Adventures in Blessing”; “Prayer To, With and In the Holy Trinity (Trinitarian Prayer)”;

“Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation”; and “Soul-Friend (Anamchara)

Partnerships.” The authenticity of each of these five disciplines will be shown with

citations and examples from early Celtic Christian sources.

Chapter Three will introduce the Church of the Good Shepherd, and why this

program was designed and implemented in it. Each of the P.A.T.H.S. disciplines will be

explained and outlined with references to writers both in the emerging field of “Missional

Spirituality”, and in the renaissance of a popular contemporary “Celtic Christian

Spirituality.”

Chapter Four will present the research methodology employed for measuring and

assessing the participants’ “Passionate Spirituality,” using the resources of the Natural

Church Development agency (“NCD”), and the employment of “Deliberative Discussion

Focus Groups”. It will defend their appropriateness for the participants, the topic, and the

nature of “Celtic Christian” spirituality itself.

Finally Chapter Five will record and evaluate the results of the P.A.T.H.S.

experiment, using both the quantitative data of NCD’s “Spiritual Style Tests”, and the

qualitative data of the Focus Group discussions. It will conclude with recommendations

for the Church of the Good Shepherd’s programming in spiritual formation.

The Conclusion will summarize the author’s findings, acknowledge some limitations

in the thesis project, and include recommendations for further research.

2
Examples of quotations, prayers, songs and hymns, from both early “Celtic Christian”

sources and the “Celtic” revival’s contemporary proponents will be employed

throughout. This will illustrate the topic at hand. It will also reinforce the prayer that

God’s Spirit may enrich the human spirit of the researcher, his parishioners, and possibly

even the present readers, in their pilgrimages and progress in sanctification.

The researcher’s prayer in the producing of this thesis is that of a contemporary Celtic

Christian devotional writer, Calvin Miller:

Come Creator and sculpt your image once again.


Come Son of Heaven and sit with us in Emmaus.
Come Spirit and breathe Pentecost into our small
religious habits so we can worship you again.
Amen.3

3
Calvin Miller, Celtic Devotions. A Guide to Morning and Evening Prayer (Downers Grove IL:
InterVarsity Press, 2008), 27.

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Chapter One:

A Biblical Foundation for the P.A.T.H.S. Experiment

I. Introduction

I beseech you, Jesus, loving Saviour,


to show yourself to all who seek you
so that we may know you and love you.
May we love you alone, desire you alone,
and keep you always in our thoughts.
May love for you possess our hearts,
May affection for you fill our senses,
so that we may love all else in you.
Jesus, King of Glory,
You know how to give greatly
And you have promised great things.
Nothing is greater than yourself.
We ask nothing else of you but yourself.
You are our life, our light, our food and drink,
Our God and our all.4

What is “Christian Spirituality”? Philip Sheldrake writes that the Latin spiritualitas

translates the Greek pneuma and its cognate adjective pneumatikos “as they appear in St.

Paul’s letters in the New Testament.”5 For the first eleven centuries of church history, a

“spiritual person” was “someone within whom the Spirit of God dwelt or who lived under

the influence of the Spirit of God.”6 The term became redefined by scholastic theology,

under the influence of ancient Greek philosophy, and reduced to a reference to clergy. It

then seemed to disappear from common use. In the late Nineteenth and Twentieth

Centuries, it reappeared in French references to the “spiritual life” as the heart of

4
Calvin Miller, “An Ancient Irish Prayer”, Celtic Devotions, 115 f.
5
Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality: A Brief History. Second Edition (Chichester UK: John Wiley & Sons
Ltd., 2013), 2.
6
Ibid., 2.

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Christian living. In the contemporary world, it now refers to an individual’s personal

sense of transcendence, experience of mystery, or general religiosity.7

This thesis, however, will employ a more restricted, Biblical understanding of

“Christian spirituality,” such as that found in the early Celtic Christian movement.8

Commenting on Romans 8:10-11, the early “Scot” (Irish or British) Pelagius, at the turn

of the fifth century, wrote that “The Spirit lives in order to produce righteousness: for the

object is not just that we leave off carnal things, but also that we do spiritual things.... If

you are so pure that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, God will not allow the temple of his

Spirit to perish.”9 For that early spiritual director, “if the flesh performs a spiritual deed,

the whole person is made spiritual”.10 In other words, “spirituality” is about believers

honouring and benefitting from the sanctifying presence of God’s Spirit in their lives.

Around the middle of the fifth century, St. Patrick experienced the Spirit in prayer:

I wondered who it could be that was praying in me? But towards the end of the
prayer it became clear that it was the Spirit. Just then I awoke and remembered
what was said through the apostle: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps the weakness of our
prayers; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself inter-
cedes for us with sighs beyond what words can express.’11

Patrick’s “spiritual life” was the experience of the presence of God’s Spirit in his spirit,

as he understood it after Romans 8:26-27. Later in his Confession he wrote: “So I should

7
Sheldrake, Spirituality, 2-6. Cf. A. McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 1-4.
8
The nature of this critically questioned “Celtic Christianity” will be discussed in Chapter Two.
9
Theodore De Bruyn, tr. and ed., Pelagius’s Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1993), 108.
10
On Romans 6:19, ibid., 99
11
Patrick’s Confession, para. 25, in Thomas O’Loughlin, Saint Patrick: The Man and His Works
(London: SPCK Triangle, 1999), 67.

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give God thanks without ceasing, for he often forgave my very stupidity and

negligence...and so ‘the Spirit reminded me’.”12

The eighth century Old Irish missioner whose work was preserved in Wurzburg,

Germany, commenting on Romans 8:27, also highlighted the intimate communion

between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit in the work of sanctification:

So it is then the Spiritus helps our weakness when we have the same desire to wit, in
body and soul and spirit.... but we cannot do this unless the Spirit bloweth: thus then our
prayer is feeble if they be present things which we ask, and the Spirit helps us not herein:
then doth the Spirit help when we beseech glory for our body and for our soul after
resurrection.13

These three early Celtic Christian writers illustrate the understanding of “Christian

spirituality” in this thesis. “Celtic Christian spirituality” attends to the inter-communion

between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit which enables the work of sanctification.

This Chapter will present the Biblical basis for an adaptation of this “Celtic Christian

spirituality” for today. It begins (Section II) with an introductory examination of the role

of God’s Spirit and the human spirit in Genesis. The Psalms will then be reviewed, as

they had a central place in Celtic Christian spirituality (Section III).14 A discussion of the

witness to Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels will follow (Section IV). Each section

will conclude with references to precedents for the five particular spiritual disciplines that

will make up the P.A.T.H.S. program. (The details of these will be presented in the

Second and Third Chapters below.) Finally (Section V), a presentation of the Holy Spirit

and the “Way” in the Pauline Epistles will conclude an outline of the Biblical basis for

the “Experiment on P.A.T.H.S. of Celtic Christian Spirituality”, the subject of this thesis.
12
Confession para. 45, O’Loughlin, Saint Patrick, 80.
13
Whitley Stokes, tr. and ed., The Old Irish Glosses at Würzburg and Carlsruhe (Hertford: Stephen
Austin & Sons, 1887), Folio 4a §27 (on Romans 8:26), p. 246.
14
This will be shown in Chapter Two.

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II. God’s Spirit and the Human Spirit in Genesis

The testimony to an intimate interplay between the Spirit of God and the human spirit

throughout the Old Testament is already attested in the Book of Genesis’s multivalent use

of the word ruah, introducing the wider Biblical spirituality of Israel’s call to live in

“paths” of God’s righteousness and compassion. This even includes the Hebrew

Scriptures’ prophetic promise that the Lord would “pour out” God’s Spirit upon his

people,15 to enable them to take their place in God’s creation-wide saving purposes.

This Spirit-spirit interplay is evident in the opening primordial history of the Biblical

canon, Genesis 1-11.16 “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...a

wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1: 1-2).17 An NRSV textual

note indicates that ruah here may also be translated “the spirit of God” or “a mighty

wind”. The NRSV translators may have been influenced by the opinion represented by

Gerhard von Rad: “Ruah elohim (‘Spirit of God’) is better translated ‘storm of God,’ i.e.,

terrible storm... in fact this ‘spirit of God’ takes no more active part in creation.”18 Bruce

Waltke however points out that the same “wind” of God (ruah) similarly directs the

waters in order that the land may appear in Genesis 8:1. “Since the wind is from God, it is

15
Isaiah 44:3, Joel 2:28. See also Isaiah 32:15 and Ezekiel 36:26-28. John N. Oswalt, The Book of
Isaiah Chapters 40-66. New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids MI: William
B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998), 166 f.
16
These sections are dependent upon Chapter One, “The Ruach of Yahweh,” in Alasdair I.C. Heron,
The Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit in the Bible, the History of Christian Theology, and Recent Theology
(Louisville KY: Westminster Press, 1983), pp. 3-22; Chapter Two, “The Witness of the Old Testament”, in
Eduard Schweizer, The Holy Spirit, tr. Reginald H. Fuller and Ilse Fuller (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press,
1980), pp. 10-28; and Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing The Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament
(Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006).
17
All quotations from the Bible are from the New Revised Standard Version (1989).
18
Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis. Revised. tr. W.L. Jenkins. The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia PA:
Westminster Press, 1973), 49. He ignores the wider canonical context in which Genesis 1:2 should be
interpreted, as in God’s creation by “word and “Spirit” in Psalm 33:6, 104:29-30, etc. (pp. 10-11 below).

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not part of the primordial chaos, but a dynamic, creative presence.”19 He also points out

that the Hebrew rachaph, translated “swept” in the NRSV, only appears again at

Deuteronomy 32:11 where the NRSV translates it as an eagle “hovering” over her

brood.20 Far from being an inanimate “wind,” the ruah is an active agent in the “birth” of

creation. Finally, Victor Hamilton points out that none of the other eighteen occurrences

of the phrase weruah elohim in the Bible can be taken to mean “mighty wind” rather than

“spirit of God”.21 “The next appearance of this phrase in the OT is Exodus 31:3, where

Bezalel is filled with the ruah elohim in order to be equipped to build the tabernacle.

Obviously a ‘tempestuous wind’ did not come upon Bezalel.”22 There, the creative

energy of the Lord which seems to be depicted in Genesis 1:2 is now enabling Bezalel to

be creative in serving God’s “tabernacled” presence among God’s people. This is in

keeping with the wider promise of the prophets and the witness of the New Testament.

In Genesis 2:7, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed

into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” None of these “air

in motion”23 words actually translate ruah, but naphash (breathed), neshamah (breath) or

nephesh (“living being”, often elsewhere translated “soul”). Nonetheless the parallelism

of Isaiah 26:9 shows how the words are closely related to ruah: “My soul [nephesh]

yearns for you in the night, my spirit [ruah] within me earnestly seeks you. For when

19
Bruce Waltke, Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach (Grand
Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2007), 182.
20
Ibid., 295; also Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis. NICOT. Volume One (Grand Rapids MI:
William B. Eerdmans Publishers, 1990), 111. A similar word at Jeremiah 33:9 however seems to mean
something like “tremble”. This occurrence in Jeremiah is ignored by Wright, who insists that at Genesis 1:2
“...the powerful Spirit of God was hovering, poised for action.” Wright, Knowing the Holy Spirit, 14.
21
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, 111.
22
Ibid., 112-3.
23
J. Barton Payne’s description of the basic meaning of ruah. See p. 14, n. 44 below.

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your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” So the

interplay between the life-giving Spirit of God and the “spirited” life of the human is

continuing to be assumed. Of the other nine occurrences of ruah in Genesis, three refer to

the human “spirit” in such a way that nephesh could conceivably have been used;24 three

to the “breath of life” itself;25 and one reports Pharaoh’s recognition of the unique

presence of the “spirit of God” in Joseph (Gen. 41:38). Of the remaining two, Genesis 3:8

depicts the Lord “walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze [ruah], and the

man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord...” This may be under-

stood literally, but it becomes less percipient (let alone but crudely anthropomorphic),

and less tragic, if we exclude any figurative allusion to fallen humanity’s hiding away

from the intimate ruah of God in creation around us and in our spiritual identity within.26

Also on a note of what could be called “ruahic” or “spiritual” alienation arising from

the fall, Genesis 6:3 comments on its odd account of sexual relations between divine

figures and human women, that: “The Lord said, ‘my Spirit shall not abide in mortals

forever, for they are flesh...’” Hamilton says “the translation remain [NRSV “abide”] for

24
Genesis 26:35, 41:8, 45:27.
25
Genesis 6:17, 7:15, 7:22.
26
I have not found any commentator who interprets l’ruah ehium as a reference to God’s Spirit rather
than “the cool of the day” or “the evening breeze.” Even the Venerable Bede (who like other early British
and Irish writers would be working from the Latin ad auram post meridiem), can only make a comparison
to Jesus’ pronouncing at about the same time of day that the penitent thief will enter paradise, On Genesis
I.63 (on Gen. 3:8a) (Calvin B. Kendall, On Genesis: Bede. Liverpool University Press, 2008, p.129).
However Hamilton does point out that “The verb used here to describe the divine movement –mithallēk– is
a type of Hithpael that suggests iterative and habitual aspects.” (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, 192;
emphasis mine). Additionally, Von Rad quotes Franz Delitzsch (1887): “‘The anthropomorphic character
of the event must not be entirely set to the account of the narrative; it corresponds with the paradisiac mode
of God’s intercourse with man.’” (Von Rad, Genesis, p. 91.) In other words, both authors see the presence
of God in the “evening ruah” as an allusion to God’s pre-fall abiding presence with humanity. The Hebrew
itself as well as the narrative context surely justifies a more explicit English reference to God’s Spirit.

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Heb. yadon is far from certain”.27 What can at least be said about the Lord’s judgement in

this puzzling report (Genesis 6:1-4) is that this perversion of God’s creation compromises

God’s intended intimate communion between God’s Spirit and the human spirit. Biblical

spirituality does not involve supernatural powers of mythical demigods! “The point here

is that human beings do not possess ‘natural immortality’. We live as long as we are

given life by God’s Spirit.”28 So God will not allow this perversion of true divine-human

communion.29 Humanity’s proper intimacy with the divine must be pneumatological!

In the Book of Genesis, God’s Spirit enables life generally, and human life especially;

the latter with the purpose of humanity’s fulfilling the mandate to express God’s

“dominion” (Gen. 1:26) over creation, as the gardeners (NRSV “till”) of earth and

shepherds (NRSV “keep”) of its life, our fellow-creatures (Gen. 2:15). As Brueggemann

characterizes it, “Israel’s articulation of creation faith is marked by God’s gifts of the

power for life, which has a relentless ethical dimension. Thus we have seen that the

creation is marked by justice, righteousness, and steadfastness...”30 So creation itself is

“holy”, when it is not warped by humanity’s ungodliness. This Biblical teaching lies

behind the fourth P.A.T.H.S. practice, of regularly enjoying the “Holiness of God in

creation”. However, humanity’s fall away from God has resulted in the alienation

between God’s human creatures and God’s Spirit. This is negatively attested by the

27
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, 266.
28
Wright, Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament, 29.
29
See Walter Brueggemann’s discussion, Genesis. Interpretation: A Bible-Commentary for Teaching
and Preaching (Atlanta GA: John Knox Press, 1982), 70-72, esp. p. 72: ”The judgement is that God will
not endlessly and forever permit his life-giving spirit to enliven those who disorder his world.”
30
Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis MN:
Fortress Press, 1997), 158. (The italics are Brueggemann’s.)

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paucity of references to ruah in the rest of the Genesis narrative.31 However, Genesis’s

succeeding story of the vocation of Abraham and his family do include the promise that

God is acting through God’s elect to restore “blessing” to the earth (Genesis 12:1-3;

18:18; 22:17-18; 26:3-4). The mystical, intimate scene of God visiting Abraham in the

form of three divine personages includes God’s personal (in retrospect, intra-triune)

consideration (Genesis 18:17-19):

“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall
become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed
in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his
household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and
justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Though the imagery here is anthropomorphic and not spiritually figurative (which might

have used images like “wind” or “breath”), the intimacy between the Lord and Abraham

is touching and edifying. God wills to include God’s own in his plans for blessing. God’s

people, in turn, are to honour this covenant partnership by following the “path” or “way”

of “righteousness and justice” laid out for them by God.

One might think of Abraham’s obedient venture as the first in a long line of

“Adventures for Blessing” in the Biblical narrative. This is the second of the five

“P.A.T.H.S.” of a recovered Celtic spirituality in this thesis. The psalmists frequently

prayed about this: “O that my ways [derek] may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!”

(Ps. 119:5) Sharing in the blessing of God requires fidelity to God’s “paths”. 32 This

“way” or “path” is the means by which humanity may be brought into an intimate

31
After seven appearances of ruah in Genesis 1-11, the term only reappears four times in the rest of
the book (26:35; 41:8,38; 45:27), all except 41:38 referring to someone’s fragile human “spirit”.
32
The NRSV translates derek as “way” thirteen times in Psalm 119; orach as “way” five times, and
nathiyb as “path” twice (Ps. 119:35,105): “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.”
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

11
communion with God’s Spirit. This is the consistent, unfolding message of the rest of the

Old Testament.33 For present purposes, however, it shall suffice to consider the relation

between God’s Spirit and the human spirit in the Psalms.

III. God’s Spirit and the Human Spirit in the Psalms

Thomas O’Loughlin detects not only a direct quotation of John 14:26 in the earlier

quotation from Patrick’s Confession,34 but also allusions to Psalms 68:6 and 88:8.35 There

are forty-two other quotations or allusions to the Latin Psalter in Patrick’s 399 scriptural

references. The Psalms were central to the prayer-life and self-understanding of the

earliest British and Irish Christians. Looking at extant and edited writings from the Celtic

mission, DeBruyn detects 383 references to other Scriptures in Pelagius’ commentary on

Romans, with 74 of them being to the Gospels. The next most frequent source is the 24

quotations from the Psalms.36 Of 84 Scriptural citations detected by Mary Brennan in her

translation of John Scotus Eriugena’s Treatise on Divine Predestination, 24 are from the

Gospels, 15 from Romans, and 13 from the Psalms.37 Myra Uhlfelder similarly detects 19

of 185 Scriptural references in Eriugena’s Periphyseon referring to the Psalms, compared

33
I defended this claim in my D.Min. Comprehensive Paper, “The Spirit of God and the Human Spirit:
A Biblical Foundation for ‘PATHS of Celtic Spirituality’” (Acadia University, May 31, 2018), 13-31; but
space does not allow for its re-presentation here. In addition to the studies referenced on p.7 n.16 above, cf.
Green, Michael. I Believe in the Holy Spirit. Fully Revised and Update. (London: Hodder and Stoughton,
1985), 19-34; C.F.D. Moule, The Holy Spirit (London & Oxford: A.R. Wowbray & Co. Ltd., 1978), 7-21;
Michael Ramsey, Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1992), 9-18; Eduard
Schweizer, “Πνεûμα, πνευματικός…”, Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,
Volume VI, tr. Geoffrey W. Bromily (Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1968), 332-455.
34
Page 6 above.
35
O’Loughlin, Saint Patrick, p. 80, nn. 241, 242 and 245.
36
Cf. references in DeBruyn, Pelagius’s Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
37
Cf. references in John Scotus Eriugena, Treatise on Divine Predestination, tr. Mary Brennan (Notre
Dame IL: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998).

12
to 24 from the Gospels.38 G.S.M. Walker and Ruth Murphy identify eleven references to

the Psalms in Columbanus’s surviving Letters.39 Remembering that these allusions and

quotations would have been mostly recalled from memory, it is clear that Britain’s first

Christian leaders were thoroughly formed and inspired by Scripture, especially the

Gospels and the Psalter. The Psalms, which were prayed daily, greatly informed their

spirituality. Adomnan records that Columba reassured a penitent with the words of Psalm

51:17: “Stand up, my son, and be comforted. Your sins have been forgiven, because, as it

is written, ‘A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise.’”40 On another occasion,

when some druids sought to drown out Columba’s offering of vespers, the saint

miraculously overcame their noisy interference by quietly chanting Psalm 45.41

As the Psalter had such an influence on Celtic spirituality, daily praying a Psalm will

be the first of the “P.A.T.H.S.” of this thesis project. It is appropriate, then, to look at the

inspirational interplay between the human spirit and the Spirit of God in the Psalms.

The word “spirit” occurs eighteen times in the New Revised Standard Version of the

Psalms, but there are thirty-nine occurrences of the Hebrew ruah in their original

language.42 The breadth of meaning in these occurrences reflects that found in all 378

38
Cf. references in John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon: On the Division of Nature, ed. and tr. Myra L.
Uhlfelder (Indianapolis IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1976).
39
Columbanus, “Letters of Columbanus.” Tr. G.S.M. Walker, ed. Ruth Murphy. University College,
Cork. Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition, Second Draft, revised and corrected.
http://celt.ucc.ie/published/T201054/. (Accessed June 27, 2017.)
40
Adomnan, Life of St. Columba, trs. and ed. Richard Sharpe (London: Penguin Books, 1995), I.30, p.
134.
41
The text says “forty-fourth psalm”, citing the numbering of the Latin Psalter. Ibid., I.37, p. 141.
42
Strong’s Hebrew Concordance Online, http://biblehub.net/searchhebrew.php?q=ruach. (Accessed
May 18, 2018.) All references to Hebrew terms will in fact come from this resource.

13
uses of ruah in the Hebrew Scriptures.43 “The basic meaning of ruah is ‘air in motion.’”44

A literal “wind” then is the basic meaning in twelve occurrences in the Psalms, such as

148:7-8: “Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps; fire and hail,

snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!”45 Even in this invitation for

creation to praise its Creator, however, there is a sense that ruah is a mighty, life-giving

energy from God. Indeed, God rides upon “the wings of the wind” (Psalms 18:10, 104:3),

and uses the wind as his “messenger”.46 Though ruah here may be translated as “wind”,

there is surely still a reference to God as its mighty author and governor: God “sends out

his word and melts them; he makes the wind blow, and the waters flow” (Ps. 147:18).47

Twice, God’s ruah is translated in the NRSV Psalms as God’s “breath”. “The

channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your

rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils” (Ps. 18:15). The image is

similar to that of “wind” however: a mighty, creation-moving divine force. Notice the

association of God’s word (“rebuke”), as in Psalm 147:18, and his “breath”. This is also

present in Psalm 33:6: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their

host by the breath of his mouth.” God creates or effects creation by his command, and by

the energizing power of his ruah, as seen in Genesis 1:1-2 (see section II above).

43
“Spirit”, in William D. Mounce, General Editor, Mounce’s Complete Dictionary of Old & New
Testament Words (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2006), pp. 675-6, 675.
44
J. Barton Payne, “ruah”, in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament. Two Volumes. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), Vol. II, pp. 836-7, 836.
45
Other references not cited are Psalms 1:4, 11:6, 18:42, 55:8, 78:39, 83:13, 103:16, 147:18.
46
Or “angel”: Psalms 35:5, 104:4.
47
See also Psalms 107:25 and 135: 7.

14
Thomas Longstaff sees the first of three “major emphases” of the Holy Spirit in the

Old Testament “as an agent of creation.”48 This is certainly evidenced in the use of ruah

in the Psalms. It may be especially seen in Psalm 104:29-30:

When you hide your face, they [all creatures] are dismayed;
when you take away their breath [ruah], they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit [ruah], they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

Eriugena quotes these verses in defense of his teaching that all material creation exists

because of the animating grace of God’s Holy Spirit.49 “When new creation occurs and

life appears,” writes James Mays, “the ruach [sic] of the Lord is at work.”50 On the

parallel uses of “face” (paneka and pene) and ruah, Rolf Jacobson is moved to note:

“With this double poetic play, the psalm bears witness to the promise of an ongoing life,

perhaps even to the rare idea in the Old Testament that there is the promise of life, breath,

and spirit beyond the grave.”51 Also quoting this passage, Christopher Wright insists that:

God, in the Hebrew world of thought and worship, is not distant and remote from
the natural world. On the contrary, God is actively present in sustaining every-
thing that lives and breathes on his planet. And it is precisely through his Spirit
that he does this.52

48
Thomas R.W. Longstaff, “Holy Spirit, the” in Paul J. Achtemeier, General Editor, Harper’s Bible
Dictionary (San Francisco CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), pp. 401-2, 401.
49
Eriugena, Periphyseon, V.25, Uhlfelder, 312-3.
50
James L. Mays, Psalms. Interpretation: A Bible-Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta
GA: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 335. Note similar comments by Konrad Schaefer, Psalms. Berit Olam:
Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry (Collegeville MN: The Liturgical Press, 2001), 258; Derek Kidner,
Psalms 73-150. Kidner Classic Commentaries (Downers Grove IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975, 2008), 406.
“The world may be ‘there’,” observes Brueggemann on Psalm 104, “but the world has no capacity for
generativity on its own. Its life depends on closeness to and reliance on the God who breathes life.” Theo-
logy of the Old Testament, 156.
51
Rolf A. Jacobson in Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book
of Psalms. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament [hereafter NICOT] (Grand Rapids
MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2014), 779.
52
Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing The Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament, 21.

15
This omnipresence of God’s ruah is attested in terms of a person’s spiritual life in Psalm

139:7: “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” One

can hear a strong echo of Psalm 139 in Pelagius’s advice to an elderly soul-friend:

There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent. Travel across the ocean to
the most distant land, and you will find God’s Spirit in the creatures there.... The
presence of God’s Spirit in all living beings is what makes them beautiful; and if
we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly.53

John Taylor, in The Go-Between God, celebrates the fact that “The Celtic church,

whose monks carried the gospel across north-western Europe, enjoyed an almost animist

sense of the divine presence in all nature.”54 Mary Low argues in detail that this came

from their understanding of Scripture, which had not been prejudiced by the continental

church’s Neo-Platonist matter-spirit dualisms.55 The Psalms gave Celtic Christians reason

and inspiration to discover and celebrate the presence of the “Holy God” in creation. A

weekly attempt to do this will be the fourth practice of the P.A.T.H.S. experiment.

The Psalter’s appreciation of God’s presence in creation is more personal than this.

Ruah is also translated in the NRSV as a creature’s “breath”.56 Psalm 146 urges believers

to avoid putting their “trust in princes, in mortals, in whom is no help. When their breath

departs, they return to the earth...” (Ps. 146:3-4).57 At least seven times, ruah is translated

as a human’s “spirit” in the NRSV, even though it could be rendered as one’s “breath” in

53
Robert Van de Weyer, The Letters of Pelagius: Celtic Soul Friend (Worchestershire UK: Arthur
James, 1995), 71. (Note that de Weyer abridged and paraphrased Pelagius in this translation.)
54
John V. Taylor, The Go-Between God: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Mission (London: SCM
Press, 1972), 53.
55
Mary Low. Celtic Christianity and Nature: Early Irish and Hebridean Traditions (Edinburgh
University Press, 1996).
56
The Hebrew neshamah, often translated “breath” or “spirit”, also appears twenty-three times in the
Old Testament, though, curiously, never in the Psalms. Perhaps it was not considered personal or divine
enough for prayer.
57
Psalm 76:12 also declares that God “cuts off the spirit [ruah] of princes…”

16
the figurative sense of one’s life or sense of being.58 The grumbling of the Israelites is

reported to have made Moses’ “spirit bitter” (Ps. 106:33). The psalmist also confesses

that the Israelites “should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious

generation...whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Ps. 78:8).59 The antidote to this

rebelliousness is, significantly, that Israel should “keep” God’s “commandments” (Ps.

78:5-7) –a matter of spiritual discipline that will be addressed in the Fifth Section below.

The important point for present purposes is to note the subtle interplay that takes

place between the Ruah or “Spirit” of God and the human ruah or “spirit”. Two Psalms

indicate this in a way that bears directly on Christian spirituality. First, Psalm 51:10-12:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,


and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.60

A heartfelt chiasm appeals to the gift of God’s “holy spirit” within the context of the

petitioner’s spirit, which he prays may thus be made “right” and “willing”. Mays

comments, “Many of the prayers for help say, ‘Change my situation so I may praise you.’

This one says, ‘Change me. I am the problem.’”61 This request takes the form of asking

God’s Spirit to accompany the human spirit. In the context of Psalm 51 as a whole,

Schaefer points out, words for wrongdoing are used fourteen times, especially in the first

58
Psalms 31:5, 32:2, 34:18, 77:3,6, 143:4,7.
59
Waltke cites this verse as an example of how “Ruah can also function as a synecdoche for a person’s
entire disposition...the whole inner life...mind, will and motives...” Bruce Waltke, ed., with C. Yu, An Old
Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan
Publishing House, 2007), 227.
60
Schaefer notes that “‘Spirit,’ ruah, is repeated four times in the second movement [i.e., Psalm 51:
10-17].” Psalms,130.
61
Mays, Psalms, 202.

17
half of the psalm; the word “God” seven times, especially (six of seven) in the latter half.

“ The poet literally and literarily is emptied of sin and filled with grace.”62 Psalm 51 is

virtually an enacted example of the Holy Spirit sanctifying the human spirit.

The phrase “holy spirit” in this psalm is not yet a title for the third Person of the

Trinity, though it certainly functions that way in most Christian devotion, given its

canonical anticipation of New Testament pneumatology. Nancy deClaissé-Walford

translates the phrase as an objective genitive: “the spirit of your [God’s] holiness”.63

Nonetheless, a sanctifying relationship between the needy human “spirit” and the holy

“Spirit of God” is the assumption behind the very petition.

The phrase “Holy Spirit” only appears again twice in the Old Testament, in Isaiah

63:10-11. There the prophet confesses that Israel’s “rebellion...grieved” God’s “holy

spirit”. He then asks of the people after the exodus, “where is the one who put within

them his holy spirit?”64 Sanctification occurs when God’s Spirit graciously edifies the

human spirit. Brueggemann refers to Isaiah 63:10-11 and Psalm 51:11 as an illustration

of Israel’s confession of faith: “Israel’s utterance about Yahweh moves back and forth

between Yahweh’s core of self-regard and the way in which this self-regard has now

been irreversibly committed to Israel.”65

Adomnan recorded Columba’s last deed before he died as writing of Psalm 34:10b,

“They that seek the Lord shall not want for anything good.”66 The saint knew that in

62
Schaefer, Psalms, 129.
63
deClaissé-Walford, Book of Psalms, 455, 456.
64
Mays, Psalms, 203.
65
Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament, 292.
66
Adomnan, Life of St. Columba, III.23, p. 228.

18
addition to all God’s good gifts to God’s people, the Spirit of God would create goodness

itself in the human spirit. This is the heart of the spiritual life, certainly as Celtic

Christians understood it.

Second, Psalm 143 also attests an intimate, sanctifying interplay between the Spirit

of God and the believer’s human spirit (Psalm 143: 4,7a,8-10):

Therefore my spirit faints within me;


my heart within me is appalled.
...Answer me quickly, O Lord;
my spirit fails...
Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul...
for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me
on a level path.

Brueggemann points out that this psalm deeply influenced Luther’s “discernment of the

principle of grace.”67 The inadequate, even sinful human spirit may be set on a “level

path” by God’s “good spirit”. It is as if the conclusion of Psalm 143 asks for a resolution

of the complaint of the previous Psalm in the canonical collection of the Psalter, 142:3:68

“When my spirit is faint, you know my way. In the path where I walk they have hidden a

trap for me.” The Spirit of God may provide a “path” for the penitent to return to a

blessed life. The intimate relationship between the human spirit and God’s Spirit enables

believers to trust God. This is a basis for a Biblical spirituality.69 With the Lord Jesus

67
Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament, 304.
68
Schaefer makes this connection: Psalms, 333.
69
Kidner comments on Ps. 143:10: “The plea for a level path, or more accurately, ‘level land’ (the
term used for the broad plateau allotted to Reuben, Deut. 4:43), implies the admission that one is prone to
stumble, not only to stray. It can also be translated, in less pictorial terms, ‘the land of uprightness’, which
reinforces the prayer ‘to do thy will’ (10a).” Kidner, Psalms 73-150, 513.

19
himself, a believer may trustingly pray Psalm 31:5: “Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (cf. Luke 23:46).

Before taking up the basis for spirituality that may be found in the Gospel’s witness

to Jesus, however, it is important to highlight precedents in the Psalms for the specific

five spiritual habits that have been adopted and adapted for the P.A.T.H.S. experiment.

The centrality of the Psalms in “Celtic Christianity” will be discussed in the Second

Chapter. The celebration of the fourth practice, enjoying the Holiness of God in creation,

has already been mentioned above. Philip Newell describes it as “...the practice, so

typical of many of the Psalms in the Scriptures, of seeing our voices as joining with the

voice of the whole universe in giving praise to God.”70

The third practice or “T” in “P.A.T.H.S.” stands for offering Trinitarian prayers to

God seven times a day. The Psalter’s precedent for this of course is its constant appeal to

praise or pray to God continually,71 culminating in the Psalmist’s practice (119:164):

“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.”

The second practice, “A” for “Adventures in Blessing,” is less obviously mandated in

the Psalms. First it may be considered negatively: The Psalmists constantly pray for help

against their enemies (Ps. 55:2-3): “I am distraught by the noise of the enemy, because of

the clamor of the wicked. For they bring trouble upon me, and in anger they cherish

70
J. Philip Newell, Listening to the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press,
1997), 46. Examples of the “earth” itself worshipping God are Psalms 33:8, 47:7, 48:10, 65:5-8, 66:1-4,
67:7, 69:34, 72:19, 89:11, 96:1, 96:11, 97:1, 97:9, 98:4, 100:1, 104:13, 114:7, 148:7. These are in addition
to the many calls for all the nations, kings of peoples “of the earth” to worship God (e.g. 118:4: “All the
kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth”), and apart from
the reign or other influence of God upon the earth (e.g. 97:5, “The mountains melt like wax before
the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.”).
71
Psalm 35: 28: “Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.” For
references to praying, calling upon or praising God continually (in addition to calls to praise): 34:1, 42:8,
45:17, 62:8, 71:4, 72:15, 75:9, 84:4, 89:9, 104:35, 111:10, 113:3, 115:18, 145:2, 145:21, 146:2, 146:10.

20
enmity against me.”72 This is usually because of Israel’s fidelity to God’s call to be a “set

apart” or holy nation among the often antagonistic nations of the world.73 Positively, this

was for the sake of Israel’s election to “Declare his glory among the nations, his

marvelous works among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3). Israel’s unique call to ethical

monotheism was in itself an adventure in blessing, continuing and fulfilling Abraham’s

vocation (Psalm 67:1-3):74

May God be gracious to us and bless us


and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

This call to be adventurous in blessing others is even given to individuals: “Happy are

those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).

Finally, the fifth practice of the Experiment, of “Soul Friendship,” must also be first

considered on the negative side. In a complaint that becomes prophetic in the light of

Christ, the Psalmist laments: “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my

bread, has lifted the heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).75 On the other hand (Psalm 133),

How very good and pleasant it is


when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon ... the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes...
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

72
e.g. Psalms 13:2, 18:17, 31:8, 41:11, 42:9, 43:2, 64:1, 74:10, 143:3.
73
e.g. Psalms 2:1, 9:20, 79:10, 115:2, 118:10.
74
See p. 11 above. The princes of all nations will one day gather before God “as the people of the God
of Abraham” (Psalm 47:9).The covenant with Abraham is celebrated in Psalm 105: 6,9,42. For other
references to Israel’s “adventure” of leading the nations to glorify God, Psalms 118:48-50; 57:9.
75
For other examples of regrets about disloyal friends, see Psalms 35:14; 38:11; 55:13,20; 88:18.

21
The powerful image of the ordination of Aaron to the priesthood suggests that true

spiritual friendship will in fact enhance a believer’s sense of sanctification to one’s

spiritual vocation. Since Psalm 133 is one of the “Psalms of Ascent,” sung by pilgrims

together on their way to Jerusalem,76 this is a fitting example of soul-friendship at work.77

IV. Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels

Ian Bradley concludes from his twenty-five year research in Following the Celtic Way

that “the overwhelming Biblical influences on the poems, prayers, liturgies and other

texts which have survived from the golden age of Celtic Christianity are the Psalms and

the Gospels.”78 The Gospels will now be considered.

The New Testament’s account of Jesus opens with the first canonical uses of “Holy

Spirit” as a proper name. This is in relation to the conception of the Lord, which Matthew

presents as a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. Matthew highlights the meaning of the name

“Emmanuel”: “God is with us” (Matt. 1:18-23). Luke’s very distinct “infancy narrative”

nevertheless also mentions the conception by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), along with the

initiative of the Spirit in Jesus’ whole family (Luke 1:15,17,41,67, and possibly John the

Baptist, if pneuma79 at 1:80 means more than his human spirit).80 In fulfillment of the Old

76
Mays, Psalms, 385-7 (on “Psalms of Ascent”); 413 (on Psalm 133).
77
“All believers are priests to one another. Let your prayers for others reflect this –may this anointing
oil of the unity of the Holy Spirit move you to pray fervently and frequently for your brothers and sisters in
Christ.” Ben Patterson, God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms (Carol Stream
IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008), 287.
78
Ian Bradley, Following the Celtic Way: A New Assessment of Celtic Christianity (London: Darton,
Longman & Todd, 2018), p. 136.
79
All Greek references are from George V. Wigram, The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the
New Testament, Ninth Edition (1903, republished, Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 1970), and A. Marshall,
The R.S.V. Interlinear Greek – English New Testament (1958, Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 1970).
80
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke. New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand
Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishers, 1997), 75, 95, 115, 120.

22
Testament’s promises, the Spirit of God is inaugurating the age of redemption, and this

starts with the Spirit’s provision of the Messiah. John the Baptist announces that the

coming Christ will baptize “with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8, Matt. 3:11, Luke 3:16, John

1:33), this being “the way of the Lord” for which he was calling the people to “prepare”.

Jesus is then anointed by the Holy Spirit at his own baptism (Mark 1:10, Matt. 1:16, Luke

3:22, John 1:32-33). “Immediately” after this he is “led” (Matt. 4:1, Luke 4:1), even

“driven” (Mark 1:12) into his time of prayer and temptation in the wilderness. In all of

these narrative reports of the Holy Spirit, it is important to note that the Spirit of God

works in coordination with the human spirit.

In a passage beloved by Celtic Christians, Mary must assent to the angel before she is

impregnated by the Spirit (Luke 1:38).81 And though the Spirit “drives” Jesus to the

desert after his baptism, there Jesus overcomes Satan’s temptations by his own faith in

the Father (Mark 1:12). Then he can commence his ministry, “filled with the power of the

Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:14). This human spirit-divine Spirit interplay is consistent with this

thesis’s understanding of “spirituality” as the enablement of the communion between

God’s Spirit and the human spirit that forms the heart of “Celtic Christian” spirituality.

After this auspicious beginning, however, Matthew and Mark become quite sparing in

their references to the Spirit.82 They report Jesus warning against “blasphemy against the

Holy Spirit” in response to the accusations of his unbelieving opponents (Mark 3:29,

81
J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts. The Healing of Creation (San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass,
2008), p. 58. See the many references to Mary, too numerous to cite, in Alexander Carmichael, Carmina
Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations from the Gaelic (Modern Edition. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1994).
82
Mark and Luke however (but not Matthew or John) report frequently about Jesus’ contests with
“unclean” or “evil spirits” [pneumati akathartō, etc.].

23
Matt. 12:31-32),83 and pointing out that David spoke by the Spirit when he distinguished

the messiah from a merely political figure in Psalm 110 (Matt. 22:43, Mark 12:36).84 A

third shared synoptic reference to the Spirit may explain their reticence. In preparing his

followers for the years of mission and trial that will follow his death and resurrection,

Jesus assures them that the Holy Spirit (Matthew, “Spirit of your Father”) will give them

the words for their testimony (Matt. 12:20, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:12). Indeed, the wording

of Mark 13:11, “...do not worry... it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” may be

read as an incentive to bold, missional “Adventures in Blessing” in the Christian life (the

second of the P.A.T.H.S. experiment). The help of the Holy Spirit is to be expected, then,

after Jesus’ earthly work is completed and his chosen and “set apart” or “sanctified”

people take up the proclamation and enacted signification of the Kingdom.

Matthew indirectly illustrates this with the inclusion of the full triune name of God at

the risen Jesus’ “great commission” at the end of his gospel: “Go therefore and make

disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of

the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And

remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). The promise

that Jesus will be with his own echoes Matthew’s earlier highlighting of Isaiah’s use of

“Emmanuel... God is with us” (Matt. 1:23, Isaiah 7:14), and Jesus’ significant promise,

found only in Matthew’s unique discussion of restoring relationships in the “church”, that

“where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20). It is

83
Compare Luke’s more general reference to people making accusations against Christians, Lk. 12:10.
84
There are also isolated references to (merely) human “spirits” (Mt. 5:3, 26:41, Mk. 14:38, Lk. 1:17,
8:55), and to Jesus’ own human “spirit” (Mt. 27:50, Mk. 8:12, Lk. 10:21, 23:46, 24:37,39) –though some of
these may have hints of God’s Spirit in Jesus as well.

24
by the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus, that “God is with us.”85 That Spirit, however, is to be

known in the community of fellow believers –even if only two or three. This promise

informs the Celtic discipline of “Soul Friendship”, the fifth P.A.T.H.S. practice.

The three remaining, yet significant, references will conclude this review of the Spirit

in the synoptic gospels. At one point Matthew comments that Jesus was fulfilling “what

had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah” and then quotes Isaiah 42:1-4 in detail. This

includes God’s promise that “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice

to the Gentiles...in his name the gentiles will hope” (12:17-21).86 Luke reports that Jesus,

“full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1,14) commenced his public ministry by applying Isaiah

61:1-2 to himself (Luke 4:16-21).87 Both applications of Spirit-empowered “servant of

the Lord” texts to Jesus are primarily Christological, but they are also pregnant, as they

are in Isaiah, with a wider, Spirit-enabled hope.88

The third remaining reference to the Spirit in the Synoptics illustrates this: Luke

records Jesus concluding his discourse on prayer with the assurance, “If you then, who

are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly

Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)89 Joel Green comments

85
For this theme of “Emmanuel” see R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew. New International
Commentary on the New Testament (hereafter NICNT) (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans
Publishers, 2007), pp. 49, 698, 1118-9.
86
Douglas R.A. Hare, Matthew. Interpretation (Louisville KY: John Knox Press, 1993), 136.
87
Joel Green notes that “the notion of release is twice repeated” in Luke’s citation, Luke 4:18. The
word “release” implies opportunity for growth and service. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 210.
88
C. Moule notes of both Is. 61:1-2 and Lk. 4:18, “…the speaker claims to have been ‘anointed’ with
the spirit of Yahweh for a ministry of rescue and release.” The Holy Spirit (London: Mowbrays, 1978), 62.
89
Matthew wrote “good things” in his parallel (Mt. 7:11). Marshall insists however that “The ‘good
gifts’ in Mt. should certainly be understood in a spiritual sense (Rom. 3:8, 10:15, Heb. 9:11, 10:1; cf. Lk.
1:53…) so that the meaning in Mt. and Lk. is very much the same.” I. Howard Marshall, Commentary on
Luke. New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishers,
1978), 470.

25
that Jesus “...now anticipates that [the disciples] will be given the Spirit in some fashion

analogous to his own Spirit-anointing (cf. 3:21-22; 4:18-19).”90 Though the synoptic

gospels’ witness to the Holy Spirit is restrained and minimal, focusing mainly on Jesus’

own person and power, it certainly leaves the reader looking forward to a greater

endowment of the Spirit, following Christ’s resurrection.91 As Luke ends his gospel,

Jesus instruct the disciples: “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay

here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This

theme of Spirit-enabled “power” in the believer’s human spirit is an abiding theme in

Celtic Christianity. This also supports this thesis’s assumption that “Celtic” spirituality is

concerned with nurturing the human spirit’s openness and obedience to the Holy Spirit.92

John’s Gospel was famously loved by the Christians of the Celtic mission, not least

because of its profound witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life.93 That

said, it is important to note that in its portrayal of Christ’s public ministry, the Fourth

Gospel is as reticent about Jesus’ pronouncements on the Spirit as the Synoptics. Jesus

abruptly informs Nicodemus that “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being

born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5), but this is a private conversation with an

90
Green, The Gospel of Luke, 450.
91
“In each of the phases of the tradition and in each of the writers we have examined, there is the
constant link between the Holy Spirit and the historical events of the mission of Jesus the Christ…
Furthermore, however the future role of Christians is formulated, the Spirit is the dominant factor in that
role.” Michael Ramsey, Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study, 117. (The italics are Ramsey’s.)
92
Ray Simpson, Celtic Christianity: Deep Roots for a Modern Faith (Vestal NY: Anamchara
Books, 2014), pp. 203-223; Michael Mitton, Restoring the Woven Cord: Strands of Celtic Christianity for
the Church Today (London: Dalton, Longman and Todd, 1995), 99-110; Bradley, Following the Celtic
Way, pp. 70-77. James Bruce argues that the theme of supernatural power in Adomnan’s Life of Columba
are all witnesses to Adomnan’s “Celtic” pneumatology, eschatology and missiology: James Bruce,
Prophecy, Miracles, Angels, and Heavenly Light? The Eschatology, Pneumatology, and Missiology of
Adomnan’s Life of Columba (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock, Publishers, 2004). Cf. pp. 44 f. below.
93
Simpson devotes a chapter to John: Celtic Christianity, pp. 55-64. Cf. Linda McKinnish Bridges,
“The Fourth Gospel and Celtic Christianity.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 35.1 (2008), 45-67.

26
accomplished Jewish teacher (3:10). Though he is dedicated to the “way” of Torah-

righteousness, Jesus confronts him with the fact that what is really needed is a spiritual

rebirth “from above” (3:3,7), for “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of

the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). For a comparison we may recall Jesus’ response to the Pharisaic

criticisms of his laxness regarding their devout following of the Torah with all of its

cautious extra interpretations, “No one...puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the

wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine

into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:21-22).

There must be a whole new renovation of the human spirit. “The wind blows where it

chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where

it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). A comparison with

the wind, as has been noted, is quite appropriate to the Spirit. Nicodemus is being invited

to place his trust in Jesus and open his heart to the free, sovereign, yet renewing work of

God’s pneuma, ruah, “wind” or “spirit” in his life. Spiritual formation is to subsume and

energize mere Torah observance. The key to receiving this renewal is looking with faith

to the death, resurrection and ascension (the “lifting up”)94 of Jesus, just as the Israelites

were to look to Moses’ brazen serpent for deliverance from their sins (3:14-15).95 For, in

what appears to be an editorial comment on the evangelist’s part,96 John explains: “He

whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”

94
As well as here, John uses the phrase “lifted up” at Jn. 8:28 and 12:32,34.
95
“The begetting through Spirit of which vs. 5 speaks seems to be a reference to the outpouring of the
Spirit though Jesus when he has been lifted up in crucifixion and resurrection.” Raymond E. Brown, The
Gospel According to John. The Anchor Bible, Volume One (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1966), 140.
96
Merrill C. Tenney, “John”, in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Volume
9: John, Acts (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 52.

27
(4:34) The P.A.T.H.S. program may be understood as an experiment that may allow this

“looking to Jesus” to take place.

In a second private conversation, Jesus responds to the Samaritan woman’s queries

about external worship matters with the assertion that “the hour is coming, and is now

here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father

seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must

worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Again Jesus seeks to move his interlocutor

beyond a formal, external faith to a living spiritual communion: “If you knew the gift of

God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him,

and he would have given you living water...those who drink of the water that I will give

them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of

water gushing up to eternal life” (4:10,14). As George Beasley-Murray says of this

encounter, “Since the Kingdom of God is the age of the Spirit’s outpouring, true

worshippers will worship the Father in virtue of the life, freedom and power bestowed by

the Spirit, and in accordance with the redemptive revelation brought by the redeemer.”97

The same reasoning seems to be behind Jesus’ controversy with “the Jews” (Judean

leaders?) who misunderstood the import of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand in John

chapter 6: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken

to you are spirit and life” (6:63).

The only public proclamation about the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel is the cryptic

invitation that Jesus gave in the temple at the festival of Booths:98 “Let anyone who is

97
George Beasley-Murray, John. Word Biblical Commentary (Waco TX: Word Publishers, 1987), 62.
98
This can be seen by reviewing the exhaustive list of all the Johannine references to the Spirit in Elke
Speliopoulos, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John” (Paper submitted to Liberty Theological

28
thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said,

‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). Here as well

Jesus seems to be inviting his people to move beyond the externals of religiosity to a vital

relationship with God the Father through the Son and the Spirit. The crowd hears this

invitation with incredulity, but the reader has been prepared to comprehend it by Jesus’

references to water and the spirit in John 3, living water in John 4 and the “spirit giving

life” in chapter 6.99 Nonetheless the evangelist drives the point home with another

editorial explanation: “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to

receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7:39).100

The heart of the witness of the Fourth Gospel to the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ teachings

about the “Advocate” in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16). “I have said these

things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the

Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have

said to you” (14:25-26). Tenney nicely summarizes the main pneumatological point:

“The coming of the Spirit to indwell believers would bring the realization that the Father,

Son, and Holy Spirit are united in purpose and operation and that there would be a new

intimate relationship between them and believers.”101 As much of the discourse only

repeats what has already been discussed, three observations will suffice in drawing out

two implications of this for a “Celtic Christian” spirituality.

Seminary, August 14, 2011). See also Mary Ellen Pereira, “The Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John.” Leaven
XII.3 (January 2004), 1-5.
99
Brown, John, 327-329.
100
Beasley-Murray points out that Jesus’ words were in continuity with what his contemporaries
understood about the water symbolism at the temple during the festival of booths. John, 113-117.
101
Tenney, “John”, in Gaebelein, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary Volume 9, 147.

29
The first implication to note is Jesus’ teaching on prayer. As the present writer was

moved to explain to his parishioners in 2008:

Jesus affirms the promise of answered prayer four times in his last discourse (14:
12-14; 15:7; 15:16; 16:23-26). John never uses the usual Greek words for prayer
(proseuché). It is as if the common notion of an appeal to a remote deity is inade-
quate to portray the intimate communion within God’s Spirit that Jesus enables!102

In the first of these four references to prayer, Jesus promises: “...the one who believes in

me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these... so that

the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (Jn. 14:12-13) Christians will do even “greater

works” than the Saviour! He healed, forgave, befriended and offered dignity and renewal

to perhaps several hundred people during his earthly ministry in Palestine. But here he

promises that by his “going to the Father”, his mission will increase exponentially. This

increase will be because of the work of the Spirit in and through his followers (16:7-11).

In fact, “prayer” is hardly an adequate word for the intimate communion or “abiding”

(15:5-7) that he promises. What is promised here is in fact an intimate inter-communion

with the Trinity itself –the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: A triune relational energy will

empower Christian witness: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from

the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.

You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26).

The Third discipline of the P.A.T.H.S. program, “Trinitarian Prayers”, is meant to

encourage participants to offer praise to God and seek blessing on themselves and those

they care for –“doing the work” of Jesus– throughout each day. They are in the spirit of

102
Christopher McMullen, Forty Days with the Beloved Disciple: Daily Readings from the Gospel of
John for Lent, 2008 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, reading for March 11, 2008 (John 15:16-27).

30
the Gaelic prayers for everyday matters like rising in the morning or “smooring” the fire,

recited to Alexander Carmichael in the Scottish Highlands in the nineteenth century.103

The second implication to note concerns the “way” and “path” of spiritual fidelity to

God. The Greek hodos, “way” or “path”, appears 101 times in the New Testament. There

is the “broad” way of destruction, but there is also the “narrow” way of “life” (Matt.

7:13-14). “Nearly half (46x) the occurrences of this word are figurative in meaning,

focusing on the course one takes in life.”104 When Mark reports the healed Bartimaeus

following Jesus in “the way” (Mark 10:52) he is surely meaning more than just

journeying to Jerusalem. John the Baptist called the people to “prepare the way of the

Lord” (Mark 1:3 etc.). In the Book of Acts, “the Way” becomes a name for the Christian

life (Acts 9:2, 18:25, 19:9, 24:14,22). This theme of the “way” or the “path” of Christian

spirituality will be the theme of the Fifth section below, on Paul’s Epistles.

While Matthew’s Gospel ends with baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy

Spirit and the assurance that Jesus (as “Emmanuel”) is always with his own (Matt. 28:20)

and Luke’s ends with a command to wait for God’s promised “power from on high”

before beginning mission (Luke 24:49), John’s Gospel includes the singular scene of the

risen Jesus “breathing” on the disciples and commissioning them: “Peace be with you. As

the Father has sent me, so I send you...Receive the Holy Spirit...” (John 20:21-22). This is

the fulfillment of his promises regarding the “advocate” in his final discourse.105 The age

of the Holy Spirit has begun! Peter is faithful to this commission when he proclaims at

103
Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica (cf. n.81 p.23 above).
104
William D., Mounce, General Editor, Mounce’s Complete Dictionary of Old & New Testament
Words (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2006), “Way,” 779.
105
Peace: John 14:27 and 16:33; the Spirit, 14:26, 15:26, 16:13; mission, 14:12, 15:8,16, 15:27, 16:8-
11,14, 16:33.

31
Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that

your sins may be forgiven;106 and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the

promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the

Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:38-40).

As with the above discussion of Genesis and the Psalms, it is important to highlight

the Gospel mandates for the five “P.A.T.H.S.” of this thesis’s “Experiment”. The second,

third and fifth disciplines were referenced already in this section.107

The Gospels’ 28 explicit quotations of the Psalter offer a mandate for the first

discipline, daily praying the Psalms,108 especially given Luke’s report that the risen Jesus

pointed the disciples to the truth that “...that everything written about me in the law of

Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Celtic Christians

understood their daily praying of the Psalms to be a Gospel-mandated way to praise God,

draw nearer to Christ the “Son of David”, and grow in the Spirit who inspired them.109

Regarding the fourth practice, no one who reflects upon the nature-parables of Jesus

would doubt the Saviour’s experience of his Father in the beauty, intricacy and mystery

of the natural world.110 “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the

ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he

does not know how....” (Mark 4: 26-27). This parable of “the Growing Seed” forms the

106
On forgiveness cf. John 20:21-23: “...If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them....”
107
Pages 24 and 30 above.
108
Danijel Berković, “Jesus and the Psalms,” KAIROS - Evangelical Journal of Theology, 10.1 (2016),
41-62.
109
“Celtic Christians” took Paul’s exhortation to sing the psalms in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians
3:16 to heart. This will be more fully discussed in the following chapter.
110
Some nature parables of regeneration (many appearing in more than one Gospel): The Sower, Mark
4:3-8; the Mustard Seed, Mark 4:30-32; the Fig Tree, Mark 13:28-29; Luke 13:6-9; the Vine, John 15:1-8.

32
Biblical basis of the Natural Church Development “all by itself” principle used for this

thesis.111 “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I

tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so

clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,

will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6: 28-31). Jesus’

followers are to discover the goodness of the Holy God that is attested in God’s creation.

V. Paths of Spirituality in the Pauline Epistles

Paul reminds the Corinthians of his “ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere

in every church” (I Cor. 4:17). In his discussion of the gifts of the Spirit he commends

love as “a still more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:31b). This “way” is richly different from

that meant by Jesus’ opponents when they insincerely credit him with “being right in

what you say and teach... the way [‘odos] of God in accordance with the truth” (Luke

20:21), for in John’s Gospel, Jesus dramatically changes the meaning of “the way”: “I am

the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John

14:6). The disciples’ uncertainty about this leads Jesus into his first instructions about the

Holy Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse (14:15-24). As Tenney points out, Jesus’ claim

is not “exhibiting a narrow arrogance,” but offering his living, abiding presence with his

people, to guide, empower and bless them in full human lives.112 Jesus is offering the

redeeming “way” of life in the Spirit.

111
The role of this parable in Natural Church Development’s “biotic principle" will be explained in
Chapter Four below (pp. 141 f.). Christian A. Schwarz, “Understanding ‘All By Itself’ Growth,” Colour
Your World with Natural Church Development (Kelowna BC: The Leadership Centre, Willow Creek
Canada, 2005), 84-86, p. 84; also Schwarz, Paradigm Shift in the Church: How Natural Church
Development Can Transform Theological Thinking (Carol Stream, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 1999),
218-220.
112
Tenney, “John”, in Gaebelein, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary Volume 9, 144.

33
The “pathways” of Christian spirituality, then, will not be disheartening lists of “do’s’

and “don’ts”, but rather disciplines or practices that open believers to the resources and

blessings of God’s redeeming Spirit in their lives. John’s image of “bearing fruit” (John

15:1-8) echoes Jesus’ many parables of the Kingdom growing by its own fruitfulness.113

This is why Paul contrasts the “works” of the “flesh” with the “fruits of the Spirit” (Gal.

5:16;25).114 What might such practices be? “How can we know the way,” asked Thomas

(John 14:5)? The answer is a third insight from Jesus’ great spiritual “pep-talk” of the

Upper Room Discourse:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep
my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s
commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my
joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete (John 15:9-11).

The importance of these “commandments” is seen in the repeated references to them in

the discourse.115 John again and again mentions this theme in his epistles as well.116 “For

the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not

burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that

conquers the world, our faith” (I John 5:3-4).

What are “the commandments”? In the Synoptic accounts, Jesus taught that “all the

law and the prophets” “hang” on the two “great” “commandments”: to love God and the

neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40). When Paul wrote that “love is the fulfilling of the law”

113
E.g., the Sower, the Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed, Mark 4:1-20,26-32. Cf. C. Schwarz,
“Understanding ‘All By Itself’ Growth,” Colour Your World with Natural Church Development, 84-86.
114
Notice Paul frames his discussion of the “fruit of the Spirit” with exhortations to “live by the
Spirit,” Galatians 5: 16 and 25. This echoes Jesus’ invitation to “bear much fruit and become my disciples”
(John 15:8), dramatically illustrated in the parable of the Vine (John 15:1-8).
115
John 14:15,21,31; 15:12, 14,17. Note the “teaching” Jesus commands in the “great commission”,
Matt. 28: 18-20.
116
I John 2:3-4,7-8; 3:22-24, 4:21, 5:2-3; II John 1:4-6 (thirteen times all together!).

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(Rom.13:10) he wrote in the spirit of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment, that you

love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:

31). As Paul expressed it to Timothy: “…God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but

rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (II Timothy 1:7). The “way of

Christ” for Paul is a disciplined life of love, where the believer’s “spirit” is empowered

by the Holy Spirit.

Paul articulates the human spirit being open to and enriched by God’s Spirit in this

way: “…because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,

crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). N.T. Wright comments on Paul’s image of the

intimacy of God’s Spirit with the “heart” or the human “spirit”: “To approach the frontier

between the human and the divine is also to approach the borders of language.”

The questions English language exegetes sometimes ask, as to whether “spirit”


should have a capital letter or not, indicating the divine spirit rather than the
human one, shows well enough that there is fluidity of thought at this point.117

There are 134 references to the Spirit in the Pauline corpus. Paul conforms to the

teaching on the Spirit and spirituality that has been reviewed already. In I Corinthians

2:9-13 he writes: “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human

spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of

God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so

that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” A. Heron comments:

The thought here is in line with the Old Testament link between the Spirit of God
and the human spirit...but now in a specifically Christian fashion. The Spirit is the
inner dynamic of the life of faith, life which is ‘hid with Christ in God’ (Col.3:3),

117
N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Two Volumes (Minneapolis MI: Fortress Press,
2013), II, 1370.

35
and at its inmost core is formed by participation in a movement issuing from the
heart of God himself.118

C.F.D. Moule is also taken by this text: “Here, in I Cor.2, Paul...dares to express the

affinity between God’s Spirit and something in [humanity] by using the single word

pneuma for both.”119 The word “spiritual” (Greek, pneumatikōs), interestingly, appears

only in the Epistles: twenty-four times in Paul120 and twice in I Peter (both at I Pet. 2:5).

For example, Paul exhorts the Galatians (Gal. 6:1), “My friends, if anyone is detected in a

transgression, you who have received the Spirit [‘oi pneumatikoi, lit. ‘the spiritual ones’]

should restore such a one in a spirit [pneumati] of gentleness.” It is as if this adjective for

the Spirit’s presence and formative influence was simply not appropriate until Pentecost.

Commenting on I Corinthians 15:44-58 and Romans 8:5-11, Moule speaks of this divine-

human “spiritual” intimacy: “Only if man lets in God’s Spirit will he become a ‘spiritual’

person and have life in the full sense– eternal life. The Spirit must impinge on spirit, if

the ‘body’ is to become spiritual– that is, become a ‘body’ capable of life with God.”121

The Würzburg Irish glossator exhibited a typical Celtic appreciation of the significance of

Romans 8:9-11 for spiritual development when he noted: “Though it [the body] has been

cleansed through baptism, it is not able to do well until the Holy Spirit awake it, for the

guest-house of the Spirit is not base.”122 Both the motive and the power for the spiritual

life is seen in Paul’s many exhortations, for example: “So then, brothers and sisters, we

are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to

118
Heron, The Holy Spirit, 49.
119
Moule, The Holy Spirit, p.9.
120
Including one appearance of the related adverb pneumatikōs, I Cor. 2:14.
121
Moule, The Holy Spirit, 17.
122
The Old Irish Glosses, 4a. § 6-7 on Romans 8:9-10, Stokes, op.cit., p. 246.

36
the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will

live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom. 8:12-14).

In the same chapter, Paul’s witness to the travail of creation under sin is reminiscent

of Isaiah’s and Ezekiel’s teaching that creation itself is destined to be restored by the

intervention of God’s Spirit, both on its human stewards, and upon the earth itself.123 But

such is the focus on the Spirit in Christians in Paul, that any thought of the Spirit in the

wider creation is subsumed by the intimate gift of the spirit on people:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of
God...in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay
and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the
whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the
creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly
while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom.8:19-23).

Though it goes against many popular notions of the Spirit of God inhabiting the

whole earth in modern theology, Heron’s observation is shared by many: “The

reorientation and redefinition of the Spirit in terms of Jesus Christ lead in the New

Testament to a virtually exclusive association of the Spirit with redemption, salvation,

rebirth, eschatological hope.”124 This may be disappointing for those with an interest in

Celtic Christian spirituality,125 but it does keep the focus on Christian spirituality being

about the interplay of God’s Spirit and the human “spirit” in God’s saving gift of

salvation and especially sanctification in Christ. Christians may still experience the

Holiness of God in God’s great creation (the fourth P.A.T.H.S. practice), but as a

communion under the creator Father, by the grace of the Son, through the Spirit of God
123
For example, Isaiah 32:14-17, 44:2-3; Ezekiel 36:4-11,26-28.
124
Heron, The Holy Spirit, 59.
125
Simpson distances the Celtic love for creation from “new age spiritualities”. Celtic Christianity,
141. “There was nothing romantic, however, about the hard daily existence of some of the Celtic hermits,
and this sense of wonder, though it has been overlaid in our society, is being freshly evoked today…”, 145.

37
within; and not worshipped animistically in nature itself. Eduard Schweizer movingly

evokes both the Psalms and the Gospels when he attests the beauty of even this: “As

Jesus said, we learn to live like the flowers and the birds, opening ourselves up to the

Spirit, the same Spirit which is at work in creation and seeks to unite us with the whole

choir of creation in praising God.” 126

To this end, Paul’s exhortation to “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and

supplication” (Eph. 6:18) is important for the Third P.A.T.H.S. discipline: “Trinitarian

Prayer.” The prayers in Ephesians 3:14-21 and Colossians 1:9-13 exhibit a profound

sense of intimate communion, under the Father, with Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. In

this way of living in a conscious awareness of the “encircling” presence of God (as

“Celtic Christians” understood it),127 believers are to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess.

5:17). Indeed even the Epistle of Jude urges its readers to “pray in the Holy Spirit; keep

yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that

leads to eternal life” (Jude 20-12). Nor is this to be an individualistic spirituality, “just me

and the Trinity”. Paul continued his exhortation in Ephesians 6:18: “...To that end keep

alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”

The telling phrase, “one-another” occurs frequently in Paul’s ethical and spiritual

admonitions. “Bear with one another.... teach and admonish one another in all wisdom;

and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Col.

3:13a,16). The First P.A.T.H.S. practice, daily “Praying the Psalms”, may represent a

126
Schweizer, The Holy Spirit, 73.
127
Such prayers are called “encompassing” or “caim” prayers. Esther De Waal, The Celtic Vision:
Prayers and Blessings from the Outer Hebrides (London: Dalton, Longman and Todd, 1988), 159.

38
good response to this admonition. Note how the “to God” admonition pairs with sharing

with “one-another.”128

The Fifth of the P.A.T.H.S. practices, “Soul Friends”, is a practical and accountable

way of implementing Paul’s repeated appeals to live the faith for and with “one-another,”

which appear dozens of times in his prayers and admonitions. “Therefore encourage one

another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11). Paul’s readers

are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and indeed generally “bear with one

another” (Eph. 4:2, Col. 3:13); “admonish one another” (Col. 3:16); even “instruct one

another” (Rom. 15:14). An excellent way to express this spiritual mutuality (Matt. 18:20)

is to at least begin with a specific, other trusted spiritual friend. Celtic Crosses often

included a scene of the model desert eremites, Anthony of Egypt and Paul of Thebes,

meeting together for the sake of learning and praying with “one another.” Their example

of mutual spiritual sharing was as important a story to communicate in stone pictures to

the Celtic public, as were the many popular scriptural scenes it usually accompanied. 129

Christian spirituality is a disciplined response to Paul’s instruction, “...work out your

own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you

both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). The Second P.A.T.H.S.

practice, “Adventures in Blessing,” is meant to be an intentional engagement in such

“work” in response to Jesus’ command to “let your light shine before others, so that they

may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Or, as

128
Fee thinks that the “psalms” here and at Ephesians 5:19 probably refer to the Christian use of the
Biblical Psalter. Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul
(Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 654. Ephesians 5:19 also links “to God” and “one-another.”
129
Malcolm Seaborne, Celtic Crosses of Britain and Ireland (Aylebury, Bucks, UK: Shire
Publications, 1989), pp. 18, 23-24, 26, 27, 38, 43, 51-53. See also Timothy Joyce, Celtic Christianity: A
Sacred Tradition, A Vision of Hope (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1998), 77.

39
Paul says, “shine like stars in the world” (Phil. 2:15). Not as a “salvation by works,” but

as “...worship in the Spirit of God and boast[ing] in Christ Jesus” rather than “confidence

in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). The P.A.T.H.S. experiment is an attempt to open up a “way” for

Christians to better experience and enjoy the grace-given “fruit” 130 of the saving

interplay between the Spirit of God and the human spirit which this chapter has explored.

VI. Conclusion

This chapter has outlined a Biblical understanding of spirituality, by which that of the

early “Celtic Christian” movement may be assessed and adapted to provide a Scripturally

faithful foundation for the five spiritual disciplines that make up the “P.A.T.H.S. of Celtic

Spirituality” at the heart of this thesis. Starting with the interplay of (Section II) “God’s

Spirit and the Human Spirit in Genesis,” it then surveyed the witness the same theme in

(III) the Psalms, followed by (IV) “Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels,” and (V) as

this is applied in the “Paths of Spirituality in the Pauline Epistles”.

This exploration has focused upon the Biblical interplay between the God’s Spirit and

the human spirit in salvation. The Old Testament’s witness to the work of the Spirit has

been noted, in both creation, and in the promise of a renewal for the entire natural world.

In the New Testament however the focus carefully centers Christologically on the

presence of the Spirit in believers, even though this renewal of earth’s stewards as “God’s

children” will bring healing and new life to all of creation (Romans 8:19-21). Each

section has made connections with all five elements of the “P.A.T.H.S.” experiment. The

Second Chapter will be a defense of their authenticity as notable characteristics of the

130
Cf. p. 34 above.

40
ancient “Celtic Christian” movement, along with an analysis of their popularity with

today’s proponents of a renewed “Celtic Christian spirituality.”

“Prayer is not something you do; it is a style of living,” explains John Taylor. It is:

...living under the witness which the Spirit bears with our spirit that we are sons of
God.... To engage in the mission of God, therefore, is to live this life of prayer;
praying without ceasing, as St. Paul puts it....This is indeed to engage in the
mission of the Holy Spirit by being rather than by doing. To realize the heart of
mission is communion with God in the midst of the world’s life will save us from
the demented activism of these days.131

A daily time of praying with a selected Psalm; a weekly Adventure in offering God’s

blessing for others; a habit of seven prayers throughout the day, in and to the Trinity; a

weekly intentional enjoyment of the Holiness of God in creation; and a regular time of

sharing and praying with a chosen Soul Friend are five ways to move from Taylor’s

characterization of modern Christian life as a “demented activism” to a communion with

the Father, in Jesus, by the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (II.Cor.13:13) with our human

spirits. Such is the intent of this Irish petition from the eighth century:

O King enthroned on high


Thou comforter divine
Blest Spirit of all truth, be nigh
And make us thine.

Thou art the source of life,


Thou art our treasure-store;
Give us thy peace and end our strife
For evermore.

Descend, O heavenly dove,


Abide with us always;
And in the fullness of thy love
Cleanse us, we pray. 132

131
John V. Taylor, The Go-Between God, 227.
132
Pat Robson, The Celtic Heart. An Anthology of Prayers and Poems in the Celtic Tradition (London
UK: SPCK, 2009), 159.

41
Chapter Two:

Celtic Christian Spirituality.

I. Introduction

In the First Chapter “Celtic Christian Spirituality” was defined as attending to “the

intercommunion between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit which enables the work of

sanctification.”133 Genesis, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Pauline corpus were

employed to show that this definition is in keeping with Biblical teaching. From Paul’s

epistles, where the adjective “spiritual” is first found, the “pathways” of Christian

spirituality were identified as “those disciplines or practices that open believers to the

resources and blessings of God’s redeeming Spirit in their lives.”134 As Paul explains it

(Rom. 8: 11-14):

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised
Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit
that dwells in you... for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by
the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led
by the Spirit of God are children of God.

As Jesus promised (John 14:23,26): “Those who love me will keep my word, and my

Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.... the

Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you

everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate that this understanding of Christian

spirituality is implicit in the recorded writings and the prayers of “Celtic Christians”

(Section II). It will be necessary to defend the very notion of “Celtic Christianity” itself

133
Page 6 above.
134
Quoted from page 34 above.

42
(Section III), eventually using the consistency of early “Celtic Christian” witnesses as

one good reason for the continued use of the concept. Then each of the five selected

“P.A.T.H.S.” of typical practices supported by the records of early “Celtic Christians”

will be outlined, with a view to their adoption and adaptation for use by the parishioners

of the Church of the Good Shepherd today (Sections IV-VIII).135

It is important to note that just as the claim is not being made in Chapter One that

what was presented is “the” Biblical understanding of Christian spirituality, but simply an

understanding, for present purposes, in keeping with the Scriptural witness; so now the

simple claim is that “Celtic Christian” spirituality is an authentic and consistent

expression of that particular understanding. It is also important to note that the practices

identified here are not meant to be a definitive or exhaustive list of “Celtic Christian”

spiritual disciplines, but only a selection of five practices which seemed best for the

P.A.T.H.S. “Experiment” in the particular parish where the research project took place.

II. Is There a “Celtic Christian” Spirituality?

The First Chapter opened with citations from Pelagius and Patrick, both from the fifth

century, and the Old Irish glosses preserved in the Wurzburg manuscript, which dates

from the eighth century.136 Pelagius was further adduced later in the chapter,137 along

with Eriugena (ninth century),138 Adomnan’s Life of Columba (seventh century),139and

even the Scottish Highlanders that shared their prayers with Alexander Carmichael in the

135
Chapter Three will present how this adoption and adaptation unfolded.
136
Pages 5 f. above.
137
Page 6 above.
138
Page 12 above.
139
Pages 13,18 above.

43
late nineteenth century.140 Such an eclectic mix of sources in promoters of “Celtic

Christianity” has come under considerable criticism. Before addressing this critique, it

will be requisite to add five more examples to the offense!

First, Adomnan (d. 704) presented Columba, the founder of the monastery at Iona

where he served as abbot, as a missioner and leader greatly endowed by the Holy Spirit.

For, as St. Paul says, ‘He is joined unto the Lord in one spirit.’ One time when a
few of the brethren pressed him about this, the man of the Lord, St. Columba, did
not deny that by divine grace he had several times experienced a miraculous
enlarging of the grasp of the mind so that he seemed to look at the whole world
caught in one ray of sunlight.141

Another time, a fellow monk noted the saint in extended prayer being bathed in spiritual

light, attributed to his spirit’s being in deep communion with the Holy Spirit.142 Indeed

Adomnan begins his tribute to the saint by noting the significance of Columba’s name,

recalling the baptismal descent of the Spirit on Jesus in the form of a dove (Irish, colm).

“...he was loving to all people, and his face showed a holy gladness because his heart was

full of the joy of the Holy Spirit.”143 In his detailed study of this work, Prophecy,

Miracles, Angels and Heavenly Light? The Eschatology, Pneumatology, and Missiology

of Adomnan’s ‘Life of St. Columba,’ James Bruce argues that one of Adomnan’s main

purposes is to testify that Columba’s powerful holiness is because “As a result he has the

Spirit of God in him, and is one in spirit with God.... It means that Columba shares in the

life of the Spirit of God.”144 Other examples of Adomnan’s portrait of Columba’s

140
Page 31 above.
141
Adomnan, Life of St. Columba, Book I §1, tr. and ed. Richard Sharpe (London: Penguin Books,
1995), p. 112. Sharpe notes that Adomnan is quoting I Corinthians 6:17 here.
142
Ibid., III.18, pp. 219-221.
143
Ibid., Second Preface, p.p. 104, 106.
144
J. Bruce, Prophecy, Miracles, Angels and Heavenly Light? The Eschatology, Pneumatology, and
Missiology of Adomnan’s ‘Life of St. Columba’ (Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock, 2004), 163.

44
supernatural vision and influence are all, argues Bruce, recorded for the sake of insisting

that they “...are not attributable to some marvellous ability he naturally possesses, but to

the dynamic action of [the Spirit of] God in or though Columba’s human spirit.”145

Bede provides a second example, from the eighth century, of an understanding of

sainthood being the maturity of one’s spirit being in communion with God’s Spirit. In his

Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede pays tribute to St. Fursa (d. 690 AD):

He was a man of very noble Irish race, but still nobler in spirit than by birth. From
his boyhood’s days he had devoted all his energy to the study of sacred books and
to the monastic discipline; furthermore, as a saint should, he earnestly sought to
do whatever he learned to be his duty. What more need be said?146

Though this might be taken to express Bede’s pneumatology even though he is describing

a monk of the “Celtic” tradition, Bede only uses similar language, uncharacteristic for

him, in his biography of St. Cuthbert, written for the monks of Lindisfarne. Though an

Anglo-Saxon, Cuthbert was trained there, and the biography itself was commissioned as a

defense of their own distinctly Irish heritage. When he became prior of the monastery, his

re-imposition of “Celtic” disciplines made him a source of much grumbling by the mostly

English monks. Yet, Bede records, “It was clear to everyone that it was the Holy Spirit

within giving him strength to smile at attacks from without.”147 Though Bede’s

preoccupation was famously about proper church order and the authority of Rome,

145
Ibid., 191. See also pp. 159, 163, 194. Adrian Coyle wrote an insightful discussion of “The
Relationship between Adomnan of Iona’s Life of St. Columba and Celtic Christianity/Spirituality”. He
cautions that while the Life contains miracle tales and other elements which are not amenable to believers
today, it “manifests important features that characterize other religious texts produced by Celtic people in
the Middle Ages.” Journal for the Study of Spirituality II.1 (May 2012), 77-90, p.87.
146
Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book III § 19, ed. Judith McClure and Roger
Collins (Oxford University Press, 1994), 139 f.
147
Bede, Life of Cuthbert, § 16, in D.H. Farmer, The Age of Bede. Second Revised Edition (London:
Penguin Books, 1988), 39-102, p. 64. See also references to the presence of the Holy Spirit in Cuthbert’s
spirit, pp. 62, 74, 92.

45
nonetheless he was distinctly inspired to uncharacteristically portray Cuthbert’s ministry

of episcopal confirmations not so much as a rite of submission to the bishop, but as the

saint’s communication of the Holy Spirit to believers: “Cuthbert preached twice to the

milling crowds and brought down the grace of the Holy Ghost by imposition of hands on

those newly regenerated in Christ.”148

Adomnan and Bede wrote in Latin. The third example comes from an anonymous

Irish hermit in the mid-eighth century, who penned an inspiring poem in Old Irish

testifying that his choice of an eremitic discipline was for the sake of training his spirit to

be in communion with God’s Spirit. Note his context in the beauty of creation, the

singing of psalms and days filled with prayer –three of the “P.A.T.H.S.” habits:

Treading the paths of the Gospel,


Singing psalms every Hour;
an end of talking and long stories;
Constant bending of the knees.

My Creator to visit me,


My Lord, my King,
My spirit to seek Him
In the eternal kingdom where He is.149

From the ninth century, the fourth example is again from Eriugena, hailed by John

Macquarrie as “the greatest Celtic thinker who ever lived.”150 He wrote of the perfect

communion of Jesus’ human spirit and the Holy Spirit in his Homily on the Prologue to

the Gospel of John (commenting on the phrase, “full of grace,” John 1:14):

The fullness of the grace of Christ, however, may also be understood to refer to
the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit, since it distributes and operates the gifts of
grace, is often called grace. This Spirit, by its sevenfold operation, filled the

148
Ibid., §32, Farmer, The Age of Bede, 83; see also § 29, p. 81.
149
K. H. Jackson, ed., A Celtic Miscellany, Revised Edition (London: Penguin Books, 1971), 281.
150
John Macquarrie, In Search of Deity (London: SCM Press, 1984), 85.

46
humanity of Christ and rested on him. As the prophet says: ‘And the Spirit of the
Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of
counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.’151

Eriugena further celebrates the wonder, not only of the Incarnation, by which humanity

and deity are joined by the conception of the Holy Spirit; but of Christ’s and thus

humanity’s “sanctification”, “...as if at the summit of the mystical candle of the church,

the lamps of grace shine in and from him.”152 Notice the association of light with the

intercommunion of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit, as in Adomnan’s witness.

Mugrόn, an abbot of Iona martyred by Danes in 986 AD, provides a fifth, tenth-

century example of this “Celtic Christian” understanding of spirituality. This is part of the

third stanza of a Gaelic litany to the Holy Trinity attributed to him:

Have mercy upon us, God Almighty, Holy Spirit.


Spirit who are highest of every spirit.
Finger of God...
Spirit of wisdom.
Spirit of understanding.
Spirit of counsel.
Spirit of strength.
Spirit of knowledge.
Spirit of fondness.
Spirit of awe.
Spirit of love.
Spirit of grace.
Spirit by whom every noble thing is ordered.
Spirit who burns up guilt.
Spirit who washes away sins.
Holy Spirit who rules all creation, visible and invisible.
Have mercy on me.153

151
John Scotus Eriugena, Homily on the Prologue of the Gospel of John, § XXIII, in Christopher
Bamford, tr. and ed., The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (Hudson NY: The
Lindisfarne Press, 1990), 57.
152
Ibid., § XXIII, Bamford, The Voice of the Eagle, 58.
153
Mugrόn, “The Litany of the Trinity”, in Thomas Owen Clancy, ed., The Triumph Tree: Scotland’s
Earliest Poetry AD 550-1330 (Edinburgh: Canongate Classics, 1998), 162 f.

47
Note the effective paradox of the Spirit as Almighty God, creator and ruler; yet intimate

grace-giving companion of the believer, inspiring the petitioner to spiritual maturity.

More examples could illustrate early “Celtic Christian Spirituality”. May these

suffice, as a demonstration that, in the words of a thirteenth-century Dominican, writing

in Welsh, Celtic Christian Spirituality is “Therefore, through that tender love which

comes from the sparks of the Holy Spirit, who is the tender love of the Father for the Son

and the Son for the Father,” [the disciplines by which] “humanity, the creature, is united

with the Creator, who is God Almighty.”154 In other words, “the intercommunion

between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit which enables the work of sanctification.”

III. Is Looking to “Celtic Christianity” A Legitimate Exercise?

This understanding of “Celtic Christian Spirituality” has been illustrated from a wide

variety of sources, spanning several centuries and nations. Many scholars however are

critical of such an exercise, which seems to ignore different local cultures, and lumps

them all together under the admittedly modern concept of “Celtic,” which originally

referred to little more than a similarity in certain early North-Western European language

groups. In his exhaustive study of Christian mission in Europe, Richard Fletcher bluntly

insists: “There never was a ‘Celtic Church’.”

For example, the notion widely entertained today, especially by dewy-eyed


ecologists, that the spirit of the so-called Celtic church was a pollen-strewn blend
of love and nature and Irish mythology is one of the silliest misconceptions which
the mushy credulity of our age has devised.155

154
“The Food of the Soul,” in Oliver Davies and Thomas O’Loughlin, eds., Celtic Spirituality. The
Classics of Western Spirituality series (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 433-455, p. 443.
155
Richard Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe, From Paganism to Christianity 371-1386 AD (London:
Harper Collins Publishers, 1997), 92, 520.

48
The Gaelic-speaking Highlander, Donald Meek, Professor of Celtic at Aberdeen

University, has written a detailed critical exposé of the modern “Celtic Christianity”

movement, The Quest for Celtic Christianity.156 He traces the contemporary interest in

the subject through nineteenth and twentieth-century reactions to everything from liberal

theology, Thatcherite politics, environmentalism, the challenge of modern pluralism, the

romanticist fascination with Indigenous religions, to church decline.157 Andy Phillips asks

the question, “Just how ‘Celtic’ is today’s Celtic Christianity?” He concludes: “Don’t

worry about Celtic tigers; just beware of being sold a Celtic pup.”158 Gavin Wakefield of

Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham, asks for “a critical re-think” of modern claims

about a “Celtic Church”. He complains that “Celtic Spirituality” is “one of the more

subjectivized forms of Christian spirituality,” and urges his readers to avoid “projecting

back our concerns onto the historical record.”159 Gilbert Márkus goes so far as to call for

“the end of Celtic Christianity”.160

Most tellingly, Ian Bradley, now Emeritus Professor of Cultural and Spiritual History

at the University of St. Andrews, in 1992 initially wrote an effusive and still popular

presentation of “Celtic Christianity,” The Celtic Way.161 By 1999, however, he composed

Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams, which he subsequently

described as “perhaps best...seen as an act of penance on the part of someone who

156
Donald Meek, The Quest for Celtic Christianity (Edinburgh: the Handsel Press, 2000). (This
incorporates essays from 1992 to 1997. See his bibliography, p. 261).
157
Ibid., 23-37.
158
Andy Phillips, “Just How ‘Celtic’ Is Today’s Celtic Christianity?” Church
Newspaper.com/5687/archives, March 20, 2010 (accessed August 21, 2018), 3.
159
Gavin Wakefield, “Myths of Celtic Christianity.” Anvil 23.3 (2006), 191-206. https:
// biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/anvil/32-3_191.pdf (accessed May 9, 2017), 205 f.
160
Gilbert Márkus, “The End of Celtic Christianity.” Epworth Review XXIV.3 (1997), 45-55.
161
Ian C. Bradley, The Celtic Way (London: Dalton, Longman & Todd, 1993)

49
realized that his work had helped to fuel the current mood of Celto-mania and who was

conscious of the need for a critical academic study of the whole phenomenon of Celtic

Christian revivalism.”162 He unflatteringly records the preoccupation with “Celtic

Christianity” from the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD and the writings of Bede, through

thirteen centuries, to “the current revival” from which this thesis receives its inspiration.

Nonetheless he confesses a continued desire to use the concept: “...not just to dream but

to put our dreams into reality by changing ourselves and our world and moving forward

in imitation of Christ and towards the Kingdom of God...that for me is its ultimate

justification.”163 In a subsequent book published the next year, Colonies of Heaven:

Celtic Models for Today's Church, Bradley outlines five themes for Christian life and

mission which he believes may be adapted from Celtic Christians for today.164

Very recently, in Following the Celtic Way: A New Assessment of Celtic Christianity,

Bradley gives twenty-one authentic “P” characteristics of historical “Celtic Christian”

faith, along with seven “P’s” of “what we don’t find in Celtic Christianity,” including

Predestination, Purgatory, Penal substitutionary theories of the atonement, or a medieval

focus upon Christ’s Passion, i.e. sufferings, as against a Celtic interest in his victorious

miraculous powers and resurrection.165 He closes his reassessment and renewed

commendation of “Celtic Christianity” for today, with this famous prayer of St. Columba:

The path I walk, Christ walks in it.


May the land in which I am be without sorrow.

162
Ian C. Bradley, Colonies of Heaven: Celtic Models for Today's Church (London: Dalton, Longman
& Todd, 2000), viii.
163
Ian C. Bradley, Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams (Edinburgh University
Press, 1999), x.
164
Bradley, Colonies of Heaven (see n.162 above).
165
Ian Bradley, Following the Celtic Way (cf. n.78 p. 22 above), 135-137.

50
May the Trinity protect me wherever I stray,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit...
May the way in which I spend be a way without loss.
May every path before me be smooth,
Man, woman and child welcome me.
A truly good journey!
Well does the fair Lord show us a course, a path.166

One may surmise from Bradley’s assertion of themes he approvingly does not find in

his reconstruction of “Celtic Christianity,” that he is an unashamed liberal Protestant.167

Another of the same vein, Kenneth McIntosh, a minister in the United Church of Christ,

has written Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life.168 Perhaps

the most influential liberal Protestant in the “Celtic” movement is the former Warden of

the modern Iona Community, John Philip Newell, whose books Listening to the

Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality and The Book of Creation: An Introduction to

Celtic Spirituality have had tremendous influence in the renaissance of “Celtic

Christianity”.169 Meek contrasts Newell’s humanistic optimism, justified in his early

works by edited selective quotations from Carmina Gadelica, with the doctrine of fallen

human nature and the need for disciplines of penance taught by the authentically “Celtic”

St. Columbanus.170 Indeed, in Newell’s later books, The Rebirthing of God:

Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings and A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth,

and the Human Soul, he seems to have fully departed from traditional Christianity,

166
Ibid., 157.
167
He calls himself “an unrepentant old liberal,” ibid., x.
168
Kenneth McIntosh, Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life (Vestal NY:
Anamchara Books, 2011).
169
John Philip Newell, Listening to the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist
Press, 1997); The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality (Paulist Press, 1999).
170
Meek, The Quest for Celtic Christianity, 95 f.

51
finding his inspiration in figures like Karl Jung, P. Epstein and Matthew Fox.171 In her

“Evangelical Critique of Celtic Spirituality” Marion Raikes writes, “Clearly any truly

biblical evangelical needs to tread very warily through this minefield.”172 Liberal

Protestants look down the “Ancient Well”173 of Celtic Christianity, and see the reflection

of a liberal Protestant smiling back up!

It seems that those who take an interest in the historical Celtic Christians tend to find

precedents and direction for their own tradition today. Leslie Hardinge’s scholarly The

Celtic Church in Britain outlines a church that baptized believers, observed the Sabbath

(in addition to the Lord’s Day), followed Old Testament dietary laws, and stoutly

defended its independence from Rome. Hardinge was a Seventh Day Adventist!174

Hieromonk Anthony Ambrose (a.k.a. Alesky Young) and Gabrielle Cooper Rochelle are

part of a growing group of Orthodox “Celto-philes” who prefer to think that because the

isolated Celtic Christians seemed to be at first beyond the authority of the Bishop of

Rome, and also traced their eremitic heritage to the Desert Fathers, “Celtic Christianity”

must have been Eastern Orthodox, and not Roman Catholic. 175

171
John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings
(Woodstock VT: Skylight Paths, 2014); A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul (San
Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011). In A New Harmony there are only four references to Celtic Christian
sources (pp. 12, 52,85,130), all taken out of context in order to illustrate a non-Christocentric panentheism.
172
Marian Raikes, Light from Dark Ages? An Evangelical Critique of Celtic Spirituality (London UK:
The Latimer Trust, 2012), 51.
173
This is an allusion to McIntosh’s book Water from an Ancient Well (p.51 n.168 above) as well as
the critique often attributed to Albert Schweitzer (but actually used by George Tyrell, Christianity at the
Crossroads [London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1909], 44). See: http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2007/08
/jesus-creed -historical-jesus-series_17.htm (accessed April 7, 2019).
174
Leslie Hardinge, The Celtic Church in Britain (London: S.P.C.K., 1972).
175
Hieromonk Ambrose, “Celtic Monasticism: A Model of Sanctity.” http://www.asna/angloceltic
/celtic-monasticism.pdf. n.d. (Accessed September 26, 2018); Gabrielle Cooper Rochelle, A Staff to the
Pilgrim: Meditations on the Way with Nine Celtic Saints (Emmaus PA: Golden Alley Press, 2016).

52
Roger Ellis and Chris Seaton seem to regard the “Celts” as Britain and Ireland’s first

Pentecostal or Charismatic believers, as seen from the title of their book, New Celts.176

Michael Mitton also came to Celtic Christian spirituality from a Charismatic

background.177 Andy and Jane Fitz-Gibbon are another couple of Charismatic writers that

have been motivated by the Celtic Christian missioners’ reliance on miracles and the

leading of the Holy Spirit, in combination with a disciplined devotion to habits of prayer,

penance and mission, to “Discover the daily awareness of God that sustained the Celtic

church.”178 Many recipients of phenomena like “the Toronto Blessing”179 have been

inspired by Britain’s “Celtic” saints (the Fitz-Gibbons tell stories from thirteen of them in

their book), to grow in a more mature, outwardly focused renewed spirituality.180

In spite of Meek’s and Raines’s cautions, Evangelical Protestants have also found

great inspiration and guidance for Christian living from the stories of the early Celtic

mission. The Church Growth specialist, George G. Hunter III, wrote The Celtic Way of

Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West Again after spending a sabbatical

studying Patrick and other Celtic figures.181 He was especially influenced by Thomas

Cahill’s best-seller, How the Irish Saved Civilization, which is not a book about Christian

176
R. Ellis, C. Seaton, New Celts: Following Jesus into Millennium 3 (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1998).
177
Michael Mitton, Restoring the Woven Cord (cf. n 92 p. 26 above). He shares his journey through
Anglican, Evangelical, Charismatic, “Celtic” and other spiritualities in Travellers of the Heart: Exploring
New Pathways on our Spiritual Journey (Abingdon UK: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2013).
178
From the Book’s cover. Andy and Jane Fitz-Gibbon, Prophetic Lifestyle and the Celtic Way
(London: Angus Hudson Ltd., 1997).
179
For example, ibid., 21, 131.
180
Ibid., 17-18. See also Gavin Wakefield, “Mission in the Spirit: Revivalist and Celtic Strands of
Mission,” Anvil 18.1 (2001), 7-19, https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/anvil/18-1_007.pdf; Nigel Scotland,
“Charismatic Christianity and the Appeal of Celtic Pneumatology,” Anvil 23.3 (2006), 179-190,
https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/anvil/23-3_179.pdf.
181
George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West Again
(Nashville: Abingdon, 2000).

53
mission or spirituality per se but nonetheless credited the “Celtic faith” of figures like

Patrick, Columba, Aidan and Columbanus for bringing Europe out of the “dark age”.182

Tracy Balzer contributed Thin Places: An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity, a

personal testimony, to the “Celtic Christian” cause in 2007.183 Mark Batterson is inspired

by the so-called Celtic “Wild Goose” in his 2008 Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the

Adventure of Pursuing God.184 (Both supposed “Celtic” ideas of “thin places” and a “wild

goose” as a sign of the Holy Spirit will be discussed below.) A Canadian evangelical,

Jamie Arpin-Ricci, a pastor in Winnipeg, shared precedents for his work with the inner-

city poor in his Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick.185

Not to be outdone, and perhaps with the best case for claiming “Celtic Christians” as

their proper forbears, are Irish Roman Catholics. Thomas Owen Clancy and Gilbert

Marcus carefully researched references in the surviving writings from the Columban

monastery at Iona, to show that the Iona library was in fact stocked with the usual books

of the early authorities of the Roman Church.186 Both are impatient with the notion that

any “Celtic” church considered itself separate from Rome, even though distance and the

absence of a Roman cultural background did allow these Christians on the edge of the

known world to preserve characteristics of an earlier, perhaps more Biblical, Christianity.

182
Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (New York: Doubleday Books, 1995).
183
Tracy Balzer, Thin Places: An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity (Abilene TX: Leafwood
Publishers, 2007).
184
Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God (Colorado Springs,
CO: Multnomah Books, 2008).
185
Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick. (Brewster
MA: Paraclete Press, 2015).
186
Thomas Owen Clancy and Gilbert Márkus, Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery
(Edinburgh University Press, 1995).

54
Father John Ó Ríordáin shared his personal spiritual learnings from contemporary

rural Irish Catholics in his 1996 book, The Music of What Happens. Celtic Spirituality

from the Inside.187 John O’Donohue’s best-seller, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom,

mixes traditional Irish spiritual wisdom with insights from modern psychologists and

social commentators.188 In 2000, the historical and theological scholar Thomas

O’Loughlin has made one of a very few serious theological studies based on original

Celtic Christian sources, Celtic Theology: Humanity, World and God in Early Irish

Writings.189 In the same year he wrote Journeys on the Edges: The Celtic Tradition.

Though he professes scepticism about popular romantic notions of “Celtic Christianity”,

his conclusions on themes like living an Adventurous pilgrimage, praying to and in the

fullness of the Triune God, discovering the intimate presence and Holy power of God in

creation, and journeying in partnership with chosen Soul-friends, are quite in keeping

with four of the P.A.T.H.S. practices.190 Edward Sellner, an American Catholic layman,

has written several books, especially on “Soul Friendships”.191 His 1993 Wisdom of the

Celtic Saints derives guidance for Christian living today from 27 Irish, Welsh and Anglo-

Saxon figures.192 Richard Woods has recently provided a similar survey, The Spirituality

187
John Ó Ríordáin, The Music of What Happens. Celtic Spirituality from the Inside (Winona MN:
Saint Mary's Press, 1996).
188
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (New York: Harper Collins, 1997).
189
Thomas O. O’Loughlin, Celtic Theology: Humanity, World and God in Early Irish Writings
(London: Continuum, 2000).
190
Thomas O. O’Loughlin, Journeys on the Edges: The Celtic Tradition. Traditions of Christian
Spirituality Series (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 2000).
191
Edward C. Sellner, Soul-Making: The Telling of a Spiritual Journey (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third
Publications, 1991); Stories of the Celtic Soul Friends: Their Meaning for Today (New York: Paulist Press,
2004).
192
Edward C. Sellner, Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, Revised (Saint Paul MN: The Bog Walk Press,
2006).

55
of the Celtic Saints which, unlike the works that Meek and Bradley critique, is backed up

by critical analysis of the original sources.193

Quite illustrative of the conviction that the “Celtic Christians” exhibited a spirituality

that can be of benefit today is Timothy Joyce’s work, Celtic Christianity: A Sacred

Tradition, A Vision of Hope. Celebrating the renewal in Catholicism released by Vatican

II, Joyce confesses that “the experience of the Celtic church excites me, giving me an

image of what the new church that God is moving us into could be.”194 Celtic Christianity

furnished the right faith for the early medieval “dark ages”. So, “a new type of Dark Age

gathers around us. This was the scenario for the blossoming of the Celtic church. Might it

be the way again today?”195 A couple years later Joyce looked to the resources of Celtic

spirituality for Catholics today, in light of the many scandals and wide disillusionment

that has afflicted their church: Celtic Quest: A Healing Journey for Irish Catholics.196 He

traces the sad suppression of native Irish or “Celtic” characteristics of the common faith

of the laity, from the years of the Norman invasion of Ireland to the Ultramontane,

hierarchy-centered official Catholicism of the modern era. “God was thought to be above

and beyond the world, often pictured essentially as policeman and judge.” Only Mary and

the saints were left even remotely accessible to the conscience-ridden believer.

193
Richard Woods, The Spirituality of the Celtic Saints (Chicago IL: New Priory Press, 2014).
194
Timothy Joyce, Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope (Maryknoll NY: Orbis
Books, 1998), ix.
195
Ibid., 153.
196
Timothy Joyce, Celtic Quest: A Healing Journey for Irish Catholics (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books,
2000).

56
How different from this is the spirituality of our Celtic ancestors.... heaven and
earth are intimately close. All creation, all material reality, is holy. The ordinary
events and things of daily life are graced with the presence of God.197

In addition to the evident need to recover intimate prayer to and with and in the Holy

Trinity,198 Joyce urges Catholics to pray the Psalms,199 including the psalms of

dereliction; embrace the Adventure of helping the needy and taking up creative oppor-

tunities to work for reconciliation;200 seek out regular ways to experience the Holy God in

his creation;201 and develop an intimate Soul-friendship with a kindred believer or group

of believers.202 Along with these five practices reflecting this thesis’s P.A.T.H.S. program

his other recommended “Celtic” Christian habits include going on a pilgrimage, reading

the lives of the saints, and taking up a deliberate ascetic discipline: “...the modern

asceticism may be to take the time out of a busy day to be silent for twenty minutes, to

meditate and thereby forgo something else, like television.”203

O’Loughlin defends the challenged validity of “Celtic” theological inquiry in the face

of the limited linguistic meaning of the term “Celtic” for historical anthropologists. Yet

he acknowledges the unhelpful polemical use of the idea of a “Celtic church” among

Protestant and other opponents of traditional Catholicism. “The attraction of the ‘Celtic

Church’ lies in its difference from that which one sees as corruption in the more wide-

197
Joyce, Celtic Quest, 79, 80.
198
Especially using the prayers of the Carmina Gadelica. Joyce, Celtic Quest, 94, 113.
199
Ibid , 85, 107.
200
Ibid , 115 f.
201
Ibid , 114 f.
202
Ibid , 115.
203
Ibid., 115. Joyce proposes a Biblical twelve disciplines in all.

57
spread Christianity of one’s own day.”204 That certainly seems to be the case among

many of today’s proponents of a revival of “Celtic Christianity”.

Enthusiasts for “Celtic Christianity” most often point to a confrontation that took

place in 664 AD, frequently called the “Synod of Whitby”. Columban missioners from

Iona and Lindisfarne, and Latin representatives of the papal mission from Canterbury,

presented their cases for their different traditions of dating for Easter and the shape of the

clerical tonsure before Oswiu, the Northumbrian king. Oswiu was discipled by the Irish

clergy, but his queen came from the continent. As a result their royal court found itself

divisively observing Lent and Easter at conflicting times. Two accounts of the “synod”

survive. One is found in Eddius Stephanus’ Life of Wilfred, proponent of the “Roman”

side.205 Stephanus pictures it as a clash of ecclesiastical authority, with the king quickly

submitting to the see of St. Peter. The other more nuanced record comes from Bede.206

Though Bede had evidently much more respect for the sanctity of Colman, abbot of

Lindisfarne, who defended the “Celtic” side, he records the same outcome, and reports

the retreat of Colman and all his Irish and even many loyal Anglo-Saxon monks back to

Iona and then Ireland, evidently with the continued friendship and blessing of the king.

Though one of his purposes was to defend the Roman dating of Easter and indeed Roman

authority and practices generally, Bede concluded his account with a tribute to the Irish

missioners’ sanctity, humility, and effectiveness in evangelism.207

204
T. O’Loughlin, “‘A Celtic Theology’: Some Awkward Questions and Observations,” in J. Falaky
Nagy, ed., Identifying the ‘Celtic’, CSANA Yearbook 2 (Portland OR: Four Courts Press, 2002), 49-65, 55.
205
Eddius Stephanus, “Life of Wilfred,” in D.H. Farmer, ed. The Age of Bede. Revised (London:
Penguin Books, 1983), 105-182, Chapter 10, pp. 114-6.
206
Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, § 25 and 26, in McClure and Robert Collins, 152-161.
207
Ibid., III § 26, 160-161.

58
As Nora Chadwick noted, “Bede seems almost to be looking back nostalgically to the

Celtic Church to which he still belonged in spirit.”208 Newell described Whitby’s result as

a “tragic outcome”.209 Other proponents of “Celtic Christianity” see it as the beginning of

the end of a “Celtic Church”. Free-spirited, humble “Celts” are pictured as fleeing before

the claims of the advancing Roman Church. 210 As Chadwick said, “The disappearance of

the idiosyncratic Christianity of the Celtic Church was inevitable, owing to the absence of

central organization; but it is impossible to reach the end without a feeling of regret.”211

The parishioners at Good Shepherd belong to a tradition which believes with Paul

Avis that: “The Anglican Church did not come into existence at the Reformation. What

happened then was that an ancient Church, with origins in the Celtic twilight... reformed

abuses and liberated itself from an oppressive external jurisdiction.”212 Many proponents

of “Celtic Christian” spirituality are Anglican. Chadwick traced the influence of Irish and

Welsh spirituality on England, Brittany and the rest of Europe for centuries after

Whitby.213 John Finney, officer for the Decade of Evangelism before becoming a bishop,

208
Nora Chadwick, The Age of the Saints in the Early Celtic Church (Oxford University Press, 1961;
Reprint, Somerset UK: Llanerch Press Ltd., 2018), 128.
209
Newell, Listening to the Heartbeat of God, 94.
210
E.g,, Brendan LeHane, Early Celtic Christianity (London: Continuum, 1968, 2005), 208 f.; Shirley
Toulson. The Celtic Alternative: A Reminder of the Christianity We Lost (London: Century Hutchinson,
1987), 10 f.; Anthony Duncan, The Elements of Celtic Christianity (Shaftsbury, Dorset, UK: Element
Books, 1992), 44 f.; Paul Backholder, Celtic Christianity and the First Christian Kings in Britain: From St.
Patrick to St. Columba, to King Ethelbert and King Alfred. (ByFaith Media, 2015, 2017), 59.
211
Nora Chadwick, The Celts (London: Penguin Books, 1971), 218.
212
Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church (London: T & T Clark, 2002), 344. More on the
Church of the Good Shepherd’s appreciation of Anglicanism’s Celtic Christian roots will be reported in
Chapter Three below.
213
Chadwick, Age of the Saints Chapter 3, “The Celtic Church and the Roman Order,” 119-166.

59
encouraged the Church of England to continue a blending of its dual post-Whitby

heritage for mission today in Recovering the Past: Celtic and Roman Mission.214

At least three Anglicans have written nuanced evaluations of Whitby and its

aftermath –all advocating an appreciation of the continued influence of a “Celtic”

spirituality in the Medieval British “Catholic” church. Douglas Dales is one of many who

understand “Anglo-Saxon spirituality” to be a creative blend of “Celtic” and “Latin”

Christianity, seen in outstanding missionary figures like Aidan, Cuthbert, Boniface and

Alcuin.215 Benedicta Ward, an Anglican Benedictine and scholar of Anglo-Saxon

piety,216 and Esther de Waal, an influential proponent of “Celtic Christian spirituality”,217

have both re-envisioned Whitby not as the end of a “Celtic Church” but the beginning of

a blending of two heritages, where Celtic Christianity lives on and influences the

Anglican tradition. This is further supported by an American Episcopal Professor of

Christian Spirituality, Arthur Holder: “Decisions about church controversies need not

always spell defeat and disgrace for the losing side.”218 Two historians of “Anglo-Saxon

Christianity”, Paul Cavil and Henry Mayr-Harting, have written on the continued Celtic
214
J. Finney, Recovering the Past: Celtic and Roman Mission (London: Dalton, Longman & Todd,
1996).
215
Douglas Dales, Called to be Angels: An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Spirituality (Norwich:
Canterbury Press, 1998), esp. pp. 4-5, 23-25, 69-70.
216
Benedicta Ward, High King of Heaven: Aspects of Early English Spirituality (London: Mowbray,
1999); idem, ed., Christ within Me: Prayers and Meditations from the Anglo-Saxon Tradition. Second
Edition (Collegeville MN: Cistercian Publications, 2008).
217
Esther de Waal, ed. The Celtic Vision: Prayers and Blessings from the Outer Hebrides (London:
Dalton, Longman and Todd, 1988). See also idem, The Celtic Way of Prayer (New York: Doubleday,
1997), and Celtic Light: A Tradition Rediscovered (New York: HarperCollins, 1997). Her 2013 lectures on
Celtic Spirituality at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London have received over 17,300 hits on YouTube: https://www
.youtube.com/watch?v=tDnY9oQ3Esg, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCstQYrcREI.
218
Benedicta Ward, A True Easter: The Synod of Whitby 664 AD (Oxford UK: SLG Press, 2007);
Esther de Wall, “A Fresh Look at the Synod of Whitby: A Mark of Unity and Reconciliation”; Barbara
Brewer, ed., I Have Called You Friends: Reflections on Reconciliation in Honour of Frank T. Griswold
(Cambridge MS: Cowley Publications, 2006), 29-43. Arthur G. Holder, “Whitby and All That: The Search
for Anglican Origins.” Anglican Theological Review LXXXV.2 (Spring, 2003), 231-252, p. 251.

60
influence in the polity and spirituality of the Anglo Saxon church and its missions to the

rest of Europe.219

In other words, Whitby can be cited as evidence neither for the existence of a self-

defined “Celtic Christianity” nor for the end of the same, but for the reality and continued

influence of the distinctive Christian spirituality of the early Celtic missioners that

continues among Irish and British Christians to this day. The scholarship of A.M Allchin,

Patrick Thomas and Oliver Davies disclose the sixteen hundred-year tradition of “Celtic”

piety in Wales,220 as does Thomas Taylor’s classic review of “Celtic” (Irish, Welsh and

Breton) saints and place-names in Cornwall.221 This continuity is seen in the ninth-

century “Prayer Book of Aedeluald,” commonly called The Book of Cerne.222 Dom A.B.

Kuypers, its 1902 editor, found it to be “fundamentally Celtic in character.”223

Brendan Bradshaw wrote an insightful essay, “The Wild and Woolly West: Early

Irish Christianity and Latin Orthodoxy,”224 arguing that Irish Christian spirituality never

219
Paul Cavil, Anglo-Saxon Christianity: Exploring the Earliest Roots of Christian Spirituality in
England (London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999); Henry Mayr-Harting, The Coming of Christianity to
Anglo-Saxon England. Third Edition (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania University Press, 1991).
220
A.M. Allchin, God’s Presence Makes the World: The Celtic Vision through the Centuries in Wales
(London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1997) and Praise Above All: Discovering the Welsh Tradition
(Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991); Patrick Thomas, Candle in the Darkness: Celtic Spirituality
from Wales (Landysul, Dyfed: Gomer Press, 1993); Oliver Davies, Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval
Wales: The Origins of the Welsh Spiritual Tradition (Cardiff UK: University of Wales Press, 1996).
221
Thomas Taylor, The Celtic Christianity of Cornwall (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1916.
(Reprint by CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2018). See also Catherine Rachel John, The Saints of
Cornwall: 1500 Years of Christian Landscape ((Paddstow UK: Tabb House, 2001).
222
A.B. Kuypers, ed., The Prayer Book of Aedeluald the Bishop: Commonly Called The Book of Cerne
(Cambridge University Press, 1902). Michelle P. Brown confirms this “Celtic” influence. The Book of
Cerne: Prayer, Patronage and Power in Ninth-Century England (The British Library and University of
Toronto Press, 1996), pp. 130 f. For references to Irish influences, cf. pp. 118, 120, 138 nn. 144 and 162.
223
Kuypers, ed., Prayer Book of Aedeluald, 227, 229, 231, 239, 247 f. 277 and 283. The table of
occurrences in Cerne compared to Irish and “Roman” manuscripts on p. 276 is especially revealing.
224
Brendon Bradshaw, “The Wild and Woolly West: Early Irish Christianity and Latin Orthodoxy.”
Studies in Church History. XXV (1989), 1-23.

61
developed into a distinctive denomination but did modify and adapt Latin Catholicism for

its own life, after its preference for the “inspirational” against the “institutional”. His

highlights include “Celtic ascetic piety as reflecting the transcendental orientation of

Celtic religion in its aspiration towards spiritualization of the flesh through sacrifice,

martyrdom (holiness of life) and penance;” and “the cult of the saints as reflecting the

charismatic quality of Celtic religion in its popular, traditional and local orientation.”225

His recognition of this ongoing “Celtic” spirituality supports this thesis project’s

application of five identifiable “Celtic” spiritual practices to an Anglican parish today.

Caitlin Corning of George Fox University has written a detailed study of the “Synod

of Whitby” and its aftermath, The Celtic and Roman Traditions: Conflict and Consensus

in the Early Medieval Church.226 “In the end,” she concludes, researchers:

...may determine that even after the mid-eighth century, there were identifiable
practices and concepts that set the churches in the Celtic-speaking regions apart
from the wider early medieval Church, but it is clear that these will bear little
similarity to the popular portrayal of the Celtic Church.227

This would seem to justify the scepticism of people like Meek, Phillips and

Wakefield. Yet in defense it must be said that the absence of an independent “Celtic

Church” or self-identified “Celtic Christianity” (apart from its proponents today) does not

annul either the legitimacy or value of identifying, adapting and adopting appropriate

habits or disciplines of some recognizable practices of Christians of the “Celtic mission”

for Anglican piety today, especially as Anglicans do see themselves as contemporary

heirs of that heritage.

225
Bradshaw, “The Wild and Woolly West”, 17.
226
Caitlin Corning, The Celtic and Roman Traditions: Conflict and Consensus in the Early Medieval
Church (New York” Palgrave MacMillan, 2006).
227
Ibid., 181.

62
The claim here is not that there was a “Celtic Church” or even “Celtic Christianity”,

but simply that the example of the “Age of the Saints” (Chadwick) is, in Raike’s

assessment, “...of benefit to the Church in every age.”228 This project seeks to assume and

apply Mitton’s conviction regarding the current “renaissance” of “Celtic Christianity”: “I

am in no doubt that the Spirit of God is reminding us of the first expression of faith in the

isles to give us inspiration for Christian ministry and mission today.”229

This Gaelic prayer for the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s own spirit

is from Mael Ísu Ua Brolcháin, of the ninth century. It ends this section as a fitting

petition, and as another illustration of how “Celtic Christian spirituality” attended to the

communion of the human spirit with the Holy Spirit in the sanctification of the believer:

O Holy Spirit of love


In us, round us, above:
Holy Spirit we pray
Send, Sweet Jesus, this day.

Holy Spirit, to win


Body and soul within,
To guide us that we may be
From ills and illness free.

From sin and demons’ snare,


From hell and evils there,
O holy Spirit, come!
Hallow our heart, Thy home. 230

Evidence will now be presented of “Celtic” precedents for this thesis project’s

particular chosen five “P.A.T.H.S.” practices (Sections IV-VIII).231

228
Raikes, Light from Dark Ages, 59.
229
Mitton, Restoring the Woven Cord, 2.
230
Translated by George Sigerson, Bards of the Gael and Gall (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1925),
in Uinseann Ó Maidin, The Celtic Monk. Rules and Writings of Early Irish Monks (Kalamazoo, MI:
Cistercian Publications, 1996), 200. Mael Ísu Ua Brolcháin died in 1086 AD.
231
The order follows the P.A.T.H.S. acronym and is not implying any precedence among the practices.

63
IV. Daily Praying the Psalms

Learned in music sings the lark,


I leave my cell to listen;
His open beak spells music, hark!
Where Heaven’s bright cloudlets glisten.
And so I’ll sing my morning psalm
That God bright Heaven may give me
And keep me in eternal calm
And from all sin relieve me. 232

This translation from an Irish manuscript is an example of the central place of praying

and singing the Psalms in “Celtic spirituality”, and its connection with the sense of the

intimate closeness of God in creation that also defines the piety of the “Celtic” traditions.

Bradley insists: “The psalms impacted deeply on the spirituality and theology of those

who knew them so well. Their imagery of rocks, mountains, trees and other natural

features helped them to form and colour the intense physicality of Celtic Christianity.”233

He notes the survival of many early Irish commentaries on the Psalms,234 and makes

“Psalm-Centred” devotion the second of 21 characteristics of true Celtic Christianity.

“Verses and images from the Psalms crop up again and again in early Irish and Welsh

poems and prayers. They were second only to the Gospels in terms of their theological

influence.”235 Hardinge regarded the Psalter as central to Celtic Christianity. He quotes

Bede’s record of Aidan: “all who accompanied him, whether monks or lay-folk, were

required to...read the Scriptures or to learn the Psalms.”236

232
Robin Fowler, Poems and Translations, ed. Patrick Fowler (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1994; first
published, 1931), 118. He dated it from sometime in the Eighth to Tenth Century (ibid., note, p. 109).
233
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 47. He frequently highlights this theme: pp. 85, 91,103, 136.
234
Ibid., 33. See also Ó Ríordáin, The Music of What Happens, 76.
235
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 45. His section on “2. Psalm-centered” is on pp. 45-48.
236
Hardinge, The Celtic Church in Britain, 30 (quoting Bede, Ecclesiastical History, III.5).

64
One may think that chanting the Psalms is a universal habit of monks, Celtic or

otherwise. But as Woods points out: “Even more than the Benedictines, Celtic monks

devoted many hours each day to chanting in common the praises of God from the

Psalter.”237 The Psalms were the first text used to teach children and converts to read.238

The Céli Dé reform in ninth century Ireland and Scotland required clerics to pray the

entire Psalter (the “three fifties”) daily, as in the Rule of Comghall (died, 602 AD).239

Bede recorded that at Lindisfarne, praying memorized psalms was also expected of

laity. Mael Ruain, founder of the Céli Dé, expected even the manaig or lay-adherents to

his reform to pray the psalms: “Thus we have a man for the sickle, and for the flail, and

for the measuring-rod, and for the ditch: the three fifties are an additional task for each of

them, and none of them goes to his table until he has done his additional task.”240

Oliver Davies highlights the importance the Psalms in Welsh spirituality, not only as

a clerical or monastic discipline, but also in educated lay spirituality, as reflected in their

influence in bardic court praise, such as found in the Black Book of Carmarthen (c. 1250

AD, but preserving many earlier poems).241 Allchin highlights the renaissance of this

Celtic tradition in the laity’s use of the popular metered Psalter that was included as a

supplement to the Welsh Book of Common Prayer in the seventeenth century.242

237
Woods, The Spirituality of the Celtic Saints, 177. Bradley also points this out, quoting a poem about
Columba reciting the whole Psalter every night, which he says was typical. Colonies of Heaven, 127.
238
Ó Ríordáin, The Music of What Happens, 75; Joyce, Celtic Christianity, 68. Bradley notes in the
life of St. Colman that children were assigned to “soul friends” with whom to read the psalms. Following
the Celtic Way, 100.
239
John Carey, ed., King of Mysteries: Early Irish Religious Writings, Revised Edition (Dublin: Four
Courts Press, 2000), 255. Cf. “The Rule of Comghall”, Ó Maidin, The Celtic Monk, § 13b, p. 33.
240
Quoted in Carey, King of Mysteries, 250.
241
Davies, Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales. For examples: 31, 46, 49, 61 f., 118.
242
A.M. Allchin, God’s Presence Makes the World, 65.

65
The Psalms are important among Scottish “Celts” as well. Bradley writes of the

inspiring influence in his experience of Highland congregations singing Gaelic psalms.243

He states that daily praying the psalms, especially including the “psalms of lament,” will

help Christians enjoy a “balanced” prayer-life of praise yet realism “in our troubled

times”. 244 De Waal’s presentation of the Highland spirituality preserved in Carmichael’s

Carmina Gadelica notes that the Psalms were an “integral” part of the piety expressed in

that anthology. She cites Mael Ísu’s celebration of “a tattered copy of the Psalter which

he had learned to read,” which he mischievously compared to a long-lost lover!

You came and slept with me for that first time,


skilled wise amazon annihilating fears,
and I a fresh-faced boy, not bent as now,
a gentle lad of seven melodious years...

Your counsel is ever there to hand,


we choose it, following you in everything,
love of your word is the best of loves,
our gentle conversation with the king. 245

Murdoch Campbell’s history of the Evangelical Revival in the Scottish Highlands

frequently refers to the singing of psalms in revivalist worship, or their being used and

quoted in daily Highland evangelical piety.246

Benedicta Ward writes that this Celtic devotion to the Psalms also profoundly

influenced early English Spirituality. “To use the words of the psalms to articulate

present terror and grief, as well as joy and wonder, was the for Anglo-Saxons to discover

through the psalms hope beyond hope.... ‘Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord;

243
Bradley, Colonies of Heaven, 137 f.
244
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 143 and 147.
245
De Wall, The Celtic Way of Prayer, 207-210. The poem is on p. 208.
246
Murdoch Campbell, Gleanings of Highland Harvest, Second Edition (Tain, Ross-shire UK:
Christian Focus Publications, 1957; reprint, 1989), pp. 12,34,53,54.60,81,105,115,119,120,122,124,126.

66
Lord, hear my voice’.”247 Memorized Psalms were as much a part of Anglo-Saxon

spirituality as the Lord’s Prayer.248 Bede’s “Abbreviated Psalter” for the use of literate

laity was especially popular.249 Anglican devotion to and with the Psalms continues this

“Celtic” tradition today. This poem praises “Oengus the Culdee”, who died c. 830 AD:

’Tis in Clonenagh he was reared,


In Clonenagh he was buried:
In Clonenagh of many crosses
He first read his psalms.250

V. Adventures in Blessing: “Following the ‘Wild Goose’”

Holy Spirit, Wild Goose


Great Spirit,
Wild Goose of the Almighty
Be my eye in the dark places;
Be my flight in the trapped places;
Be my host in the wild places;
Be my brood in the barren places;
Be my formation in the lost places.251

One of the most influential images for Christians finding inspiration in “Celtic

Spirituality” for today is the image of the Holy Spirit as a “wild goose”.252 Bradley bursts

the bubble on this idea with his conclusion that “no historical evidence can be adduced to

support this.”253 In fact the image only goes back to George MacLeod, the founder of the

247
Benedicta Ward, High King of Heaven, 79. (She is quoting Psalm 130:1.)
248
Ibid., 75.
249
Ibid., 81. Cf. B. Ward, Bede and the Psalter (Fairacres, Oxford: SLG Press, 2002), which includes
Bede’s text as an Appendix (pp. 26-46). Bede selected one to four verses for each psalm.
250
The poem itself is probably from the Eleventh Century. Kuno Meyer, Selections from Ancient Irish
Poetry (London: Constable & Company, 1913), 88, and accompanying Note, p. 114.
251
Ray Simpson, quoted in Duke Viperman, “Did Celts Call the Holy Spirit ‘Wild Goose’?” Thursday,
August 7, 2008. http://wildgoosedove.blogspot.com/2008/08/chasing-documentation_5440.html (Accessed
October 18, 2018.)
252
E.g., Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God (Colorado
Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2008).
253
Bradley, Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams, 211.

67
Iona Community.254 During his service with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the

First World War, MacLeod probably became familiar with this phrase as a nick-name for

Irish soldiers.255 Since he called his revived “Celtic” community members miles Christi,

“soldiers of Christ” after the phrase used for St. Martin, known for his impact on Celtic

monasticism, it would not have been far from his imagination. “Therefore, George

MacLeod should receive proper credit for introducing this notion to us.”256

This can be claimed perhaps as one example of a contemporary “Celtic Christian”

notion that is nonetheless faithful to historical tradition, and the continued vitality of an

evolving “Celtic Christian spirituality” today.257 The Holy Spirit is not a tamed bird! The

Christians from Celtic lands undoubtedly shared a very militant, even adventurous under-

standing of their faith and their Spirit-led vocation. They were not simply saved “from

sin”. They were saved “for” a destiny of activist sainthood! Pelagius wrote to his client,

Celanthia, that “many people have gained the impression that Christianity amounts to

little more than a series of prohibitions.” He compares such a notion to Ezekiel’s vision

of a “valley of dry bones”. “A society can only live if people love and serve one

another.”258 Christians who simply seek to avoid evil but do not grow in active love for

others, he tells a mature Christian anamchara, “are even more miserable than those who

devote themselves wholly to evil.”259

254
See Ron Fergusson, Chasing the Wild Goose: The Iona Community (London UK: Collins Fount
Paperbacks, 1988). Fergusson does not credit the image to MacLeod; but says only that he used it.
255
Maurice N. Hennessy, The Wild Geese (Old Greenwich CT: The Devin-Adair Co., 1973).
256
Viperman, “Did Celts Call the Holy Spirit ‘Wild Goose’?” (See n. 251 p. 67 above.)
257
Another example would be the idea of “thin places”, to be discussed in Section IX below.
258
Van de Weyer, The Letters of Pelagius, 69. (Note however that Van de Weyer abridged and
paraphrased Pelagius in this work.)
259
Ibid., 61.

68
“In Christ’s eyes,” teaches the Irish Rule of Ciarán, “they are truly clerics whose

hands are calloused.”260 The “Homily of Cambrai” suggests there are two ways to:

...carry the cross...both when we mortify the body through fasting, and when, out
of compassion for him we regard the needs of our neighbour as our own. A person
who has compassion for the needs of the neighbour truly carries the cross in his
heart, as St. Paul says, “Bear one-another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of
Christ.”261

“When a person is full of charity,” instructs the Alphabet of Devotion, “then he is

holy.”262 Thomas Cahill contrasted the adventurous faith and mission of St. Columbanus,

credited with the establishment of over sixty monasteries in remote and evangelistically

unreached areas on the continent,263 with the domesticated bishops of the Roman Church:

It had never occurred to these churchmen to venture beyond a few well-tended


streets into the rough-hewn mountain settlements of the simpler Sueves. To
Columbanus, however, a man who will take no step to proclaim the Good News
beyond the safety and comfort of his own elite circle is a poor excuse for a
bishop.264

Columbanus’s famous “Boat-Song”, probably composed as his retinue rowed up the

Rhine River in 610 AD, captures the Spirit-filled faith of the adventurous Celts:

...The tempests howl, the storm dismay,


But manly strength can win the day,
Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring.

...Hold fast! Survive! And all is well,


God sent you worse; he’ll calm this swell,
Heave, lad, and let the echoes ring.

260
“The Rule of Ciaran,” § 3, Ó Maidin, The Celtic Monk, 45-47, p. 45. Sixth Century.
261
“Homily of Cambrai Fragment”, Ó Maidin, 139-141, pp. 139 f. Eighth century.
262
“The Alphabet of Devotion,” Ó Maidin, 161-169, p. 161. C. Seventh Century.
263
Sean McDonagh, “Columban, the patron saint of a united Europe.” The Irish Times, Tuesday
January 15, 2013. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/columban-the-patron-saint-of-a-united-europe
-1.961368 (Accessed October 26, 2018).
264
Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, 188.

69
...Strong faith and zeal will win the prize
For him who wills, for him who tries,
Think, lad, of Christ, and echo him.265

Several Sermons of Columbanus have survived. They reveal a tough-spirited, disciplined

missioner who yet had a charismatic care for those who needed the Gospel.

Let us not love the roadway rather than the homeland, lest we lose our eternal
home, for we have such a home that we ought to love it. Therefore let this prin-
ciple abide with us, that on the road we so live as travellers, as pilgrims... singing
with grace and power, “When shall I come and appear before the face of God?
For my soul thirsts for the mighty, living God.”266

This introduces the Celtic concept of peregrinatio, of missional exile or pilgrimage

for the sake of Christ. This was not the pleasant tourism of many modern “pilgrims”.267

The travels of Irish monastic missioners and their lay-supporters were “rather a costly

form of witness involving perpetual exile from the comforts and distractions of home.”268

The Celtic tradition called this the “white martyrdom”. Beyond the Roman world,

Celtic societies were largely won for Christ without bloodshed. Consequently, in spite of

their devotion to the saints, Celtic Christians never developed a cult of what they called

the “red martyrdom” –of literally dying for Christ.269 The “white martyrdom” was the

sacrifice of leaving family and home for the sake of mission –a sacrifice as difficult as it

was courageous, in tribal, “heroic” societies in which one’s very identity, subsistence and

265
Tomas O’Fiaich, Columbanus in His Own Words. New Edition (Dublin IR: Veritas Publications,
2012), 98.
266
G.S.M. Walker, “Sermons of Columbanus.” Second Draft, Revised and Corrected. ed. Emer
Purcell. Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition. http:///celt.ucc.ie/published/ T201053/. (Accessed June 27,
2017.) Sermon VIII, Part II, p. 97.
267
Joyce, Celtic Christianity, 46-49. He cites as examples the travels of Brendan the Navigator and the
monastic ruins of Skellig Michael, a rock cliff-faced island seven miles off the coast of Kerry.
268
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 127.
269
Joyce, Celtic Christianity, 37.

70
safety was to be found in one’s own clan and locale.270 “A person undergoes white

martyrdom when he leaves all for the sake of Christ, even though this means fasting,

hunger and hard work,” explained the Cambrai Homily. Others might be called to a

“green martyrdom.” “Green martyrdom is attributed to someone who through them –that

is fasting and work– is freed of his desires, or undergoes travail in sorrow and

penance.”271 This was the vocation for converts who became associated with a Celtic

monastic community –whether as coenobitic monks proper, or manaig, associated laity.

“The latter would both serve the community and also go outside to preach Christianity to

clans who had not yet accepted Christianity.”272 It is important to remember that the

terms “monk” and “monastery” meant not what is associated today with closed Benedic-

tine retreats. Early Christian missional communities included clergy, laity, perhaps even a

bishop or two, and monks who lived in the community, and associated hermits, all

serving under the direction of an abbot –who was often as evangelistic as Columbanus.273

“By their practical example of kindness and hospitality,” explains McIntosh, “the

early Irish and Scottish abbeys set a pattern for the entire society, modelling a standard of

neighbourly assistance that balanced the cruelties of the Dark Ages.”274 This was the

“white” or “green” “martyrdoms” of undertaking adventurous blessings in Christ’s name,

and as a witness to God, and God’s redemptive plan and purpose for humanity.
270
For “heroic” cultures see Flint F. Johnson, The British Heroic Age: A History, 367-664 (Jefferson
NC: McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2017). An account of hundreds of the known peregrinations or “white
martyrdoms” of “Celtic” missioners throughout Europe and the North Atlantic may be found in Graham
Panes, Voyages of the Celtic Saints. (Orsaf, Llanrwst, Wales: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2007).
271
“The Homily of Cambrai Fragment,” Ó Maidin, The Celtic Monk, 140.
272
Joyce, Celtic Christianity, 37. Cf. Kathleen Hughes, Early Christian Ireland: An Introduction to the
Sources (Cambridge University Press, 1972), 93 f., for a discussion of Celtic lay “monks” or manaig.
273
Davies, Celtic Christianity, 9: “...the terminology of monasticism was used to include both the
ordained and non-ordained, as well as clergy of a more ‘secular’ and ‘monastic’ stamp.”
274
McIntosh, Water from an Ancient Well, 290.

71
John O’Donohue expresses the Celtic sense of joy and wonder when he writes: “It is

a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, having a whole world

within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege...”275

Bradley understands the many prayer-poems and lay-blessings of Irish, Welsh and

Hebridean people as a continuing expression of the old Celtic understanding of the

spiritual role of the poet being to create blessings with words of praise to God and

ennoblement to others.276 Balzer asks, “How would an unbelieving world respond if the

Body of Christ became known more for words of blessing than our words of critique?”277

Being adventurous in offering blessing to others, seeing every challenge and opportunity

of a day as a God-given “divine appointment” for loving service (Batterson),278 may

allow Christians today to have the “faith of a “green” or “white” “martyr”.279 This would

be the “Adventurous Blessing” of “following the Wild Goose” of the Holy Spirit.

VI. Prayer To, With and In the Holy Trinity (“Trinitarian Prayer”)

I bend my knee
in the sight of the Father who created me,
In the sight of the Son who redeemed me,
In the sight if the Spirit who purified me
In love and in mystery.

This contemporary Irish prayer was also recorded by Alexander Carmichael from two

different locales in the Scottish Highlands in the nineteenth century. 280 It is a testimony

275
O’Donohue, Anam Cara, op cit., 224.
276
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 51, 104 f.
277
Balzer, Thin Places, 84.
278
Batterson, Wild Goose Chase, 130.
279
Arpin-Ricci, Vulnerable Faith, 165 f.
280
Arna Roghnú ag Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, Saltair: Urnaithe Dúchais, Prayers from the Irish
Tradition, with English Translations by Desmond Forristal (Dublin: The Columba Press, 2000), 76. See
also Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 35, 44.

72
to the remarkable survival of a shared “Celtic” faith among the common Gaelic people.

That piety was and is fully Trinitarian:

Three folds of the cloth, yet only one napkin is there;


Three joints in the finger, but still only one finger fair;
Three leaves to the shamrock, yet no more than one shamrock to wear.
Frost, snow-flakes and ice, all in water their origin share,
Three persons in God; to one God alone we make prayer.281

This faith was not speculative or primarily theological, but the lived faith of the

people.282 Bradley concluded from his extensive study: “The writings which have

survived from the insular Celtic-speaking Christian communities of the British Isles in

the early medieval period suggest that they did not go in for abstract theological treatises

and discussions about the Divine nature and being, but preferred rather to address God

directly through prayer, praise and tradition.”283 Ray Simpson claims that when Jesus

gave his disciples the Trinitarian baptism formula (Matthew 28:19), “He had in mind

people’s immersion in the Trinity as Celts truly lived this way.”284 This sense of intimacy

with God the Creator, the incarnate, saving Son, and ever-present sanctifying and helping

Spirit meant, as Mitton concludes, “That Celtic prayer is always deeply Trinitarian.”285

After his conversion in 1971, the present author struggled with the concept of prayer.

A wise priest at Mount Allison University suggested that he think of prayer less as a

“long-distance call” to a remote deity, and more as the conversation of a child “sitting on

281
Eleanor Hull, The Poem-book of the Gael. Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose
and Verse (Edinburgh: Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., 1912), 237.
282
I am especially indebted in this section to Chapter Three of Esther de Waal’s The Celtic Way of
Prayer, “The Trinity,” 38-50.
283
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 44.
284
Ray Simpson, Celtic Christianity: Deep Roots for a Modern Faith (Vestal NY: Anamchara
Books, 2014), 193.
285
Mitton, Restoring the Woven Cord, 131.

73
his mother’s lap.” He might as well have quoted the Hebridean saying, “There is a

mother’s heart in the heart of God.”286 The reality of “being surrounded and embraced”

by God in prayer, communicating with the transcendent Creator, through the incarnate

Son, enabled by the Spirit within and about, was confirmed and deepened by a lecture

series on “Celtic Christianity” by Mount Allison’s Dr. Charles Scobie.

One of Scobie’s sources was his fellow Scot, John Macquarrie, who Bradley credits

with “the earliest modern use of the phrase ‘Celtic Spirituality’.”287 Macquarrie wrote in

1972: “The Celt was a very God-intoxicated man whose life was embraced on all sides

by the divine being.” At times this might come dangerously close to pantheism. Yet “...it

must also be made clear that their spirituality was in fact....strongly Trinitarian, and

transcendence is combined with immanence.”288 Macquarrie’s model for this is the Irish

predisposition to address the Father as “High King of Heaven”. The Irish High King

ruled from the sacred hill of Tara, but he was far from an absolute monarch:

...the King was always among his people as well as over them. When God is
conceived on such a model, he cannot become too distant and his creation cannot
become so profane and godless as to arouse the acquisitive and aggressive spirit
of irresponsible concupiscence.289

(This anticipates the discussion in the next section on Enjoying the Holiness of God in

Creation.) So Martin Reith comments on the prayers preserved in the Carmina Gadelica:

“They reveal a firm grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity; and their vivid recollection of the

286
Quoted in Martin Reith, God in Our Midst: Prayers and Devotions from the Celtic Tradition
(London: SPCK Triangle, 1975), 5. Is this an example of a continuing memory of the Psalms in Highland
lay spirituality? “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother...” (Psalm 131:2)
If so, this is another instance of Celtic attention to the communion of the human spirit with the Holy Spirit.
287
Bradley, Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams, 192.
288
John Macquarrie, Paths in Spirituality (London: SCM Press, 1972), 123.
289
Ibid., 123. See also Macquarrie’s article, “Celtic Spirituality” in Gordon S. Wakefield, ed., SCM
Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM Press, 1983), 83-84.

74
intimate presence of God in, and deep concern with, the smallest details of daily life is

allied to a sense of his majesty and supreme greatness.”290 This is one of many examples:

In name of Father, in name of Son, in name of Spirit, Three in One:


Father cherish me, Son cherish me, Spirit cherish me, Three all-kindly.
God make me holy, Christ make me holy, Spirit make me holy, Three all-holy.
Three aid my hope, Three aid my love, Three aid mine eye,
And my knee from stumbling; my knee from stumbling.291

Noel O’Donoghue of the Irish and Hebrideans, and A.M. Allchin and Oliver

Davies of the Welsh, all attest that this Trinitarian prayer is centered on the salvific grace

and revelation of the incarnation of our Lord.292 This gave to Celtic piety a magnificent

combination of domestic intimacy with the divine, yet cosmic wonder and reverence.

Pelagius counselled a new Christian that “God is present in all things, great and small...

you can serve him in small matters, in the mundane concerns of life.”293 An Irish layman

confessed his sin: “Under my thoughts may I God-thoughts find...Trembling and rejected,

I turn to Thee again.”294 Murdoch Campbell tells of some Highland revivalists visiting a

shut-in after a prayer-meeting. “‘But I am not alone,’ she quickly answered. ‘There were

four of us here this evening, and I was the only sinner among them.’ By the other Three

she meant the sensible presence of the Triune God.”295 This incarnational, Trinitarian

faith animated the prayer-life of Celtic Christians. As an example, consider this intimate

and amusing yet perceptive Irish petition: “A low prayer, a high prayer, I send through

290
Reith, God in Our Midst, 4.
291
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 208.
292
Noel Dermot O’Donoghue, The Angels Keep their Ancient Places: Reflections on Celtic
Spirituality. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2001), 78 f.; Allchin, God’s Presence Makes the World, 10, 55;
Davies, Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales, 5, 145.
293
Van de Weyer, ed., The Letters of Pelagius, 45. (See n. 53 p. 16 and n. 258 p. 68 above.)
294
Douglas Hyde, The Religious Songs of Connaught. A Collection of Poems, Stories, Prayers, Satires,
Ranns, Charms, etc. Volume 1 (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1906), 387.
295
Campbell, Gleanings of Highland Harvest, 119.

75
space; Arrange them Thyself, O Thou King of Grace!”296 This trusts God to understand

and best attend to one’s petitions (compare Romans 8:26-27).

Calvin Miller advocates that “The Celts can teach us to live in the presence of the

great Three-in-One through their Trinity prayers.” He then quotes an ode “To the Trinity”

from the Black Book of Carmarthen: “‘I praise the threefold Trinity as God, who is one in

three, a single power in unity.’” 297 Pennar’s translation of this ode includes praise to One:

...who is three together, who is God himself;


the one who made Tuesdays and Mondays,
man and woman,
that shallows and depths are not one;
who made hot and cold, sun and moon,
a letter in wax, a flame in a wick, love in sensibility,
and a maiden, beloved gentle;
did the sacking of five castles
for their fornication.”298

Davies translates “castles” as “cities” and explains it as a reference to the Biblical “five

cities” of Sodom and Gomorrah –a humble self-reminder in prayer to accept grace to

overcome lust.299 This makes this as much an ironic end to a prayer for the laity as well

as celibate monks, again attesting the holiness and yet domestic intimacy, of the Trinity.

Kathleen Hughes and Ann Hamlin helpfully define “saints” as “people who have this

intimacy with God.”300 One way to attain this sanctity was the Irish monastic discipline

of offering six to eight “offices” of psalms and prayer each day.301 The Highlanders who

296
Hull, The Poem-book of the Gael, 234.
297
Calvin Miller, The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy (Downers Grove IL:
InterVarsity Press, 2007), 47.
298
Meirion Pennar, tr. The Black Book of Carmarthen (Somerset UK: Llanerch Enterprises, 1989), 63.
299
Deuteronomy 29:23, Jeremiah 50:40 etc. Davies, Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales, 60.
300
Kathleen Hughes and Ann Hamlin, Celtic Monasticism: The Modern Traveler to the Early Irish
Church (New York NY: The Seabury Press, 1977), 3.
301
Ibid., 5.

76
shared their songs and prayers with Carmichael were not monks, but they did punctuate

their daily life with memorized prayers. They would pray something like, “Come I this

day to the Father, Come I this day to the Son, Come I this day to the Holy Spirit

powerful...” when they arose.302 They would have prayers for kindling the fire in the

morning and praising the Creator when they first saw the sun. Grace was said over meals,

and prayers made for everything from milking the cow to waulking the tartan cloth.

“Journey prayers” would begin their travels. They would give blessings to visitors in their

home. The present author experienced such lay-benedictions visiting his ancestral Isle of

Barra. He has also picked up the Highlanders’ habit of beginning the day by splashing

cold water on his face, three times, in a salute to the Trinity. At the end of the day they

prayed to the Trinity (and the Saints)303 as they “smoored” the hearth-fire to preserve its

embers for morning. Their last thoughts before sleep would be in prayer:

I lie down this night with God,


And God will lie down with me;
I lie down this night with Christ,
And Christ will lay down with me;
I lie down this night with the Spirit,
And the Spirit will lie down with me;
God and Christ and the Spirit
Be lying down with me.304

Allchin says of Welsh Celtic spirituality, “In the practice of prayer every minute can

be touched by eternity, every place can be opened to the expanses of heaven.”305 Key to a

302
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 53.
303
The controversial matter of praying to the Saints is being passed over in the P.A.T.H.S. project. It
can be said that Celtic Christians, unlike medieval Catholics, did not ask the saints to intercede for them in
heaven –as if God were a feudal despot who would better listen to “a friend in the court”, rather than the
accessible “High King”. Rather, they asked them to join with them in their challenges and hopes on earth,
through the grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
304
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 299. These prayers are of course only samples of many.
305
A.M. Allchin, Praise Above All, 134.

77
recovery of this vital sense of the living, gracious God in Christian life is a recognition –

nay, the experience– that time is a “window on the eternal”.306 “The Celts never entered

the day with a repetitious deadening perspective,” notes O’Donohue. Every day is sacred!

“The day is understood as a time of reflexive blessing that embraces God, self, others,

and nature.”307 To enjoy this experience, Ó Ríordáin recommends each person create and

memorize modern equivalents to the moment-by-moment prayers he heard from the rural

Irish Catholics among whom he has lived.308 Such “Trinitarian Prayers” are the third of

the five “P.A.T.H.S.” practices of this research project.

One of David Adam’s many such modern prayers in the “Celtic” tradition may

fittingly conclude this section:

In the Father’s power


In the Son’s power
In the Spirit’s power
Be this hour.

Father be my friend
Jesus be my friend
Spirit be my friend
To the journey’s end.

Father be my guard
Jesus be my guard
Spirit be my guard
When the way is hard.

In the Father’s power


In the Son’s power
In the Spirit’s power
Be this hour.309

306
O’Donohue, Anam Cara, 152.
307
Ibid., 130.
308
Ó Ríordáin, The Music of What Happens, 89-92.
309
David Adam, The Edge of Glory: Prayers in the Celtic Tradition (London: SPCK, 1985), 44.

78
VII. Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation

It were as easy for Jesu


To renew the withered tree
As to wither the new
Were it his will so to do.

Jesu! Jesu! Jesu!


Jesu! Meet it were to praise Him.

There is no plant in the ground


But it is full of His virtue,
There is no form in the strand
But it is full of His blessing...

There is no life in the sea,


There is no creature in the river,
There is naught in the firmament
But proclaims His goodness...

There is no bird on the wing,


There is no star in the sky,
There is nothing beneath the sun,
But proclaims His goodness...

This, with its unusual opening, was the prayer of a woman in Harris who suffered

from leprosy. After prayerfully bathing herself in a concoction of water, plants and

shellfish, she was healed. 310 One may think this is but an example of surviving Druidism

only by disregarding its echo of praise for the goodness of the Creator that is so common

in the psalms, and the profoundly Biblical basis of her prayer (Matthew 21:18 -21; 8:1-3;

John 9:7). Unlike believers in the urbanized Roman world, Celtic Christians lived in a

rural, subsistence economy. Consequently they had an intimately close, utilitarian311 and

yet respectful and even affectionate relationship with the natural world. “There is a good

310
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 45, and accompanying Note 14, p. 576.
311
“The idea that Celtic Christians were kind to animals needs to be set against a pervasive love of
hunting and meat-eating...” Mary Low, “The Natural World in Early Irish Christianity: An Ecological
Footnote,” in Mark Atherton, ed., Celts and Christians: New Approaches to the Religious Traditions of
Britain and Ireland (Cardiff UK: University of Wales Press, 2002), 169-203, 176.

79
deal of evidence,” argued Allchin, “...that the Celtic Christian world had a very strong

awareness of the goodness, indeed the sacredness, of the material world, and a remar-

kable feeling of the kinship which should exist between human beings and animals....”312

The most ubiquitous evidence of this intimate and affirmative relationship is seen in

the many stories of the Celtic saints and their interactions with animals, birds and even

fish. Perhaps the earliest modern anthology of these tales is Helen Waddell’s Beasts and

Saints, which begins with twelve examples from the desert fathers, and then goes on to

thirty-three European examples, all taken from the lives of Celtic (Welsh, Irish, Scots and

Irish-trained English) saints.313 Sellner includes many stories of “beasts and saints” in his

Wisdom of the Celtic Saints. He has promised a new book devoted to that topic next

year.314 Pelagius informed an elderly friend that “The presence of God’s Spirit in all

living beings is what makes them beautiful.” When Jesus commands people to love their

neighbours, Pelagius commented, “...he means all the animals and birds, insects and

plants, amongst whom we live.... we should love and cherish all creation.” Indeed, “we

should remember that all love comes from God; so when our love is directed towards an

animal or even a tree, we are participating in the fullness of God’s love.”315 “Understand

the creation if you wish to know the Creator,” counselled Columbanus. “...for those who

wish to know the great deep must first review the natural world. For knowledge of the

Trinity is likened to the depths of the sea, according to the saying of the Sage, ‘And the

312
A.M. Allchin, “Celtic Christianity: Fact or Fantasy?” Epiphany XIV.3 (1994), pp. 17-29, 20.
313
Helen Waddell, Beasts and Saints (London: Constable and Company, 1934).
314
Edward C. Sellner, Wisdom of the Celtic Saints. Revised & Expanded (Saint Paul MN: Bog Walk
Press, 2006). He promises Celtic Saints and Animals: A New Spirituality of Holiness will include
introductions to each saint and “a conclusion summarizing the lessons they can teach us about spirituality
today.” “Celtic Christianity and Music” group, Facebook, August 1, 2018.
315
Van de Weyer, ed., The Letters of Pelagius, 72. (See n. 53, p. 16 above.)

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great deep, who shall find it out?’”316 The saints were understood to be people who had

this properly restored, caring, even Edenic relationship with the rest of God’s creation.

Thomas Clancy and Gilbert Márkus warn against an uncritical notion of the Celt’s

celebration of nature with examples from the surviving writings of the parochia of Iona

that “the ‘negative’ aspects of nature are evident...too.”317 They quote a prayer of the

famous St. Brendan the Navigator:

Deliver me, Almighty Lord God,


from every danger of sea and land, and from the waters
and from the phantasm of all beasts and flying creatures and serpents.
Defend me, O God, from fire, from lightning, from thunder, from hail,
from snow, from rain, from wind, from dangers of the earth,
from whirlwind, from earthquake, from all evils...318

This only means that Celtic Christians were not naive romantics about God’s creation, as

might be concluded from some earlier writings of the modern “Celtic” revival such as

Christopher Bamford and William Marsh’s Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness.319

Rather, they appreciated it, as they did its Creator, in all its fearfulness as well as beauty.

This is evident in the thirteenth-century Welsh “Loves of Taliesin”. Here, only seemingly

arbitrarily mixed verses carefully and litanically celebrate “the beauty of...” the natural

world, animals, birds, flowers; human endeavours, parties and battles; and religious acts,

praises and penance; all ending on the sober note: “But the loveliest of all is covenant

with God on the Day of Judgement.”320

316
G.S.M. Walker, ed., “Sermons of Columbanus,” Sermon I., § 4,5 (p. 65) (Ecclesiastes 7:24).
317
Clancy and Márkus, Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery, 91.
318
Ibid., pp. 90 f., quoting Oratio Brendani X in their own translation.
319
Christopher Bamford and William Parker Marsh, Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness
(Stockbridge MA: The Lindisfarne Press, 1982).
320
Translated in Davies, Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales, 84 f.

81
In contrast to many “new age” spiritualities, notes Simpson, Celtic Christians

understood the world to be a place of “eternal struggle” between good and evil, with evil

being both frightening and dangerous, though the cross and resurrection of Christ

guarantee its final end in goodness and beauty. This is the meaning of the hundreds of

Celtic Crosses in outdoor places, spread across the Irish and British countryside. 321 As

Bruce Martin explains, “Experiencing the terror of nature’s fury moved them to worship

and to nurture a faith in a God of power, whose strength was ultimately greater than that

of monsters of the deep or lightning bolts from the skies.”322

Typical of the saints and animals tales is that of Kevin of Glendalough, who was so

engrossed in prayer in a cruciform position that a bird built a nest in his outstretched

palm. So Kevin remained in that position until its chicks hatched, grew and flew away.323

The point for spirituality is not the historicity of the story, but its witness to what counts

as sainthood. Walter McConnell highlights the way these stories deliberately echo the

spirituality of the desert fathers.324 This is seen in Waddell’s anthology. But more than

that, Christians are called to take up the cross for the sake of God’s Kingdom (Matthew

10:38). Wakefield observed of this story, “Given the context of the adoption of the shape

of the cross it is an important reminder that the real ‘Celtic Christians’ had the Cross and

the redemption won by Christ at the heart of their spirituality.”325 Mary Low explains:

321
Simpson, Celtic Christianity, 177-192.
322
Bruce Martin, “Lord of Lark and Lightning. Reassessing Celtic Christianity’s Ecological
Emphases.” Journal of Religion & Society VI (2004), 1-15, p. 11.
323
Sellner, Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, 203 f.
324
Walter McConnell III. “‘Around the Old Eternal Rocks’: Ecology, Nature and the Celtic Church.”
Crux XLI.1 (Spring, 2005), 27-35, p.30.
325
Gavin Wakefield, “Myths of Celtic Christianity,” 200.

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The story, like that of St. Columba and [his] horse, is easily swamped by
sentimentality, but in fact it illustrates something which is really quite
unsentimental and challenging: a human being giving up something of his own
comfort, for the sake of something as ‘insignificant’ as a bird.326

It would be anachronistic to think Celtic Christians had a sense of environmental

responsibility. But they did believe the mandate of Genesis 2 for humanity’s loving

“dominion” over the earth, and the promise that this is redeemed by Christ from the sin

that compromised earth in Genesis 3. The saints will reflect this redemption in their lives.

Gilbert Márkus has recently released a full translation of the “Life of St. Cainnech”

(i.e., “Kenneth”), a typical Irish (or Scottish) Vita probably written in the late Seventh or

early eighth century.327 This is a helpful publication because up to now only certain

stories about him have appeared in English, including some in Waddell’s and Sellner’s

anthologies, but now all of them can be read and appreciated in context. Along with the

miracles of healing, power, psychic knowledge and even meteorology typical of early

Medieval hagiography, including calming a turbulent sea and causing a holy spring to

come up from the earth,328 twelve stories (a Biblically significant number?) report

interactions with animals. Eight of them are quite utilitarian and self-serving on the part

of the saint: Oxen and horses are instantly tamed;329 song-birds are silenced until given

permission to resume singing; two swans rescue him from violence; a stag holds a book

in its antlers for Cainnech to read; a deer visits regularly to give the saint her milk, and a

326
Mary Low, “The Natural World in Early Irish Christianity,” 193.
327
Gilbert Márkus, tr. and ed. “Life of St. Cainnech of Aghaboe." “Eòlas nan Naomh: Early
Christianity in Uist,” October, 2018. https://uistsaints.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Vita-Sancti
-Cainnechi-with-GM-translation-and-notes.pdf (accessed October 30, 2018). Kenneth died sometime at the
end of the Sixth Century.
328
Ibid., § 16 and 28.
329
Ibid., §5, 11.

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wolf takes the place of the calf it killed so its mother would continue to lactate.330 A fish

is caught with but a staff –but not a second one, for that would be more than necessary.

And destructive mice are sent into the sea (not unlike the Gadarene swine).331

Clearly, the tellers of this tale were not portraying a modern environmentalist.

Cainnech however also brings a butchered lamb back to life, rescues a deer from dogs,

and punishes a woman for starving a dog by befittingly making her eat the dog’s food,

and vice-versa.332 All of these tales are told of course to highlight the saint’s holiness, and

the power that came from the presence of the Holy Spirit in the saint’s human spirit.333

Yet this portrayal would be incomplete for the Celtic story-tellers without many examples

of Cainnech’s restored paradisiacal “dominion” over his fellow creatures. So they include

examples of altruistic caring, as well as utilitarian employment.334

Indeed, in one tale God offers to move a mountain for Cainnech’s convenience,

“according to the word of the Gospel” (Matthew 17:20). The saint replied, “The elements

of God will not be moved on my account.” 335 Márkus explains that the word elementa

“was commonly used in Hiberno-Latin to refer to the natural order as created by God.”336

330
Márkus, “Life of St. Cainnech, § 30, 45, 43, 36 and 59.
331
Ibid., §17; §29 (Matthew 8:32).
332
Ibid., §58, 49, 34.
333
The Spirit is named in §’s 17, 26 and 38.
334
This parts from Fr. Márkus’s view that there is nothing distinctively “ecological” in the animal
stories in Celtic hagiography. To date however he has not in correspondence with the present researcher
offered any example from non-Celtic hagiographies, apart from the desert fathers and St. Francis of Assisi.
But Francis was trained at the Columbanian monastery of Bobbio, and may also be claimed for the “Celtic”
tradition. Cf. Mitton, Restoring the Woven Cord, 58.
335
Márkus, “Life of St. Cainnech," § 21.
336
Ibid., Note 45 on §21.

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Thus the popular address to the divine as “God of the Elements”, Dé Dulig.337 Creation

enjoys its own integrity. Note the Hebridean prayer said by a crew in blessing their boat:

Helmsman: What can cause you anxiety,


and the God of the elements with you?
Crew: No anxiety can be ours....
All: The God of the elements, the King of the elements,
the Spirit of the elements, Close over us, ever eternally.338

John Carey published an illuminating study of the Celtic respect for the integrity of

creation, “The Ecology of Miracles”.339 In a seventh-century story Patrick refused to

perform some ecologically inappropriate magic, and then undid a Druids’ curse with a

blessing: “‘You can do evil, but you cannot do good. It is not thus with me.’” “In this,”

Carey notes, “he is motivated by a kind of cosmic piety; he does not want to act against

God’s will.” Adomnan reported Columba refused to copy a Druid in making a bull give

milk, and exposing the falsity of a Druid’s magic as it was contrary to nature. He then

restored the compromised ox to health.340 The Irish commentator, Augustinus Hibernicus,

wrote a commentary (circa 655 AD) on the miracles in the Scriptures.341 “Hibernicus”

explained the miracles of the Bible as always in keeping with God’s order for creation –

often returning creatures to their proper function as given before the Fall. “A sense of the

sacrosanct integrity of nature is one thing which we can draw from De mirabilus sacrae

Scripturae; another, surely, is a vision of the miraculous at work all around us....”342

337
Mary Low, “The Natural World in Early Irish Christianity,” 181. Cf. Low’s Celtic Christianity and
Nature, Chapter 9, “God of the Elements,” 165-185.
338
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 124.
339
John Carey, A Single Ray of the Sun: Religious Speculation in Early Ireland. Second Edition.
(Aberystwyth, IR: Celtic Studies Publications, 2011), Essay II, 39-73.
340
“Life of Patrick” by Muirchú, ibid., 41 f.; Vita Columbae II.16, ibid., 43 f. Both stories are primarily
polemical. That does not take away from their point: that the saints honour the integrity of God’s creation!
341
Carey, A Single Ray of the Sun, p. 47 f., n.9
342
Ibid., 47-70. The quotation is from p. 71.

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A telling example of this distinctive attitude is seen in the Celtic appreciation of

Mark’s report that Jesus was visited by “wild beasts” during his trial in the desert (Mark

1:13). Commentators outside of Ireland and Wales see this as part of Christ’s trial. For

the Celts, however, the pairing of the “wild beasts” with ministering angels made perfect

sense. Thomas states that for the eremites, “as for Jesus...the wild beasts become allies in

the struggle, helping them to become aware of God’s love enfolding his creation.”343

For Celtic Christians, creation itself is holy, and with the guidance of Scripture and

the Spirit may be an inspiring vehicle of its Creator’s revelation. “When humanity

abandoned God,” explained Eriugena,

...the light of divine knowledge receded from the world. Since then, eternal light
reveals itself in a twofold manner through Scripture and through creature. Divine
knowledge may be renewed in us in no other way, but through the letter of
Scripture and the species of creature. Learn, therefore, to understand these divine
modes of expression and to conceive of their meanings in your soul, for therein
you will know the Word.344

No theologian since Karl Barth can uncritically seek out God in the natural world. But

even in his first unqualified commendation of The Celtic Way, Bradley insisted “...the

Celts had a very real sense of the reality and power of sin and evil but these were always

regarded as external forces rather than as innate features of human nature.”345 God’s

creation not only inspires the human spirit to be in communion with God’s Spirit. Such

was the Celtic Christian confidence in the victory of Christ over evil, that they also

343
Patrick Thomas, Candle in the Darkness, 69. In support he references Ian Bradley, God is Green:
Ecology for Christians (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1990), 75 f.
344
John Scotus Eriugena “Homily on the Prologue to the Gospel of John,” XI, in Bamford, The Voice
of an Eagle, 37. Cf. Mary C. Earle’s citation of Eriugena’s famous remark, “Every visible and invisible
creature can be called a theophany. “ Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings Annotated and
Explained (Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2011), 22.
345
Bradley, The Celtic Way, 65. He refers the reader to his previous discussion in his Chapter 2,
“Presence and Protection,” pp. 31-50.

86
believed that one may be guided by the Spirit’s help in one’s own spirit to distinguish the

interloping evil from the created good in nature. In Periphyseon, Eriugena’s subtle

theological exploration of the relationship between God and “nature”, the “Scots”

philosopher relied upon this belief:

But under the guidance and helm of Divine Mercy, with the favourable breath of
the Holy Spirit filling the canvas of our ship, we may make a safe, straight course
among these dangers and, free and unscathed, shall arrive by a gentle course at the
harbour toward which we are making.346

One could hardly get closer to an appreciation of the ecological integrity of God’s

creation than that of these saints and authors of the early Celtic mission. They displayed a

profound, one could say sacramental, appreciation of the created world being charged

with revelatory spiritual presence. The Fitz-Gibbons, quoting Patrick’s legendary prayer

against the Druids at Tara, explain that “The stones, wind and waves are not animated

with inferior ‘spirits’, but the whole of creation is animated with the Spirit of God who

upholds all things by the word of his power.”347

At Tara today in this fateful hour


I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness
All these I place, by God's almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.348

346
Eriugena, Periphyseon, IV.2, Uhlfelder, 209. Cf. Deirdre Carabine, John Scotus Eriugena (Oxford
University Press, 2000), 55: “All creation is holy, not simply because it was made by God in the Word but
because it was created from God... (Periphyseon III.675B).”
347
Andy and Jane Fitz-Gibbon, Prophetic Lifestyle and the Celtic Way, 117.
348
“The Rune of St. Patrick,” as quoted, ibid., 116.

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A reverent and joyful appreciation of the presence of God in all of creation is even

attested by Campbell’s record of the evangelical spirituality of the Highland Scottish

revivalists. They prayed outdoors, took spiritual lessons from nature,349 and even

experienced the occasional miracle from fellow creatures.350 Their conversions and

spiritual discoveries were often made in the context of preaching, praying, or simply

reverently rejoicing in, the glorious power and beauty of God’s world.351

“This exultant spirituality,” notes Ó Ríordáin, “...has underpinned and still underpins

the deepest responses in many of the people of the Celtic Fringe.”352 Writing of this

spirituality of the familiarity of earth with “the God of Heaven”, Mary Low concludes her

detailed study, Celtic Christianity and Nature: “Not all of its insights are of value today,

but its strong sense of intimacy, on many levels, between God, nature and human beings,

offers a traditional but neglected Christian cosmology which may well have something to

offer.”353 Graham Duncan is bluntly honest in his assessment that traditional Celtic

Christians, farming, fishing and hunting in the face of a seemingly limitless, undeveloped

and even dangerous natural world, can hardly be considered “green” in today’s terms. 354

They were not even capable of imagining the contemporary need for modern ecological

responsibility. Nonetheless he concludes, for today:

349
Campbell, Gleanings of Highland Harvest, 11, 38.
350
Ibid., 109 (a salmon leaps ashore for a poor boy to take home, and a pony regularly continues to
stop where its dead master used to dismount to pray).
351
Ibid., pp. 12, 34, 95, 105, 108, 111, 115.
352
Ó Ríordáin, The Music of What Happens, 109.
353
Mary Lowe, Celtic Christianity and Nature: Early Irish and Hebridean Traditions (Edinburgh
University Press, 1996), 185. Cf. Carabine’s conclusion of Eriugena’s theology: John Scotus Eriugena, 55.
354
G. Duncan, “Celtic Spirituality and Contemporary Environmental Issues.” HTS Teologiese Studies/
Theological Studies 71(3), Art. # 2857. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i3.2857. (Accessed March 7, 2018.)

88
What is required to solve the spiritual malaise is a return to some form of non-
romanticized spirituality such as that found in early Celtic spirituality that may
help form a new mindset, attitudinal change and commitment to action, that is,
praxis, as a basis to recreate the circumstances where Jesus might yet be able to
exclaim that, “I have come that they may have life, and may have it in all its
fullness” (John 10:10).355

This need is beyond the intentions of the P.A.T.H.S. experiment in recovering and

adapting “Celtic Christian” spiritual practices for today. But a regular discipline of

seeking to encounter, appreciate and enjoy the Holiness of God in God’s great creation is

certainly in continuity with a central dimension of that tradition.

VIII. Soul-Friends (Anamchara)

How can we conquer the stubbornness in our hearts? How can we soften those
hard areas? When a woman kneads dough to make bread, she finds with her
fingers the lumps of flour and breaks them down. This means that we must be
honest with ourselves, recognizing clearly those areas of our lives which have not
yielded to Christ.... Indeed, we each need one special friend, who may be called a
friend of the soul. We must open our souls completely to this friend, hiding
nothing and revealing everything. And we must allow this friend to assess and to
judge what he sees. At times we may feel angry and even hateful towards this
friend of the soul; but to turn our backs on him would be to reject God himself.356

This advice of Pelagius is typical of the Celtic Christian sense of the vocation to

become no less than a saint. Indeed, it was just this desire for moral progress, and the

optimism about the Creator’s gift of human goodness, including an indestructible free

will and Christ’s ability to empower a Christian to overcome their sins and grow into

spiritual maturity, that got Pelagius into so much trouble with St. Augustine. Perhaps

(apart from the condemnations of politically manipulated Western church councils and

the subsequent generations of theologians haunted by Augustine’s pessimism,) one could

355
Duncan, “Celtic Spirituality and Contemporary Environmental Issues”, 10.
356
Pelagius, “To a Mature Christian,” in Robert Van de Weyer, Letters of Pelagius, 58. (See the
caution, n. 16 p. 53 above.)

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say that got Augustine into trouble with Pelagius. As the Celtic spiritual director heard

the African bishop’s letters read in Rome, he was concerned that his doctrine of “original

sin” and the will’s enslavement only encouraged the decadent Roman Christians of his

day in their moral laxity and spiritual lethargy. Pelagius was convinced Augustine had

been inadequately converted (!) from his decade of service as a Manichean “reader”.357

For the Celtic anamchara, Matthew 4:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father

is perfect,” is not a rhetorical device to dishearten a sinner, but a challenge to holiness

that will inspire a saint! “...Pelagius has had to suffer the fate of being simplified into

heresy,” regrets O’Donoghue, “for he himself came as a great simplifier from the Isles of

the North to Rome, as a breath of cold fresh air into a city then as now overheated with

the ambiguities of sophisticated self-interest parading as orthodox Christianity.”358 This is

the true meaning behind the commonplace notion that Celtic-influenced Christians are

predisposed to Pelagianism. Grace for them is an enabling, and not just an excusing gift!

In the classic perennial debate about salvation by grace against human responsibility

in the process of sanctification, M. Forthome Nicholson noted, “Here, two anthropologies

meet head on – the Augustinian one of ‘damned humanity’ (massa damnata) and the

Celtic concept that finds its justification in the Age of Saints.”359

357
P. Brown, “Pelagius and His Supporters: Aims and Environment.” Journal of Theological Studies
N.S., 19.1 (April 1968), 93-114; Robert Evans, Pelagius: Inquiries and Reappraisals (Eugene: Wipf &
Stock, 2010); C. St. Clair, “A Heretic Reconsidered: Pelagius, Augustine, and Original Sin.”
https://digitalcommons .csbsju.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=sot_papers (accessed July 2,
2017); B. Steinberg, “Rehabilitating Pelagius: Another Look at Original Sin.” Theology CVIII.841 (January
2005), 14-22.
358
O’Donoghue, The Angels Kept Their Ancient Places, 122. In fact O’Donoghue ended his book on
“Celtic Spirituality” with a twelve-page study of “...The Case of Pelagius” (pp. 115-126).
359
M. Forthome Nicholson, “Celtic Theology: Pelagius.” James P. Mackey, ed., An Introduction to
Celtic Christianity (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 386-413, p. 397.

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But this did not make Celtic teachers naive about human fallenness. They knew the

process of sanctification is an arduous spiritual pilgrimage –the “green martyrdom”. For

Pelagius this required the prayers, insights, and even correction of wise, caring friends.

Columbanus reminded his congregations that they were called to grow into the image of

Christ (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10). “Let us not be the painters of another’s image; for

he is the painter of a despot’s image, who is fierce, wrathful, proud.... Then lest perhaps

we should import into ourselves despotic images, let Christ paint His image in us, as He

does by saying, ‘My peace I give to you. My peace I leave to you.’ (John 14: 27)”360 The

ninth century Rule of Colmcille urges Christians to: “Have a few devout men who will

discuss God and the scriptures with you.... so they may strengthen your devotion to the

words and precepts of God.”361 Other “Rules” even counsel that because people are

predisposed to ignore or resent direction, anamcharas better refuse counseling the

insincere, to avoid becoming co-conspirators in their clients’ spiritual lethargy.362

Kathleen Hughes nicely describes this Celtic discipline for spiritual guidance and

development: “Confession and penance were the ‘medicine for souls’. They were

intended to heal the hurt which a man did by his sin; primarily the hurt to himself, and

also the hurt to society. The confessor was a ‘soul-friend’: anam-chara is his name in

Irish. His job was to apply the appropriate cure to the soul’s disease.”363

Nicholson’s reference to “the Age of Saints” is an allusion to Chadwick’s seminal

1960 Riddell Lectures, The Age of the Saints in the Early Celtic Church. She spoke about

360
Walker, ed., “Sermons of Columbanus,” XI.2, p. 109.
361
Ó Maidin, The Celtic Monk, 39-41, § 5 p. 39. Colmcille or Columcille: i.e., Columba.
362
Ibid., § 74 of “The Rule of Tallaght”, p. 121; § 36 of the “Alphabet of Devotion,” p. 169.
363
Hughes, Early Christian Ireland, 84-5.

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the role of the anamchara and the unique development of a Celtic system of penitence

“which does not appear in the Roman Church of the period,” and “would seem to be a

natural development” from “the desert solitaries of the East”.364 She also pointed out that

this discipline of “therapeutic” penitence was, as the sixth century Irish Penitentiale

Vinniani shows, for both monastics and laity.365 In Chapter One attention was drawn to

the frequency of “soul-friend” evoking pictures of the Eastern eremites, Paul and

Anthony, in the Celtic “High Crosses” of Britain.366 Through the influence of widely

circulated works in the Celtic mission like Cassian’s Collationes Patrum in Scetica

Eremo or Severus’ Life of St. Martin, the Eastern desert eremites greatly influenced

Celtic Spirituality. Their view of penance as a therapeutic “medicine for the soul” in the

context of “soul friendship”, in O’Loughlin’s words, made possible “...the most stunning

example of a monastic model of spiritual therapy to cover all sin, thereby breaking the

pastoral impasse that had baffled the great Latin fathers such as Augustine.”367

Dozens of Irish guides for directing penitents in their “green martyrdom” have been

found, all over Europe. John McNeill has studied The Celtic Penitentials and their

Influence on Continental Christianity, including the degeneration of Celtic penance into a

clergy-dominated Roman Catholic discipline more concerned with the assuaging of

God’s wrath than the sanctification of the penitent; eventually leading to the abuses of

extreme self-humiliation, the indulgences, and the “sacrament” of “Absolution” replacing

the older Celtic concern for reconciliation with the Holy Spirit, the community and

364
Nora Chadwick, The Age of the Saints, 103.
365
Ibid., 150. The Penitentiale Vinniani is also known as “St. Finnian’s Penitential”.
366
Thomas, Candle in the Darkness, 33; Allchin, “Celtic Christianity,” 23. See Hughes and Hamlin,
Celtic Monasticism, p. 59 figure 7 and p. 95, for the example on Muiredach’s Cross, Monasterboice.
367
O’Loughlin, Journeys on the Edges, 62, 103-105.

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oneself.368 On a more positive vein, Hugh Connolly studied The Irish Penitentials and

their Significance for the Sacrament of Penance Today. He recommends that the Roman

sacrament of Penance be corrected and renewed in the light of the Celtic Christian

practice of the personal, mutual ministry, even between laypeople, that once

characterized what he calls the “anamchara tradition” of spiritual direction.369

Campbell understandably refrains from the “Catholic” terms anamchara or “soul

friend” in his tribute to the Highland revivalists. Instead he speaks of “attached” and even

“covenanted” friends. Yet the prevalence of this practice in his book attests a continued

tradition of anamchara among twentieth century Highland Protestants, unencumbered by

its clerical sacramentalization among their Roman counterparts. 370

Ed Sellner quotes in full the story of St. Brigit of Kildare telling a young cleric that a

Christian “‘...without a soul-friend is like a body without a head; is like the water of a

polluted lake, neither good for drinking nor washing. That is the person without a soul-

friend.’”371 His conclusion for his book on the topic includes the advice that a soul-friend

need not have “his or her life ‘together’.” “What makes Patrick, Brigit, and Columcille so

appealing is not so much their fantastic powers, but their struggle with their very own

fallible humanity, as well as their love of others and their ultimate reliance upon God.”372

The Fitz-Gibbons also quote the story in full. They suggest two essential qualities for a

368
John T. McNeill, The Celtic Penitentials and Their Influence on Continental Christianity (Paris:
Édouard Champion, 1923).
369
Hugh Connolly, The Irish Penitentials and their Significance for the Sacrament of Penance Today.
Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1995), esp. pp. 13-17.
370
Campbell, Gleanings of Highland Harvest, 39, 43 and 50. Other references to trusted friends, prayer
and mutual counsel or companionship in spirituality may be found on pages 33, 45, 47, 55, 66 and 94.
371
Sellner, Stories of the Celtic Soul Friends, 6 f.
372
Ibid., 233.

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soul friend today: maturity in the faith, and trustworthiness, especially in confidentiality.

They also point out the anamchara need not be a professional minister, nor even of the

same church. They must “take sin seriously,” but “not be judgemental or overbearing”.373

Quite reminiscent of the advice for anamcharas in the seventh century Apgitir chrábaid:

“Censure is opposed by the mind but correction leads to humility.”374

Raikes is pleased with anamcharas in her assessment of Celtic Spirituality. “They

were people with whom Christians could share, discuss, and pray about every detail of

their spiritual lives – the joys and sadnesses, spiritual encouragements and spiritual

battles, including confession and penance as appropriate.”375 Since modern relationships

have “...become an empty centre around which our lonely hunger forages for warmth and

belonging,” O’Donohue diagnoses, “in everyone’s life, there is a great need for an anam

ċara.”376 Bradley commends this “distinctly Celtic” practice. “Soul friendship has been

one of the most popular themes in the current revival of enthusiasm for Celtic

Christianity.” He says it can fill a need for spiritual communication too often met today

with counterfeits like fortune-telling!377 This must be a central element of a revived and

revised “Celtic Spirituality” for today –the fifth of the P.A.T.H.S. practices. Mary Earle

provides a good conclusion to this section:

Each of us needs the counsel and friendship of someone who knows us well,
someone who can encourage us to notice behaviours that are destructive to
ourselves and one another. Each of us needs a soul friend, an anam cara (Irish) or
periglour (Welsh) who will guide us in growing in the likeness of God.378
373
A. & J. Fitz-Gibbon, Prophetic Lifestyle and the Celtic Way, 166 f.
374
“The Alphabet of Devotion,” Ó Maidin, The Music of What Happens, 161-169, § 36 p. 169.
375
Raikes, Light from Dark Ages, 31.
376
O’Donohue, Anam Cara, 17, 14.
377
Bradley, Colonies of Heaven, 101, 107, 112.
378
Earle, Celtic Christian Spirituality, 15.

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IX. Conclusion: “Thin Places”

I have noticed that whenever I have the chance to share my enthusiasm for the
faith expression of the Christianized Celts, the explanation of thin places evokes
an instant sense of recognition among listeners. It’s almost as if an internal chime
rings– Aha! The ring of truth! Smiles grace their lips ever so slightly and the
slight nod of the head says, “Oh, yes, I know exactly what you are talking about.
I’ve been to a few thin places myself.” I can also tell you that they’d really like to
go back.379

The present author also finds the concept of “thin places” to be an immediate

“bridge” to non- or post-Christians in spiritual discussions. Human beings are created

with a God-given longing for transcendence. Places of arresting beauty or inspiring

religious significance can serve as openings for the human spirit to experience a divine

reality beyond itself which, at the moment at least, is subjectively undeniable. No wonder

this has become a key idea with advocates for Celtic spirituality. “The Celtic Christians,”

asserts Batterson, “referred to these kinds of moments when heaven and earth seem to

touch –as thin places. Natural and supernatural worlds collide. Creation meets Creator.

Sin meets grace. Routine meets the Wild Goose.”380 McIntosh is keen on the experience

and concept. “The Divine Presence is everywhere (see Psalm 139), and yet mortals can

experience that Presence more keenly in certain places than they would in ordinary

settings.” He cites “Jacob’s ladder” (Genesis 28) as Biblical precedent for the experience.

Jacob set up a stone memorial (a precedent for a common Celtic practice) and named the

site “Bethel” –“House of God”. “The Celts regarded places of God’s presence as ‘thin

places’ like Bethel,” he asserts, “where the boundary that divides mundane physical

existence from spiritual realities stretches to the point that it becomes transparent.”381

379
Balzer, Thin Places, 38.
380
Batterson, Wild Goose Chase, 46.
381
McIntosh, Water from an Ancient Well, 301.

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The modern “Celtic” notion of the Spirit as a wild goose has been discussed. While

its reference to the Celtic saints’ spirit of adventure is helpful, the idea that it is an old

tradition is not true. Bradley also dissected the concept of “thin places”, attributing it as

well to the “incurable romantic,” George MacLeod.382 “Laying claim to a remark

originally made by an ‘old Scotsman’ to the English mystic, Evelyn Underhill, he

delighted in describing Iona as a ‘thin place’ where heaven and earth were especially

close.”383 Esther de Waal reports that Underhill publically reported hearing the Scotsman

say this in 1937.384 Monica Weis also credits Underhill and “the Scotsman” for the

phrase, but does go on to speak of “an ancient Celtic saying that heaven and earth are

three feet apart. Some believe that in the thin places, the distance is even smaller.”385

Laura Béres has written a paper on “thin places,” which, significantly enough, is

based on two visits to Iona, and interviews with various pilgrims there.386 She references

as an example “Sue”, who, relevant to the earlier discussion of Celtic Christian realism

about the reality of evil and danger in the creation, “commented that she especially values

the manner in which Celtic spirituality does not run away from the darkness of the world.

382
Rosemary Power offers a fair assessment of MacLeod’s singular influence on the renaissance of
“Celtic Christian spirituality” today: “While having a limited knowledge of the primary source material,
MacLeod and his colleagues also selected those aspects that appealed to the imagination and a sense of
romance, reworking them as occasion demanded. In this way they were able to influence others to accept
them because there were few in this milieu with the confidence or desire to state that something was, or
was not, ‘Celtic’.” R. Power, “A Place of Community: ‘Celtic’ Iona and Institutional Religion.” Folklore
117.1 (April 2006), 33-53, 49. MacLeod is nonetheless a stellar example of a “Celtic Christian spirituality”
for today. See George F. MacLeod, Daily Readings with George MacLeod: Founder of the Iona
Community. New Edition, ed. Ron Fergusson (Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications, 2001).
383
Bradley, Celtic Christianity: Making Myths... p. 182. Evelyn Underhill, Collected Papers of Evelyn
Underhill, ed. Lucy Menzies (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1946), 196: “‘Ah! Iona is a very thin
place... There’s very little between Iona and the Lord.’”
384
Esther de Wall, “A Fresh Look at the Synod of Whitby,” 31.
385
Monica Weis, Thomas Merton and the Celts (Eugene OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016), 70.
386
Laura Béres, “A Thin Place: Narratives of Space and Place, Celtic Spirituality and Meaning.”
Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought XXXI.4 (October, 2012), 394-413.

96
She felt that the isle of Iona is a ‘thin place’ where the dark and light are intermingled.”387

“Thin places” is not only a contemporary image, though it may bespeak a truly early

“Celtic” as much as a generally human experience. It can refer to an intermingling of

different dualities for different people –heaven and earth, darkness and light, God and

humanity. “Thin places” may be considered another example of the continuing

development and relevancy of themes in “Celtic Christian spirituality”.

In this “tradition”, McIntosh counsels: “To put it in ancient Celtic terms, prayers

create ‘thin spots’ where the visible and invisible realms pass back and forth.”388 Balzer

also directs: “What makes a place truly thin? Before all else, the answer lies in our own

internal landscape. Indeed, the first and best thin place must be our own souls.”389

The practices outlined in this chapter, recovered from the “Age of the Saints” and

adapted for contemporary parishioners, may be legitimate applications of the heritage of

“Celtic Christian spirituality” for use today. This is the goal of this thesis: “Recovering

P.A.T.H.S. of Celtic Christian Spirituality: Everyday Experiments for Anglican

Parishioners in West Saint John.” This “experiment” is to test five “paths” that may help

Christians who appreciate their Celtic heritage to discover their personal “thin places,” by

opening their spirits to a more vital communion in the Holy Spirit: Praying the Psalms;

undertaking Adventures in Blessing; Praying in the Trinity throughout the day; regularly

encountering the Holiness of God in Creation; and enjoying the “experiment” in an

intentional partnership with a Soul Friend.

387
Béres, “A Thin Place”, 400.
388
McIntosh, Water from an Ancient Well, 190.
389
Balzer, Thin Places, 38.

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So though the “Wild Goose,” like “thin places,” is an influential image only in the

contemporary renaissance in “Celtic Christianity,” David Coles’ prayer to the Holy

Spirit, being a modern and not an ancient appeal, is still a befitting end to this chapter:

The Wild Goose


Wild Goose, Holy Spirit of God,
release my life. Free my shackled heart.
Give me freedom to fly with you.
To love and to live in such fullness
that sky cannot be enough to hold me,
nor the highest heavens be too far to reach.
Eternal God of endless flight,
may I rise with you in freedom,
through the death and resurrection of Truth and Life.
Love and Son.
Give me a restored life,
both with the divine and with humanity.
May I live in the freedom you offer,
truly accepting it.390

390
David Cole, Celtic Prayers & Practices (Vestal NY: Anamchara Books, 2014), 83.

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Chapter Three:

The P.A.T.H.S. Experiment in the Church of the Good Shepherd.

I. Introduction

Chapter One presented a Biblical understanding of Christian spirituality as attending

to “the intercommunion between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit” in sanctification. It

also presented scriptural precedents or bases for the five “P.A.T.H.S.” practices employed

in this study. Chapter Two defended the modern notion of a distinctive tradition of

“Celtic Christian spirituality,” at least in the self-identity of Anglicans, and argued that

this formulated Biblical “understanding of Christian spirituality is implicit in the recorded

writings and the prayers of ‘Celtic Christians’”. Chapter Two also offered historical

precedents among “Celtic Christians” for each of the five “P.A.T.H.S.” practices

considered relevant to the Church of the Good Shepherd’s life and mission today.

This chapter presents the commendations of modern writers in spirituality which lie

behind the researcher’s choice of the five practices (Sections IV-VIII). But first some

background on the Church of the Good Shepherd will be given (Section II). Then a

summary of its quest to grow in what the Natural Church Development program calls

“Passionate Spirituality”, along with its decision to undertake a program of recommended

disciplines adapted from “Celtic Christian spirituality” in particular (Section III).

II. The Church of the Good Shepherd

The “Church of the Good Shepherd” is incorporated as “The Anglican Parish of

Lancaster” within the Diocese of Fredericton. Ministry in the Fairville area, now a

99
suburban middle-class community in West Saint John, commenced before 1846. The

church proper, at the heart of its present building complex, was opened in 1885. Other

facilities including offices, a hall, narthex and chancel, and gym with meeting rooms

were added as the congregation grew along with the community.391 When the present

researcher became its Rector in 2002, it was a mostly older congregation, which reflected

the liberal Anglo-Catholic spirituality of its previous rector of fourteen years. He had

encouraged many of its lay leaders to participate in the Anglican Cursillo movement, a

program of spiritual renewal and training in missional leadership. These were the laity

who asked the bishop for permission to recruit the present researcher as the new Rector.

During the early years of the new rectorship, the parish rejuvenated its Sunday

School, started an active Youth Group, and sponsored an extensive Alpha program,

supplemented by other small groups. Sunday worship grew to about 130 a week. About

200 households identified with the parish. It has been best noted for its music program,

and its annual “Bikers Breakfast and Blessing of the Bikes” on the last Saturday of May

each year, attended by over 100 motorcycles and their riders and enthusiasts. It is often

commended by its bishop for its financial support to the diocese, and to missions and

outreach in the city and the wider world.392

However, as older parishioners passed on to glory and others moved away to study or

work elsewhere, the church shrunk to a Sunday attendance of around 90. In the parish’s

2016 Annual Report, the Rector lamented that in spite of presenting forty-four older

youth and nine adults to the bishop for Confirmation over the fourteen years of his

391
https://www.goodshepherdsj.ca/history. (Accessed anew, April 17, 2019.)
392
In 2018, $ 46,600, against a total budget of $ 196,287. Figures taken from the Anglican Parish of
Lancaster: Church of the Good Shepherd Annual Report for 2018, February, 2019, 12, 23.

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ministry, “Most of them...have moved away to study and work in other communities. It

has been sad to see both our Sunday School and Youth Groups deplete in numbers.”393

During this time two neighbouring Anglican churches in West Saint John closed due to

dwindling parishioners. Some of their members became active in the Parish of Lancaster.

Without their reinforcement, the congregation would be even smaller –and this in a

church which can accommodate 250 people for public worship. The parish leadership

recognized that it faced a crisis of failure in evangelism and discipling among generations

who were not enamoured by the traditional spirituality of the 1662 Book of Common

Prayer.394 It also became increasingly aware that the traditional “attractional” model of

welcoming people to its fellowship within a wider culture of church-going was no longer

applicable in New Brunswick’s rapidly developing “post-Christendom” society.

The Parish of Lancaster was not alone in this crisis. The June, 2009 Diocesan Synod

of Fredericton mandated the Nicodemus Project of retooling and renewing Anglican

parishes in New Brunswick for ministry and mission in a post-Christendom society. 395 It

sought to address “…an urgent need for growth - spiritual, numerical and financial - and

called loudly and clearly for the transformational change in this diocese necessary to

achieve that growth.”396 The project was named for Jesus’ direction to the famous

Sanhedrin member: “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is

393
Christopher McMullen, “Rector’s Report,” Anglican Parish of Lancaster: Church of the Good
Shepherd Annual Report for 2016, 7.
394
The latest Canadian edition is dated 1962. It continues Elizabethan language and older liturgies.
395
J. Morell, “The Nicodemus Project: Time for Parishes to Act.” https://sites.google.com/site
/anglicanparishof andover/nicodemus-project/what-is-this-all-about. (Accessed March 10, 2018.)
396
A. Watts, “Diocese takes first steps toward transformational change”, The New Brunswick Anglican,
December 2009, 2. http://fredericton.anglican.org/nb_ang/pdf /nba0912.pdf. (Accessed March 10, 2018.)

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spirit....So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8) This was a call to a

renewed spirituality which would issue in renewed mission.

The reaction of Vestry members and other leaders in the 164 year-old parish was not

unlike that of Nicodemus himself: “How can anyone be born [anew] after having grown

old?” (John 3:4b) In 2010 the parish sent a leadership team to a Natural Church

Development [NCD] workshop with the organization’s founder, Christian Schwarz, in

Moncton. Shortly afterward the Vestry committed itself to a five-year engagement with

this program.397 Parish leaders read Schwarz’s introductory Color Your World with

Natural Church Development398, a “Spiritual Colour Profile” of the parish was taken, and

the congregation underwent its first “Church Health Survey”.399 This Survey measures

the “eight quality characteristics” of growing churches that NCD identified from its study

of statistically measured growing churches around the world and in every denomination.

The “biotic principles” of NCD identify the lowest score as the “minimum factor”, the

dimension of a church’s life that must first be improved, before growth can increase.400

That first survey revealed that the congregation’s “minimum factor” or weakest, most

impairing dimension to its parish growth was in “Needs-Oriented Evangelism.”401 As the

parish reported to the diocese: “This did not surprise us, as we knew we’re not a very

397
The congruity of NCD’s methodology with a program of Celtic Christian spirituality will be
discussed in Chapter Four below.
398
Christian Schwarz, Color Your World with Natural Church Development (cf. p. 34 n. 113 above).
399
Christopher McMullen, “Report from the Parish of Lancaster –March 2011– Concerning Our Self-
Evaluation for the Diocese of Fredericton’s Nicodemus Project” (Saint John NB, March, 2011).
400
Schwarz, Paradigm Shift in the Church, 248-251; see also Schwarz, Natural Church Development:
A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches (Kelowna BC: The Leadership Centre, Willow
Creek Canada, 1996).
401
“In our surveys of growing and declining churches, we discovered that the difference in their
practice of evangelism depends largely on the question of whether or not they are able to relate their evan-
gelistic activities to the actual needs of those they aim to win.” Paradigm Shift in the Church, 211.

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welcoming church to outsiders, and not comfortable witnessing to our faith, corporately

or personally.”402 Undaunted, the parish undertook seven programs during the ensuing

year, including Bill Hybel’s Just Walk Across the Room and Becoming Contagious

Christians;403 “Back to Church Sunday”;404 and the British “Not Ashamed” campaign.405

Invitational pens were made for parishioners to distribute to people, and “Cookie

Sundays” saw the blessing at public worship and distribution by attendees of packages of

treats to people who did not attend church anywhere. Sixty inactive households on the

parish rolls were visited by teams willing to share about their faith. As a result, its second

NCD survey, in 2011, raised the parish’s net score from a disheartening “19” (in

comparison to the “average score” over all eight characteristics of “36”) to a “33” (out of

an average of “43”).406 “Needs-Oriented Evangelism” in fact was no longer the

“minimum factor” in the parish’s NCD church growth profile.407

The new “minimum factor” became, and has remained over four surveys, “Passionate

Spirituality”. Its score went from “22” in 2010 to “46” (out of “56”) in 2018. While the

rising scores reveal a steady improvement in the parish’s health as measured by NCD,

402
C. McMullen, “Report from the Parish of Lancaster...”.
403
Bill Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith (Grand Rapids MI:
Zondervan, 2006); idem, with Mark Mittelberg, Becoming a Contagious Christian (Zondervan, 1994).
404
https://www.backtochurch.com/. (Accessed anew for this thesis, November 17, 2018.)
405
https://www.notashamed.org.uk/. (Accessed anew for this thesis, November 17, 2018.)
406
NCD Survey results are considered the property of the congregation, and are here shared with the
permission of the Vestry of the Corporation of the Anglican Parish of Lancaster, 2017.
407
The parish’s testimony about growing in “Needs-Oriented Evangelism” is featured on the NCD
Canada website: https://ncd-canada.com/about-ncd/testimonials/church-of-the-good-shepherd-saint-john-
nb/?doing_wp_cron=1542378254.9765300750732421875000. (Accessed March 9, 2019.)

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“Passionate Spirituality” continued to be the weakest, and therefore according to NCD

methodology the most handicapping, of the parish’s life in relation to church growth.408

III. Passionate Spirituality.

NCD describes “Passionate Spirituality” in this way:

“…we found that the devotional style of a church is not decisive for its growth (as
long as this style is real devotion and not just unbelief papered over with pious
vocabulary). But it is decisive that the Christians live their faith with passion. We
discovered that the level of commitment in spiritual life is consistently higher in
growing churches... Irrespective of the theological position of the church, growing
churches are characterized by an atmosphere of expectation. Concepts such as
intensive prayer life, love for the word of God, and encouragement in spiritual
maturity are hallmarks of these churches.409

How, then, does a parish grow in its “Passionate Spirituality”? One Lay Reader in the

parish quipped in response to its findings that members of Good Shepherd were more

likely to say to an inquirer about their faith and church, “Well, you’re welcome to try it

out... But I don’t think you’ll like it!”410

Schwarz is a German Lutheran –of a cultural, established church tradition similar to

Anglicanism. His comments on the expectations of Lutheran parishioners struck home:

It is thus plain what this quality characteristic is opposed to –the concept of


church attendance as a duty... This concept is extremely widespread –people
attend church, not because it is a happy, inspiring experience, but because they
wish to do the pastor or God a favour. Sometimes they combine this with the
notion that God will bless them for their “faithfulness”, that is, for tolerating
patiently a relatively unpleasant experience.411

408
More on the NCD methodology and the Church of the Good Shepherd’s “scores” will be discussed
in Chapters Four and Five.
409
Schwarz, Paradigm Shift in the Church, 124.
410
A contribution to a parish leaders’ round-table in response to its second survey, in June, 2011.
411
Schwarz, Paradigm Shift in the Church,, 150. (There he is actually speaking about “Inspiring
Worship Services”. But the observation remains true of a duty-bound “spirituality” in a wider sense.)

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During its year of addressing the deficit in “Needs-Oriented Evangelism” the Rector

often asked members to reflect upon the most typical evangelistic invitation he heard

around the parish: “You should come to church!” Asked how that appeal went over with

non-churched people, he was told that it was received with indifference or even

antagonism. People outside the church today rarely feel guilty toward it. The concept of

adding one more “duty” to their busy lives is not appealing. As Schwarz has noted: “The

concept of spiritual passion and the widespread notion of the walk of faith as ‘performing

one’s duty’ seem to be mutually exclusive.”412 Clearly a different approach was needed.

Especially since a sabbatical in “Celtic Spirituality” in Britain in the summer of 2010,

the Rector has been sharing his discoveries and experiences on the topic in sermons,

newsletter stories, and conversations. That year, lay leaders in the parish were asked to

read George Hunter’s The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the

West Again, which proposed an evangelistic approach refreshingly different from those

used by the parish in its attempt to grow in “Needs-Oriented Evangelism”.413 Hunter’s

choice of St. Patrick as a model for mission and his commendation of a patient, need-

addressing evangelism based on “community” and “relationships” resonated with parish

leaders. Then in the following year parishioners were encouraged to read David Adam’s

Flame in My Heart: St. Aidan for Today.414 Both books were distributed with the

comment that anyone inspired with a new initiative for the church’s life, need only tell

the Rector they got it while reading the book, and it would be presumed to be credible!

412
Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 28.
413
George G. Hunter, III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism (cf. n. 181, p. 53 above).
414
David Adam, Flame in My Heart: St. Aidan for Today (London: SPCK Triangle, 1997).

105
In the meantime, contemporary “Celtic Christian” music was being used regularly in

the parish’s worship, and was received with enthusiasm. Examples include Stuart

Townend’s “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”;415 John Bell’s

“Will You Come and Follow Me?”416 and Keith and Kristyn Getty’s “Creation Sings the

Father’s Song” and “There Is an Everlasting Kindness”.417 More traditional “Celtic”

hymns include “Be Thou My Vision,” “I Feel the Winds of God Today,” “Child in the

Manger” and “Morning Has Broken”.418 Typical of the faith and spirituality expressed in

these hymns is Getty and Townend’s “My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness”:

My heart is filled with thankfulness


to Him who bore my pain
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
and gave me life again
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
and clothed me in his light
And wrote His law of righteousness
with power upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness


to Him who walks beside
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
and causes fear to fly
Whose every promise is enough
for every step I take
Sustaining me with arms of love
and crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness


to Him who reigns above
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose every thought is love

415
Stuart Townend, “In Christ Alone,” 2001, Kingsway's Thankyou Music; “How Deep the Father’s
Love for Us,” 1995, Kingsway's Thankyou Music.
416
John Bell, “Will You Come and Follow Me?” Wild Goose Publications, Iona Community, 1987.
417
Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend “Creation Sings the Father’s Song,” 2008, Thankyou
Music; Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend, “There Is an Everlasting Kindness,” 2008,
Thankyou Music.
418
A list of “Celtic” Christian hymns used in the parish appears in Appendix 8, pp. 223-225 below.

106
For every day I have on earth
is given by the King
So I will give my life, my all,
to love and follow Him.419

One will notice the “passionate” sense of a daily, encircling communion with the

Triune God in this hymn. This exhibits the spirituality which the P.A.T.H.S. experiment

sought to inspire and nurture in this community of Maritime Christians, many of Irish,

Scottish and English heritage, who love “Celtic music” and yearn for a day-by-day

communion with God that is evident in the stories of the Celtic saints and prayers and

liturgies, both traditional and contemporary, that are being used in the parish today.420

Simon Reed is the vicar of two Church of England congregations who have also

utilized the NCD methodology. His churches discovered that in their life and mission

“...we were encouragingly strong in a number of areas but that our biggest perceived

weakness was in the category of ‘passionate spirituality’.”421 His 2013 book, Creating

Community: Ancient Ways for Modern Churches, commends several Celtic Christian

practices that were adapted and adopted by his parishioners. Today, as in the first years of

the Celtic mission, Christians are a minority in an indifferent culture. “...I was propelled

by the conviction that a large part of the contemporary appeal of Celtic spirituality is the

parallels that exist between the social contexts of the first and third millennia.”422

Leslie Francis undertook a study of “Psychological Type and Attitude towards Celtic

Christianity among Committed Churchgoers in the United Kingdom,” using “Francis


419
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, “My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness,” © Thankyou Music,
2003.
420
Many of the sources for these are found in the Bibliography.
421
Simon Reed, Creating Community: Ancient Ways for Modern Churches (Abingdon UK: The Bible
Reading Fellowship, 2013), 14 f.
422
Reed, Creating Community, 113.

107
Psychological Type Scales”, derived from Myers-Briggs methodologies.423 Though

based on a limited sample, his conclusions nonetheless support the pastoral instincts of

Reed and this researcher that many Anglicans are psychologically “wired” to find value

in the current revival of “Celtic Christianity”. Would an “experiment” in “Celtic”

spirituality help the parish meet its “Nicodemus Project” goal of “transformation”?

Two factors were considered as the researcher designed practices for his parishioners.

First, it was his reading of the congregation’s corporate culture, confirmed by its 2010

NCD “Spiritual Colour Profile”, that a strong sense of uneasy “duty” coloured their faith.

In spite of this, second, the parish’s relatively low scores in “Passionate Spirituality”, in

contrast with those in its other “Quality Characteristics” such as “Effective Structures”,

“Gift-Based Ministries” or “Empowering Leadership”, revealed a church of busy middle-

class “doers” who might be easily disheartened by a prescription of time-consuming

spiritual disciplines with which they had little experience. An “Experiment in Celtic

Christian Spirituality” would need to be “user-friendly”, even fun (!), to be voluntarily

taken up and indeed enjoyed by a significant number of participants.

The challenge reminded the researcher of sage advice from an experienced older

Scouter in Vancouver in the late 1970s. He had become the leader of a troop of inner-city

boys in the Downtown Eastside.424 How would he apply the demanding and complicated

awards system of “Achievement” and “Challenge” badges to his street-kids? The scouter

advised him that whatever the regulations said, the important thing was that each badge

423
Leslie J. Francis, “Psychological Type and Attitude towards Celtic Christianity among Committed
Churchgoers in the United Kingdom: An Empirical Study.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 23 (2008),
181-191.
424
The Second Vancouver Scout Group, meeting at First United Church, corner of Gore and Hastings
Streets, 1978-1980, where he served as an Intern Minister for one year, and as a congregant and volunteer
for a second year.

108
should challenge the boy enough to feel he had been stretched to accomplish something

new and significant. At the same time, while suggestions for improvements and second

tries were good for character-building, he must not be pushed to a final failure that might

discourage him from embracing his Scout promise, “To Do My Best.” The same metho-

dology would need to be applied in the P.A.T.H.S. “experiment”. As the congregation

was assured and encouraged in sermons, invitations and admonitions, the aim of the

program was to help parishioners experience and enjoy the revitalizing presence of God’s

Holy Spirit in their human spirits, as they undertook their daily and weekly busy lives.

This “Prayer at Rising” was written by the researcher as the first of the seven

“Trinitarian Prayers” for the program, in the hope that it would inculcate a sense of

anticipated discovery and enjoyment in a day lived under, with and in God’s blessing:

Father! I praise you


For the gift of this day!
Jesus! I thank you
For your healing way.
Spirit! I ask you to help me obey
All of Love’s promptings
at work and at play.

IV. Praying the Psalms

In relation to the fourth P.A.T.H.S. discipline, the value of the Psalms for spirituality

in today’s “missional age” is highlighted by many. The famous transformational change

leader, Reggie McNeal, who has taught at the Diocese of Fredericton’s annual “Clergy

Conference” and whose book and video program The Present Future was studied by

Good Shepherd leaders, 425 has stressed the importance of the Psalms in his self-described

425
Reggie McNeal, The Present Future (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2003).

109
“magnum opus” on missional leadership.426 “Christian leaders can find a psalm of David

to match any mood.”427 Christopher Wright considers the Psalms to be influential in the

theology of creation in Ezekiel and Isaiah. Psalms are effective for cultivating an appre-

ciation for the power and beauty of God reflected in the creation, and the joyful hope that

“...everything that is now in disarray and disharmony, suffering from injustice and

violence, shall be set right.”428 Charles Fensham, professor at Knox College, Toronto and

writer in missional spirituality, commends the Psalter as a means to being inspired and

equipped by God for missional discipleship. Even the expressions of a desire for the

death of God’s enemies may be prayed as part of “...the psychological journey from

anger, revenge, and hatred to obedience to God as the ‘Thou’ that relativises our own

pain and suffering. There is therefore a therapeutic element to the Psalms and the logic of

Christian prayer.”429 Simon Reed agreed with this sentiment in his employing the psalms

for devotional use by his Anglican parishioners: “...‘reverence’, ‘devotion, and ‘holiness’

are associated in their minds with being very quiet.... Check the psalms and you will find

that people who were holy and devoted... were capable of being very vocal and

expressive while doing it.”430 Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley commend the wisdom of

Psalm 46:10 in their outline of “...Postures for Creating & Practicing Missional

Community.”431 Tony Horsfall employs a Psalm for each chapter of Deep Calls to Deep:

426
McNeal, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders. Updated Edition
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2011), xi. For his discussion of the Psalms, cf. pp. 31-35.
427
Ibid., 33; cf. p. 167: “In the psalms, the leader can exercise all the emotions –from anger, to
loneliness, to fear, to trust, to resignation, to resolve.”
428
Christopher Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 410.
429
C. Fensham, To the Nations for the Earth: A Missional Spirituality (Toronto: Clements, 2013), 109 f.
430
Reed, Creating Community, 88.
431
Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley, Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional
Community (Kansas City, MO: The House Studio, 2012), 31.

110
Spiritual Formation in the Hard Places of Life.432 For proponents of spirituality for

today’s “missional” age, the Psalter is a God-given, valuable and practical resource.

In November 2017 the 137th Diocesan Synod of Fredericton commended Michael

Frost’s “B.E.L.L.S.” program for implementation by its parishes and members.433 The

third and fourth disciplines of his book, Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly

Missional People are to “Listen to the Spirit’s Voice” and “Learning Christ” through

Scripture.434 Bible reading has always been a central pillar of Christian devotion. For the

parish under study, a daily discipline of reading and praying a psalm is one good starting

place toward meeting the goals of Frost’s “missional habits”.

Praying the Psalms, outlined in Chapter Two above as a key feature of early “Celtic

Christianity”, is highlighted by many promoters of “Celtic spirituality” for today. Reed

writes of the Anglican requirement of clergy to pray the psalms as part of their daily

Morning and Evening Prayer: “I learned that, over time, prayerfully reading the Psalms

day by day immerses you in a wider and deeper language of prayer than most of us will

develop on our own.”435 Esther De Waal attests that “...the Celtic hermits show me much

about mindfulness and awareness about honesty toward the dark side of myself as well as

the light... and above all about the role of praise, encouraging me to let the Psalms

become as creative in my life as they were in theirs.” “If we are to appreciate the Celtic

432
Tony Horsfall, Deep Calls to Deep: Spiritual Formation in the Hard Places of Life (Abingdon UK:
The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2015).
433
http://anglican.nb.ca/pages/bells-surprise-the-world-2018. (Accessed November 23, 2018.)
434
Michael Frost, Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People (Colorado Springs:
NavPress, 2016), Chapters 5 and 6, pp. 57-83. This book was distributed to interested parishioners and
formed the basis of five sermons and two small groups in the spring of 2018 at Good Shepherd.
435
Reed, Creating Community, 92.

111
way of prayer, we must turn to the Psalms themselves.”436 Joyce strongly recommends

praying the Psalms, calling them the “greatest treasure” of the Celtic Christian legacy.437

Bradley is equally keen on the Celtic love of the Psalms, and believes that Christians

today may especially learn from the Psalms of Lament.438 Balzer quotes Bradley on the

Celtic praying of the Psalms, and also commends the same for her readers.439

Given that the Psalter has enjoyed a central place in Anglican spirituality, this seemed

to be a natural discipline of a renewed “Celtic” spirituality for the parish.

The Book of Common Prayer (Canada) continues the historic 1662 numbering of the

Psalter for prayer over thirty days –a challenging five psalms a day. The 1985 Book of

Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada’s table for the daily offices offers

a seven-week rotation for praying the Psalter –a less arduous average of one or two

psalms at Morning and Evening Prayer each day.440 A beginning practice for people new

to spiritual disciplines however should surely start with no more than one psalm a day. So

the P.A.T.H.S. experiment provided a discipline of five psalms for each week; allowing

two days for a weekend break or the “catching up” of missed devotional times.

A leaflet441 assigned the five weekly psalms by date, selected from those assigned in

the Daily Offices in the Book of Alternative Services. The Psalms assigned for Friday are

436
De Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer, 114 (cf. pp. 105 f., 109, 111), 207.
437
Joyce, Celtic Quest, 85, 107.
438
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way,147.
439
Blazer, Thin Places, 80 f.
440
The Book of Common Prayer (Canada) (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1962), 331-521. It does
however offer a table for praying the Psalter over two months, p. lv; Book of Alternative Services of the
Anglican Church of Canada (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1985), 450-494. Both books also provide
special psalms for feast-days and saint’s days.
441
See Appendix 5, pp. 214-218 below.

112
predominantly those of deprecation or lament –appropriate for the day of our Lord’s

crucifixion. Participants were encouraged to select this Psalm for praying on any other

day when it seemed appropriate to their feelings or concerns. A portion of Psalm 119 is

assigned for every Wednesday, and that was continued in the P.A.T.H.S. lectionary. 442

The Thursday Psalms were taken from the Revised Common Lectionary443 for Sundays,

so participants could anticipate it being prayed in public worship and perhaps participate

more meaningfully. The Tuesday Psalms were selected from those most appropriate for

prayer in the evening. Again, participants were invited to use them on any fitting day.

The Monday Psalms were chosen from one in the fuller Book of Alternative Services for

that week that seemed most appropriate, to the Rector, for his parishioners to pray today.

Participants were also offered a suggested guide for praying the Psalms. Canon David

Durston of the Diocese of Salisbury has published A Light on My Path: Praying with the

Psalms in the Contemporary World,444 which gives a brief hermeneutical and historical

introduction to each psalm, along with suggestions for praying it for oneself or on behalf

of others today. Copies were distributed as wanted. It was suggested that the Psalms be

prayed as the central part of a daily devotional time, taken at a time of the participant’s

convenience. “Guidelines for Your Daily Quiet Time”,445 provided suggestions of an

opening prayer and intercessions, questions for reflection, and an invitation to offer the

442
Miller points out that Psalm 119 was especially beloved by Celtic Christians. Celtic Devotions, 7 f.
443
The Consultation on Common Texts, Revised Common Lectionary (TN: Abingdon Press, 1992);
https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/. (Accessed for this thesis November 19, 2018.)
444
David Durston, A Light on My Path: Praying with the Psalms in the Contemporary World (Norwich
UK: Canterbury Press, 2002).
445
Appendix 5, p. 214 below.

113
Lord’s Prayer and a concluding caim (encircling prayer of blessing). This is one of the

options for an opening prayer:

In all I do this day,


In all I think or say,
Father, be with me,
all the way.

In this time of prayer,


In all my hope and care,
Be with me, O Jesus, fair.

That I may pray and do my very best,


In all delights, and every test,
Spirit Holy, give me your rest.446

V. Adventures in Blessing

O God, you brought me


from the rest of last night
to the new light of this day.
Bring me in the new light of this day
to the guiding light of the eternal.
Lead me, O God, on the journey of justice
Guide me O God, on the pathways of peace.
Renew me, O God, by the wellsprings of grace,
today, tonight, and forever.447

“One may say,” wrote Lesslie Newbigin in his influential call for the Western church

to be transformed into a movement fit to proclaim The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, “that

missions are the test of faith.” He also describes missions as an “expression of love” and

“an acted out doxology.”448 McNeal also calls upon the church to adopt a “strategy of

blessing” which will allow God to “draw people to himself through these blessing

encounters.” He tells the story of the pastor of one congregation who had encouraged its
446
Adapted from David Adam, Power Lines: Prayers About Work (London: SPCK, 1992), 8.
447
J. Philip Newell, Celtic Prayers from Iona (Mahwah NJ: Paulist Press, 1997), 73.
448
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans,
1989), 126 and 127.

114
members to consciously “bring blessing” to people they encounter every day. On visiting

a Starbucks coffee shop he spoke encouragingly with a barista and got the inquiry, “‘Are

you one of those blessing people?’”449 Frost’s first of “Five Habits of Highly Missional

People” in his B.E.L.L.S. is “Bless”. His second is “Eat”. He calls Christians, each week,

to reach out to others in spontaneous, “random” acts of kindness, including sharing meals

with people outside the faith or their normal friendships.450

Many proponents for a “missional” Christianity call for believers who are creative

and adventurous. To be made in the image of “the God of mission”, argues Wright,

means that a “missional” outlook “...is a dimension of our very creation.”451 Dirk Lange

says that the church, “gathered by the Spirit and sent out into God’s mission, is ‘elected’

to service.”452 Dwight Zscheile insists that Christians “must innovate new ways of living

as disciples.”453 For this to happen, Richard Osmer counsels that “missional spiritual

formation” will invite and train Christians to be “open to the Spirit”.454 This is because,

according to Andy Johnson in his study Holiness and the Missio Dei, sharing in mission,

like all social interactions, actually rewires the human brain! “...Participating in the

missio Dei is a primary means through which God makes his people holy by reshaping

them in Christ by the Spirit into the imago Dei, whereby they become the public face and

449
McNeal, Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church (San Francisco: Jossey-
Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2009), 49, 48. The whole discussion of being a blessing people after the mandate of
the Abrahamic covenant is discussed, Ibid., 46-49. (On Abraham and blessing, see pp. 11 f. above.)
450
Frost, Surprise the World! 29-39 and 41-55.
451
Wright, The Mission of God, 421.
452
Dirk Lange, “A Baptismal Example: Communal Prayer and the Missional Church,” in Dwight J.
Zscheile, ed., Cultivating Sent Communities: Missional Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), 186-201, 187.
453
Dwight J. Zscheile, “A Missional Theology of Spiritual Formation,” ibid., 1-28, 27.
454
Richard R. Osmer, “Formation in the Missional Church,” ibid., 29-55, 52.

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temple of the Triune God in their particular social context.”455 In the language of this

thesis, engaging in “adventures of blessing” will allow the Holy Spirit to open human

spirits to a growing communion with God’s own creative Spirit.

Given the outline of Celtic spirituality presented in Chapter Two it is unsurprising to

discover that “pioneer minister” Beth Honey456 as well as Fensham compare the adven-

turous practices of a missional spirituality to the “white martyrdom” or peregrinatio

practiced by Celtic missioners.457 Many Western Christians, lament Huckins and

Yackley, are “terribly bored”. So they seek to equip and inspire believers to create all

sorts of “thin places” in their interactions, where God’s grace may be made visible.458 It

might not require them to go any further from their centre of Christian life (their church)

than the manaig who belonged to Celtic monasteries. Susan Hope, Missioner for Diocese

of Sheffield, is inspired by the Irish coracle, by which perigrinati would go to sea, guided

only by the wind and Spirit of God, to discover the place of their missional adventure.459

She invites Anglicans to discover and enjoy the same sense of adventuresome blessing.460

Gary Tyra, who has published six books on equipping Christians for missional service,461

455
Andy Johnson, Holiness and the Missio Dei (Eugene OR: Cascade Books, 2016), 186.
456
Beth Honey, “Pioneers as Pilgrims,” in Cathy Ross and John Baker, eds., Pioneering Spirituality:
Resources for Reflection and Practice (Norwich UK: Canterbury Press, 2015), 44-64, p. 48.
457
Fensham, To the Nations for the Earth, 30, 74, 93, 158, 165.
458
Huckins and Yackley, Thin Places, 123 and 143 f.
459
Susan Hope, Mission-Shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission (London: Church
House Publishing, 2006), 31.
460
Ibid., 89, 108, 116.
461
http://garytyra.com/about/. (Accessed November 19, 2018.)

116
calls this the “missionary spirituality of the Celtic movement,” which boldly and

creatively converted much of “Dark Age” Europe to the Christian faith.462

Modern proponents of “Celtic spirituality” often include an invitation to adventures in

blessing in their works. “The All-Maker made you in the Divine image,” McIntosh

reminds readers, “and calls you to express the sacred creativity that lies within you.”463

“Peace is not a state we enter,” Rochelle adds, “but rather a pathway we have to clear

through the minefields of stress, hostility, and hatred.”464 Mitton notes the peregrinator’s

“wonderful sense of joyful abandonment”.465 “The Celtic Church could always be found

among the poor, and it was here that they delighted to proclaim, by words and works, the

loving mercy of God.”466 Philip Sheldrake observes that a spirit of peregrinatio “...makes

for a greater flexibility and an ability to rely on the inspiration and enterprise of indivi-

duals or small groups. All this was excellently suited to the needs of the times.”467 This

means that parishioners would be best served by an open, flexible invitation to engage in

their own devised “adventures in blessing”. As Ian Bradley concludes in his latest book:

Following the Celtic way of peregrinatio means going out of our comfort zones,
being prepared to go to places and experience situations which may make us easy
and uncomfortable, taking the risk of wasting time, getting lost, letting go and not
being in control. That is what will make us people on and of the Way, followers
of the Son of Man who has nowhere to lay his head.468

462
Gary Tyra, “Welcome to Paul’s World: The Contextual Nature of a Missional Spirituality,” in Finn,
Nathan A. and Keith S. Whitfield, Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church.
Downers Grove IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2017), 123-144, 140-142.
463
McIntosh, Water from an Ancient Well, 274.
464
Gabriel Cooper Rochelle, A Staff to the Pilgrim, 165.
465
Mitton, Restoring the Woven Cord, 96.
466
Ibid., 105.
467
Philip Sheldrake, Living Between Worlds: Place and Journey in Celtic Spirituality (Boston MA:
Cowley Publications, 1995), 69.
468
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 156.

117
The “adventure in blessing” that may be expected of a shy introvert may be quite

different from that of a gregarious extrovert. One must also consider the wide variety of

experience, and above all, spiritual gifts, among Christians. No “one size” can “fit all”!

During the Good Shepherd’s learning from Frost’s Surprise the World, its parishioners

were intrigued and excited about the many examples he gave of blessing others. But they

were overwhelmed and discouraged by his assignments to “bless three people” and “eat

with three people” each week.469 The Rector introduced the “A” in P.A.T.H.S. by inviting

parishioners to think up and try out simply one weekly “Adventure in Blessing”:

Once a week, you are asked to reach out a bit in some new venture of offering
blessing to someone else, preferably outside our church, in Jesus’ name. This
might be a visit, a card of encouragement and blessing, a telephone call to let
someone know they are special to you and to God; an offer of a drive or other
practical assistance. Or you might do a new weekly volunteer ministry in the
community. This is completely up to your imagination and interest! It need not be
burdensome or time-consuming, but if it is somewhat challenging, that’s the spirit
of the “Adventure”! 470

In preaching he gave examples such as buying a coffee and offering a wish for God’s

blessing on the person in line behind them in the coffee shop; doing a helpful chore for a

shut-in or discouraged neighbour; sharing words of faith and blessing with someone in

their usual circles of care, but with whom they have never conversed spiritually; or

volunteering for the first time at a mission like the weekly free supper in the West Side,

“George’s Café”, or other ministries in the parish or to which the Spirit may summon

them. His exhortations were inspired by Russ Parker: “Be a people that bless!”471

469
Frost, Surprise the World, 39, 55.
470
From the “Participant’s Guide,” reproduced in Appendix 4, pp. 210-213 below.
471
Russ Parker, Rediscovering the Ministry of Blessing (London UK: SPCK, 2014), 123.

118
VI. Trinitarian Prayers

Around the Celtic cross


Grow lilies of the field.
Soaring above – birds of the air.
Praise the holy Three!
Christ at the centre,
The Spirit shining forth.
God a mother – giving bread.
I belong to the very centre,
Nourished, loved, and secure.
Let it be! Let it be!472

“A spiritual adventurer,” reasons Joyce, “must set aside some time for prayer and

solitude.”473 In the P.A.T.H.S. program a daily quiet time with a Psalm is an “entry-level”

discipline in this regard. More important in encouraging members of the Church of the

Good Shepherd to enjoy a more “passionate spirituality”, is inculcating an everyday

awareness of God “above”, with “Christ at the centre,” and in “the Spirit shining forth”. It

was so, in Joyce’s words, that “the Celtic Christians lived and breathed the Trinity.”474

“The magnificent passages of Christological hymnody in Colossians 1, Ephesians 1 and

3, and Philippians 2” writes McNeal about Paul’s lively spirituality, were penned by one

who “...lived with such an awareness of the Spirit of Jesus that he identified him as the

third person of the Trinity.”475 The Pauline experience of living before, with and in the

Triune God gave the apostle a vital, ongoing koinonia, “partnership” or “participation” in

the Divine. According to McNeal, “Apparently the Apostle took his own advice to ‘pray

without ceasing’ (I Thess. 5:17). No other explanation can be given for his miraculous

472
William John Fitzgerald, “Prayer at the End of Day”, A Contemporary Celtic Prayer Book (Skokie
IL: CTA Publications, 1998), 53.
473
Joyce, Celtic Quest, 105.
474
Ibid., 94.
475
McNeal, A Work of Heart, 46.

119
ministry.”476 The same could be said about the successes of the early Celtic Christian

mission. In Hope’s words, “The gospel invitation is to participate in something (the life

of the Trinity itself) rather than to subscribe to a particular set of doctrinal tenets.”477

Reflecting on the contrast between Christianity in the mission field and back in the

West, Newbigin noted that a fully Trinitarian faith was central to the Church in societies

where it lived as a minority. “By contrast, during the era of ‘Christendom’ the doctrine of

the Trinity has not occupied a comparable place in the thought of Christians.”478 In the

Western Church, however, today’s growing missional church movement has seen that a

lively conscious participation in the Trinity is, in Craig Van Gelder’s words, The Essence

of the Church.479 “Missional church” authors David Bosch and Darrell Guder attribute

this change to the influence of Karl Barth,480 dating from Barth’s 1932 Brandenburg

Mission Conference lecture,481 through to his mature thought in Church Dogmatics IV.482

It is in this spirit that Ross Hastings writes in detail about “Mission as Theosis”:

mission as the claiming and reshaping of humanity into God’s image through the

relational participation of believers in the perichoretic life of the Trinity itself. Hastings

476
McNeal, A Work of Heart, 48.
477
Hope, Mission-Shaped Spirituality, 52. (Emphasis is hers.)
478
L. Newbigin, Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission (Exeter UK: Paternoster, 1988), 35.
479
Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit (Grand Rapids
MI: Baker Book House, 2000), 35, 96-98, 122, 128, 139.
480
David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission. Twentieth
Anniversary Edition (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 399,505; Darrell L. Guder, The Continuing
Conversion of the Church (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishers, 2000), 19 f.
481
Karl Barth, “Theology and Mission in the Present Situation.” Lecture given at the Brandenburg
Mission Conference, Berlin, April 11, 1932. Privately circulated translation by Darrell L. Guder, 2002.
Used with permission.
482
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics Volume IV.3: The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. and ed., G.W.
Bromily and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961). See also Waldron Scott, Karl Barth’s
Theology of Mission (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978).

120
uses Barth to explain this saving transformation in believers: by God’s self-election to

become human in Jesus, God elects and enables all Christ’s human sisters and brothers to

become children of the Father, intimately in communion with God, by God’s Spirit.483

“Spiritual formation will therefore be a central concern in a missional church.” Learning

to pray, Hastings suggests, seems to be “the most crucial of these forming practices.”484

Several writers in missional spirituality apply these insights to the formation of

believers. David Fitch refers to the missionary Vincent Donovan and the theologian

Sarah Coakley in insisting that prayer is not just “an individual ecstatic experience” but in

fact “drawing us into the centre of the triune God.”485 Craig Bartholomew uses the

insights of Pauline scholars Richard Longenecker and N.T. Wright to speak of the

apostle’s rich prayer-life of adoration, thanksgiving and intercession for his readers.486

Timothy Sheridan and Michael Goheen allude to Newbigin when they note that “...the

practice of prayer is critical for spiritual vitality. Prayer is the primary means by which

we are joined to Christ and find his ‘life-giving sap’ to empower and nourish us for

mission.”487 Fensham writes that in this context of spiritual communion and adoration,

“There is room for anger, lament, and pain, but always in the presence of the ‘Thou’ we

483
Ross Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-evangelizing the West (Downers
Grove: IVP Academic, 2012), 268-292; 274 f.
484
Hastings, Missional God, 302, 303.
485
David E. Fitch, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission (Downers
Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 171.
486
Craig Bartholomew, “Spirituality, Mission and the Drama of Scripture” in Finn and Whitfield, eds.,
Spirituality for the Sent, 30-53, 51.
487
Timothy M. Sheridan and Michael W. Goheen, “Missional Spirituality and Cultural Engagement”,
ibid., 96-122, 121 f.

121
encounter as God and who calls us to obedience.” He again references the Psalms in

relation to this at once awe-inspired yet intimate spirituality.488

As expected, many who promote a return to “Celtic Christian” spirituality in order to

renew the church today commend the rich, Trinitarian prayer-lives of Celtic Christians. In

urging a daily “rhythm of prayer,” Reed confesses, “...I want you to know that I write

about prayer as someone for whom prayer is often a daily battle, but one who knows deep

down that it is a battle worth fighting.”489 De Waal commends emulating Highland and

Irish believers by regularly praying poems of adoration and petition throughout each day.

This includes grace before meals.490 She references the collections of Carmichael and

Hyde as inspirations for composing one’s own repeated triadic prayer-poems.491

Here is a life full of dance and celebration and not at all pious or solemn, a life
lived close to God just as it was to neighbours and to the natural world. It is this
totality that speaks to me, and as I see as one of the most important gifts of the
Celtic on my journey into prayer.

The regularity of this prayer was one of its strengths. As regular as the saying
of the daily monastic office were prayers from the moment that anyone awoke,
which covered all the most mundane and inevitable chores: washing, making the
bed, starting the dire, milking, making butter... We should not forget that for
much of the time it must have been hard, dull, heavy, and boring. And yet I
believe that it was fulfilling, for the basic attitude was that of taking matter and
the material worlds, and thus the incarnation, seriously.492

Even after his detailed critique of contemporary “Celtic” faddism, Ian Bradley

continues to be inspired by the practical spirit of the early, Celtic writings about God:

“...they did not go in for abstract treatises and discussions about the divine nature and
488
Fensham, To the Nations for the Earth, 112., 120. At least thirteen references to Celtic Christianity
can be identified in his book: pp. 30, 68, 74, 76, 89, 90, 124, 147, 155, 158, 159, and 165.
489
Reed, Creating Community, 87.
490
De Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer, 91, 83.
491
Ibid., 42 f. Cf. Hyde, The Religious Songs of Connaught; Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica.
492
Ibid., 74.

122
being, but preferred rather to address God directly through prayer, praise and petition.”493

He also commends their “rhythm of prayer” for present discipleship. In fact, he notes,

“As attention spans shorten, especially among young people accustomed to tweets and

twitter, the appealing, arresting imagery and rhythmic beauty of a poetic approach to

worship is going to become ever more important.”494

In inviting parishioners to “experiment” with a daily rhythm of “Trinitarian Prayer”,

it was thus important to keep to the famous “KISS” principle (“Keep it simple, stupid!”).

Psalm 119:164 was quoted to set a Biblical standard: “Seven times a day I praise you for

your righteous ordinances.” One of these seven times would be a quiet time with a Psalm.

Three more would be meal-time graces. Parishioners were coached to use or prepare their

own graces, pray extempore (though ideally in a triadic form rejoicing in the full Triune

mystery of the Provider), or offer one of three provided examples. Two of them follow:

May this food restore my (our) strength;


May this drink restore my soul;
May these gifts refresh my spirit,
Making me (us) able, grateful, and whole.

Lord, you are so good to me (us).


Lord, you give my food to me:
Grow a thankful mood in me!495

Two other prayer-poems have already been quoted above (one for rising; the other for

commencing the quiet time). Again, parishioners were invited, if they preferred, to use

other triadic prayers or compose their own. The first one below was recommended for

when one starts the day’s busyness. The second one could be offered before going to bed:

493
Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 44.
494
Ibid., 143, 144.
495
Both composed by the researcher, the first one inspired by a contemporary Irish grace.

123
I give my work to you, Lord.
I give my work to you.
I give my plans to you, Lord,
I give my plans to you.
I give my love to you, Lord,
I give my love to you.
Creator, Saviour, Saint-Maker,
I give my love to you.496

Father!
Circle me this night
with your protection.
Jesus!
Surround me this night
with your affection.
Spirit!
May I (we) sleep in peace,
knowing my (our) final end
is in the Resurrection!497

The “Seven Trinitarian Prayers” were circulated in sets of two, on card-stock so they

could be cut out and placed conveniently on a table, in a wallet, etc. for easy access until

they became memorized through repeated praying. Sometimes some were included as a

public reinforcement in the Sunday bulletin or even the liturgy.498

The hope was that the “battle” to regularly punctuate each day with seven offerings of

praise and petition would encourage a sense of an on-going communion with God –

Father, Son and Holy Spirit– as participants went about their daily lives.

VII. Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation

Lord of the elements


All praises due.
Lord of the oceans
Glory to you.

496
Adapted from David Adam, Power Lines (cf. p. 114 n. 446 above).
497
Adapted from Jenny Child, Celtic Prayers and Reflection (Dublin: The Columba Press, 2008).
498
See Appendix 6, pp. 219-220 below.

124
You give the morning
fresh as the dew.
You give your Presence
Loyal and true.
You give me life
My being renew.
Lord of the elements
Glory to you.499

“Missional Church” authors, again taking up Barth’s theme of the Christocentric

purpose of the electing God in creation, emphasize what Wright calls creation’s “intrinsic

value”. “God values the earth because he made it and owns it.... Accordingly, we need to

be careful to locate an ecological dimension in mission not primarily in the need-

supplying value of the earth to us, but in the glory-giving value of the earth to God.”500

Christians must reverence the earth, not for itself, but as a creation of the very Lord who

deigned to enter it as a creature in person. “If you love someone, you care for what

belongs to that person.”501 As “the revelation of the Trinity through the incarnation of the

Son” as well as his physical resurrection both assume the God-loved integrity of creation,

says Hastings, so Western Christians must renounce all residual anti-material dualisms in

their thought and spirituality.502 He cites the Scottish theologian John Duns Scotus (d.

1308 AD) as an example of one who could do this while still affirming “the pre-mundane

centrality of the cross for the reconciliation of creation.”503 A fully Trinitarian spirituality

will honour the Creator (and for that matter the Sanctifier) as well as the Redeemer.

499
David Adam, Tides and Seasons: Modern Prayers in the Celtic Tradition (London: SPCK Triangle,
1989), 49.
500
Wright, The Mission of God, 399. Emphasis is Wright’s.
501
Ibid., 403.
502
Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church, 106.
503
Ibid., 193.

125
Writers in “missional spirituality” also highlight this theme. Bartholomew quotes

Auerbach on the unique and paradoxical birth of the Christian “spiritual movement”

among “the common people”. The everyday world continued to be a place of ordinary

life, even struggle. But Christian belief in creation, incarnation, and a final eschatological

fulfilment of all the earth inspired believers with an unparalleled this-worldly disciple-

ship. “In the context of the kingdom, a spirituality of the ordinary emerges in which life is

charged with the grandeur of God.”504 Hope cites St. Cuthbert’s (d. 687 AD) rhythm of

alternating retreat in the natural surroundings of his island off the coast of Lindisfarne

with his active pastoral mission on the mainland, as a model for spirituality of the modern

“Celtic” Northumbrian Community.505 Roger Helland and Leonard Hjalmarson reference

Charles Taylor’s insights on the demoralizing influence of the modern “disenchantment”

of the world, which they attribute to the influence of deism, as a major challenge that

must be answered by a missional spirituality.506 They call for a “practice of enchantment”

that views “God’s world as a sacramental place that reveals his tangible yet hidden

presence, his nearness and transcendence.”507 Quoting Psalm 19:1, they insist this

enchantment may be restored especially in what they call “the cathedral of creation”.508

“All creation, all material reality is holy. The ordinary events and things of daily life

are graced with the presence of God.” So Joyce calls disheartened Catholics to recover

504
Craig G. Bartholomew, “Spirituality, Mission and the Drama of Scripture”, Finn and Whitfield,
eds., Spirituality for the Sent, 30-53, 46 f.
505
Hope, Mission-Shaped Spirituality, 98.
506
Roger Helland and Leonard Hjalmarson, Missional Spirituality: Embodying God’s Love from the
Inside Out (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 34 ff.
507
Ibid., 124.
508
Ibid., 125. They too commend “Celtic” spirituality for missional Christians today. Ibid., 55, 196.

126
their forgotten creation-based “spirituality of our Celtic ancestors.”509 McIntosh

commends the discipline of discovering God in nature as good training for expecting and

experiencing God in the supernatural. After all, Jesus taught his followers to understand

the Kingdom of God by contemplating the little miracle of a mustard seed.510 Newell

assigns several exercises in prayerfully meditating upon God in the natural world in The

Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality.511

Deborah Cronin shares in her tribute to Celtic Christian spirituality that at one point

of despair in her ministry, she caught site of several deer calmly grazing on the lawn

outside a hospital. “God acting through creation saved me that morning.”512 Most

Christians are led to have very high expectations for themselves, their loved ones and

their lives, charged as they are with God’s grace. What may prevent them from “burning

out” in discouragement? Sheldrake admits: “Unless we are hopelessly romantic we

cannot ignore the fact that Celtic Christian spirituality also has a rather unattractive and

extreme ascetic streak.” Few modern believers will find comfort in the unfiltered rules,

penitentials, or saint’s lives from the Celtic mission. What kept them joyful in their faith?

“The Celts also took seriously that they can and should enjoy the things of God. The most

tangible gift is the created world around us.”513 A regular habit of allowing God to inspire

parishioners through God’s grandeur, beauty and yet intimately revitalizing presence in

His creation may enable them, in Henri Nouwen’s arresting imagery, to “stop being like

chickens picking out the dirty leftovers of their past needs and be, like eagles soaring
509
Joyce, Celtic Quest, 80.
510
McIntosh, 191.
511
Newell, The Book of Creation, 14 f., 62 f., 78 f.
512
Deborah Cronin, Holy Ground: Celtic Christian Spirituality (Nashville: Upper Room, 1999), 56.
513
Sheldrake, Living Between Worlds, 81.

127
high on the wings of God...” people who enjoy “the unspeakable beauty of our spiritual

existence.”514

The P.A.T.H.S. program “Guidelines” invited participation with these words:

Once a week, make a special effort to enjoy and experience the presence of the
Life Giver in the living creation in which we share. The choice of activity is
entirely yours –a walk; a time on a beach; tending and watching a bird-feeder;
starting a recycling habit. (Motorized trips don’t count, unless you get out of the
car or off the bike to really “commune” with the natural –sit and listen and
reflect!) Again, you may want to make a brief note for memory’s sake when you
are sharing with your “Soul Friend”.515

Parishioners were free to “enjoy the Holiness of God in creation” in whatever way

they felt suited them. They were only coached to remember that their weekly activity was

to be a conscious communion with the Triune “Life Giver” through God’s creation:

No flower in field,
No fish in stream,
No bird on wing,
No shape on shore,
No star in sky,
No living thing
But is rich in Him
And blessed in Him
And sings of Him.
Jesus, praise to you.516

VIII. Soul-Friends (Anamchara)

Christ as a light illumine and guide you


Christ as a shield overshadow you,
Christ under you, Christ over you,
Christ on your left and on your right,
This day be within and without you,
Lonely and meek yet all powerful,
Be in the mouth of each to whom you shall speak,
514
Henri Nouwen, with Michael Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird, Spiritual Formation: Following the
Movements of the Spirit (New York: Harper One, 2010), 28.
515
From the “Participant’s Guide,” reproduced in Appendix 4, pp. 210-213 below.
516
Stephen Redmond, Prayers of Two Peoples (Dublin IR: Veritas, 2001), 13.

128
In the mouth of each who shall speak to you,
Christ as a light illumine and guide you.517

The final “S” of Frost’s “Five Habits of Highly Missional People” (B.E.L.L.S.), is for

“Sent”. This diocesan-recommended program invited New Brunswick Anglicans “... to

“begin identifying yourself as a missionary –a sent one– by journaling the ways you’re

alerting others to God’s reign.”518 These journals were to animate each participant’s

contribution to and learning from a “DNA Group” of three people, for “Discipleship,

Nurture” and “Accountability.”519

In the Anglican Cursillo movement, Cursiestas are to be members of a Group

Reunion who meet regularly for mutual accountability and support in their spiritual

growth, prayer-life and missional discipleship.

From experience of these programs, many members of Good Shepherd were familiar

with the idea of mutual support and answerability in their Christian life. Their general

experience however is that such discipleship groups rarely develop into the intimate

relationships of confidential honesty and encouragement that the programs envision. This

is unfortunate, for as Hope points out in Chapter Six of her Mission-Shaped Spirituality,

“Two by Two,” Christians are not meant to follow Jesus and serve God’s Kingdom

alone.520 “A church that is developing a truly apostolic spirituality will be a church, then,

that sets a high value on maintaining the quality of its internal relationships.”521

517
Madonna Sophia Compton, Meditations with Celtic Christians: Ancient Prayers and Hymns of the
Celtic Church (Berkley and Waco TX: The Raphael Group, 2017), 94.
518
Frost, Surprise the World, 85. Emphasis is Frost’s.
519
Ibid., 101.
520
Hope, Mission-Shaped Spirituality, 50-60.
521
Ibid., 59.

129
Fitch recalls Matthew 18:15-20 in his teaching that “at the core of the disciplines” of

a missional spirituality “then is mutual submission.”522 “In essence, submission opens up

a space for the Spirit to work reconciliation, growth, and learning what the future might

look like.”523 This recalls the intimidatingly honest and intimate mutuality that the Irish

Penitentials envisioned.524 Yet Johnson points out that “Holiness however is intensely

personal but never private...”525 and Fensham adds that “Rather than technique a better

way of thinking of formation for Christian spirituality is to think of it in terms of

relationship.”526 Huckins and Yackley name these as “coaching relationships” because

“coaching is less about receiving instruction from another person and more about creating

a space for the coach to ask questions that lead to realizing what the Spirit is already

putting into our hearts.”527 McNeal speaks of “significant friendships” where “peer

mentoring” may occur in trust and mutual affection. “Spirituality does not flourish

without accountability.”528 The main goal of koinonia, insists Hastings, is to help each

other know and grow in Christ.529 How may this “mutual submission,” “coaching,”

“mentoring” and accountability take place among ordinary parishioners?

Mitton, in his contribution to the anthology, Pioneering Spirituality, says that an

“...anamchara, soul friend, can be for us a ministering angel who is able just to give us

the support, energy and wisdom we need to face and subdue the wild beasts, and discover

522
Fitch, Faithful Presence, 72, 37.
523
Ibid., 75.
524
Cf. pp. 92 f. above.
525
Johnson, Holiness and the Missio Dei, 132.
526
Fensham, To the Nations for the Earth, 143.
527
Huckins and Yackley, Thin Places, 37.
528
McNeal, A Work of Heart, 127-130; 162.
529
Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church, 217.

130
the right pathway forward.”530 Christ may “illumine and guide” believers, and indeed “be

in the mouth of each”, for each, through the Celtic Christian practice of Soul Friendship.

Advocates for the recovery of “Celtic Christian spirituality” today are almost

unanimous in their promotion of “soul friendship”. “This concept is one of the most

ancient aspects of Celtic theology,” writes McIntosh. “For the Celts, a soul-friend was a

spiritual guide, counsellor, and private confessor; trust and accountability were the vital

qualities of this relationship.”531 The many surviving “lives” of the Celtic saints “...give

us wonderful examples of spiritual friendship, examples we can follow today.”532 Balzer

calls the anamchara a “sanctuary” and even a “confessor”.533 “God, of course, is the

ultimate soul friend,” notes De Waal, “but it is as though he has his lieutenants or helpers

along the way.”534 In Wales the soul-friend, often a layperson, was known as one’s

periglour. De Waal contrasts the anamchara or periglour to what became the ordained

“confessor” in the later Middle Ages. The Welsh and Irish “penitentials,” guides for the

anamcharas, were concerned with spiritual progress rather than only absolution for sins.

They worked on a medicinal model of applying “the appropriate cure to the soul’s

disease.” “There was always a sense of growth and movement, very much in line with

what we know today as necessary for the health of body, mind and soul.”535

530
Michael Mitton, “Preaching in Hades,” in Cathy Ross and John Baker, eds., Pioneering Spirituality:
Resources for Reflection and Practice (Norwich UK: Canterbury Press, 2015), 29-43, 37.
531
McIntosh, Water from an Ancient Well, 233.
532
Ibid., 218.
533
Balzer, Thin Places, 9 f., 52.
534
De Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer, 138.
535
Ibid., 133, 134. Regarding the Celtic “medicinal model” cf. James 5:16: “Therefore confess your
sins to one another and pray for one-another, so that you may be healed.” Eriugena uses the image and
language of “medicine”: Sin is like a “leprosy” to the human spirit. “When it is freed from this leprosy by
the medicine of divine grace, it will be restored to its original fairness of form.” Periphyseon V.4.6,
Uhlfelder, 282 f.

131
Bradley pays considerable attention to soul friends in his latest work, devoting eight

pages to the practice under his discussion of “Penitence” as the first of six “Appropriate

Human Responses” to the Celtic understanding of the Triune God as Creator, Redeemer,

and Sanctifier.536 “Although we may find it difficult to grasp, the Irish penitential system

was seen as positive, life-giving, curative and healing rather than the embodiment of a

negative fixation on sin and judgement and a preoccupation with punishment. It reflected

an emphasis in Celtic Christianity on God’s love as much as on divine judgement.”537 He

includes a long quotation from Connolly’s Irish Penitentials, already referenced above,538

to the point that an anamchara is to be understood “...above all as the fellow-traveller,

fellow-pilgrim,” and “fellow-sufferer” with their partner:

Hence, the role of the anamchara who receives the weary pilgrim with hospitality
and restores him. Here the emphasis is placed, not so much on the saving
judgement or salutary medicine but on the fraternal witness and compassion of the
anamchara. The notion of Celtic or green martyrdom is uppermost here; one must
bear living witness to the Gospel. And the trait par excellence of his testimony is
spiritual humility, paupertas (Patrick) or humilitas (Columbanus).539

Reed attests that the practice of soul-friendship is an essential part of the “Rule of Life”

of the modern Celtic Community of Aidan and Hilda, to which he belongs. He commends

this practice as a premier way to fulfill the invitation of Jeremiah 6:16 to “ask for the

ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”540

Small groups and visitation programs, in Reed’s experience as a parish priest, do not

excel in promoting parishioners’ enthusiastic and effective spiritual growth. “Neverthe-

536
Bradley, “Penitence”, Following the Celtic Way, 95-103.
537
Ibid., 101.
538
Page 93 and n. 369 above.
539
Connolly, Irish Penitentials, 178, quoted in Bradley, Following the Celtic Way, 101.
540
Reed, Creating Community, 24 f.

132
less, as I kept seeing, there is enormous value in talking with people one-on-one about

what God is doing in their lives.”541 So he devotes a whole chapter to “Journeying with a

Soul Friend” in his commendation of Celtic Christianity for parish life today.542

Ray Simpson, the founder of the Community of Aidan and Hilda, has written Soul

Friendship: Celtic Insights into Spiritual Mentoring, which has become a primary guide

for anamcharas among Celtic Christian enthusiasts.543 The Anglican spiritual director

Kenneth Leech also has a popular book on the subject, where he notes the alarm at the

Celtic practice of confession and even the giving of absolution among and by laypeople

(even women!) which led to its suppression in the late Middle Ages.544 Both books are

really for trained, professional or semi-professional anamcharas –even though Simpson

goes to some rhetorical length to contrast the mutual and flexible “Celtic” practice with

more rigid, authoritarian styles of formal spiritual direction. A brief and introductory

“experiment” in soul friendships will need to be more elementary, along the lines of

Reed’s practice with his parishioners: “You could try meeting in pairs, one of you taking

the Soul Friend role on one occasion and the next time swapping over.”545 “It was not

unusual,” Sheldrake observes of the ancient Celtic practice, “for one to be the spiritual

guide of the other and indeed the anamchara, or soul friend, implies ‘one who shares the

cell’.”546 This provides the model for the “S” in the P.A.T.H.S. experiment.

541
Reed, Creating Community, 59 f., 60.
542
Ibid., 57-85.
543
Ray Simpson, Soul Friendship: Celtic Insights into Spiritual Mentoring (London: Hodder &
Stoughton, 1999).
544
Kenneth Leech, Soul Friendship, Revised Edition (Harrisburg PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2001;
First edition, 1994), 192.
545
Reed, Creating Community, 134.
546
Sheldrake, Living Between Worlds, 44.

133
The explanation of “Soul Friends” was the longest section of the P.A.T.H.S. partici-

pants’ guidelines. Daily prayer for each other was to be a highlight of the practice:

When he sent his disciples and others out, he made sure to send them “two by
two” (Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1) Celtic Christians took this seriously. People acted as
mutual confessors, coaches and cheer-leaders! Most importantly, they prayed for
each other. There are many stories of anamchara (Gaelic for “soul-friends”)
receiving intuitions of their spiritual partners being in trouble and needing special
prayer. At their next visit, they would celebrate the “tie that binds” and the
answers God gave to their prayer.547

Parishioners were to choose their own soul friends. They could ask the rector for

assistance in finding another interested and compatible person to approach. A mutual

covenant of confidentiality was explained to be essential. Spouses could be each other’s

anamchara. Otherwise, they were to be of the same gender. “You should pick an anam-

chara that above all, you are comfortable with and share the same ‘flavour’ of faith. Your

job is not to judge, or give advice (unless asked), but to listen, encourage, and share.” A

seven-part format was offered as a possible guide for their meetings.548

Providentially, Schwarz strongly recommends “mutual mentorship” as a practice for

growing in one’s “passionate spirituality” in the NCD resource, The 3 Colors of Your

Spirituality,549 which was purchased and given to every participant as the NCD condition

for their being able to complete the “Spiritual Style Test” included in the book.550 The

only page other than the test that was assigned as needful was its outline of “The 10

Rules for Mutual Mentoring”, with advice like “I will only share critical observations

547
See Appendix 4, esp. p. 4 (p. 213 below).
548
Ibid.
549
Christian Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality (St. Charles IL: ChurchSmart Resources,
2009), 182-185. (There is a more cost-effective online version at: https://ncd-canada.com/3-color-books
-tests/3-color-tests/3-color-tests-online/ (accessed April 8, 2019).
550
Ibid., 64-70. Details will be given in Chapter Four below.

134
about my mentoring partner if she or he has asked me to do so.”551 Other than these

guidelines, in true “Celtic” fashion, participants were left on their own. The rector offered

himself for consultation or questions, but none found it necessary to seek his assistance

on this element during the course of the program.

A Soul-Friend is Like

Water for a picked flower, or


gentle rain on seedlings;
The warmth of eiderdown, or
A fire to a cold hearth;
A lighthouse in the dark, or
An anchor to a blown ship;
Play after hours of toil,
And the lightness of thistledown...
Such friends are freeing as Love,
With the healing touch of Jesus.
So is Christ to you –
So may you be for many more.552

IX. Conclusion

For this reason I…pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that
you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and
grounded in love.... so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:14-19)

Paul’s prayer for his readers to fully experience the sanctifying wonder of the Holy

Spirit in their spirits finds a response in the Celtic Christian sense of vocation to saint-

hood outlined in the previous chapter. It was the researcher’s prayer that this would also

find a faithful response in the “Experiment in P.A.T.H.S. of Celtic Christian Spirituality”.

551
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 185. The quoted “rule” is number “5”.
552
Heulwen Carrier, “A Soul Friend Is Like”, 1998, quoted in Simpson, Soul Friendship, 5.

135
This chapter presented the promotion of practices similar to those of P.A.T.H.S.

among writers in the “missional church” movement, which seeks the sort of renewal

mandated by the Church of the Good Shepherd’s diocese. It outlined corresponding

practices advocated in the writings of today’s proponents of “Celtic Christianity”. It

explained how these were adapted for use in the P.A.T.H.S. project. The goal is that by

Praying the Psalms; stretching discipleship through acts of Adventures in Blessing;

punctuating their days with Trinitarian Prayers; consciously enjoying the Holiness of God

in Creation; and sharing their experimental pilgrimage with a Soul Friend, participants

might experience “the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and

length and height and depth, and...be filled with, all the fullness of God.”

The researcher’s prayers for his parish are much in the spirit of Beth Richardson:

You, O God!
You paint the sky with our prayers.
You, O Great Gardener!
You coax forth delicate buds and blooms.
You, O Mighty One!
You bend your ear to our laments, our praises.
You, O gentle Spirit!
You delight in creatures great and small.
Shelter us with your love.
Enliven us with your passion.
Kiss us with your peace.553

553
Beth Richardson, Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings (Nashville TN: Upper
Room Books, 2016), 94.

136
Chapter Four:

Research Methods for Assessing Spiritual Growth.

I. Introduction

How can “Passionate Spirituality” be measured? How can one identify and evaluate

“spiritual growth”? Christian Schwarz wrestled with this question himself, and using his

expertise in statistical analysis along with his wide ecumenical experience of dozens of

different Christian traditions, developed a quantitative methodology along with a

“Spiritual Style Test”, as outlined in his book, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality. 9

Spiritual Styles: How Do You Most Naturally Connect with God?554 This chapter will

present and defend the appropriateness of the “Spiritual Style Test” for both the parish in

question, and indeed in the “experiment” of the revived and adopted “Celtic Christian”

spiritual practices used in this project (Section II). The nature of NCD’s Trinitarian

“colours” and its nine identified “spiritual styles” will be summarized, in order to make

the test’s results and the researcher’s conclusions understandable (Section III).

“Quantifying” spiritual “styles” and growth however is itself for a more “qualitative”

purpose: the study and appreciation of “the inter-communion between the Holy Spirit and

the human spirit which enables the work of sanctification.”555 The next section will

outline and defend the use of “Focus Groups” for the gathering and evaluation of

qualitative data: the experiences and observations of the P.A.T.H.S. participants

themselves (Section IV). Finally, the appropriateness of the researcher’s own role in the

program will be defended (Section V), for as the rector he was, in fact, a “participant

554
Christian A. Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality (cf. p. 134 n. 549 above).
555
See pp. 1, 6, 42 and 48 above.

137
observer and leader”556 in, as William Myers described it, a “pro-active research method”

that “intentionally engage[d] in qualitative research while proactively working toward

transformation. In this method the researcher is passionately involved with the practice

being evaluated.”557 His prayer has been, in the words of this contemporary adaptation of

a traditional Highland prayer:

Bless to me, O God,


The path whereon I go;
Bless to me, O God,
The thing of my desire;
Evermore of evermore,
Bless to me my rest.

Bless to me the thing


Whereon is set my mind,
Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my love;
Bless to me the things
Whereon is set my hope;
O King of kings,
Bless to me mine eye!558

II. NCD “Passionate Spirituality” and the “Spiritual Style Test”

The Church of the Good Shepherd’s nine-year employment of the Natural Church

Development program was presented in Chapter Three.559 In 2012, as the parish began its

focus on increasing its “minimum factor” of “Passionate Spirituality,” 560 copies of

Schwarz’s The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality were widely distributed. Its methodology of

spiritual assessment and prescriptions for growth were presented in sermons and the

556
The phrase is from John Hugh McNally, “Discerning Passionate Practices and Renewing Principles
for a Healthy Church” (D.Min. Thesis, Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, 2011), v.
557
William R. Myers, Research in Ministry: A Primer for the Doctor of Ministry Program (Chicago
IL: Exploration Press, 1993, 2000), 29.
558
Thomas McPherson, Essential Celtic Prayers (Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2017), 92.
559
Chapter Three, Section II, pp. 99-104 above.
560
For C. Schwarz’s definition of “Passionate Spirituality” see pages 104 f. above.

138
parish newsletter, as well as in workshops where parishioners could share the results of

their “Spiritual Color Tests” and receive coaching on their “native” (i.e., characteristic)

spiritual “style” and how they may personally grow in their spiritual passion. So in a

general sense, many were already familiar with NCD’s theory and methodology, as well

as its concept of “passionate spirituality” in particular. This familiarity and comfort was

reinforced by the parish’s six “Church Health” surveys from 2010 until the present.

Although other means of assessing the parish’s spirituality were considered, given

this familiarity, the NCD program seemed to be the most fitting. For instance, one

example deemed inappropriate for the parish was Lifeway Christian Ministries’ Spiritual

Growth Assessment Process.561 Though comprehensive and detailed, it assumed a more

Evangelical culture and spirituality than felt comfortable to New Brunswick Anglicans.

There was also no evidence of the wider data analysis and statistical self-correcting

revisions which characterize the Natural Church Development materials. In 2015, for

example, NCD reported that “more than 2000 Anglican congregations” and “about

40,000 parishioners” had engaged with its programs.562 This provided a self-correcting

database within which the parish’s scores could be interpreted, and a non-denominational

means of assessment appropriate for Anglicans. A significant example of this is the

“normation table” that is provided as part of the NCD “Spiritual Color Test,” by which

the “raw” scores of the test may be relatively quantified in a way that is appropriate for

561
Lifeway Christian Ministries, “Spiritual Growth Assessment Process.” http://www.lifeway.com/
lwc/files/lwcF_PDF_DSC_Spiritual_Growth_Assessment.pdf , 2012. (Accessed September, 2015.)
562
Christian A. Schwarz, The All By Itself - Anglican: An Introduction to Natural Church Development
(Gütersloh, Germany: NCD Media, 2015), 6.

139
the Canadian Christian context.563 “The scientific normation has been developed by our

institute on the basis of inter-denominational sample groups in 62 countries.”564

There are also at least three reasons for considering the NCD methodology to be

especially appropriate for measuring development in an experiment in “Celtic Christian”

spirituality: NCD’s encouragement of “mutual mentoring” for spiritual growth; its

foundational “biotic principle” of church growth; and its defining practical theology of

the “Trinitarian compass”.

Firstly, the fifth of the P.A.T.H.S. practices was an adaptation of the Celtic Christian

discipline of “Soul Friendship”.565 Parishioners chose partners, with which to undertake

and mutually pray for and encourage one another in the program.566 This is remarkably

similar to what NCD calls the “Mutual Mentoring Pilgrimage,” by which respondents to

the “Spiritual Color Test” may inspire and assist one-another in their spiritual develop-

ment. Adam Johnstone explains: “Instead of being based on a hierarchical relationship of

mentor to client as found in classical mentoring, a mutual mentoring relationship is based

on the principle of mutuality: Each person strives to learn from the other.”567 As the NCD

test was only being used as an evaluative tool for this distinct research project, much of

the resources of The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality book were ignored. Yet participants

563
Schwarz, The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality, 70.
564
Ibid., 69. Schwarz may actually mean “statistical normalization”. S. Borgatti: "In the simplest cases,
normalization of ratings means adjusting values measured on different scales to a notionally common scale,
often prior to averaging." "Easy Way to Understand Normalization in Statistics", http://www.dailysmarty
.com / posts/easy-way-to-understand-normalization-in-statistics. (Accessed February 20, 2019).
565
Chapter Two, Section viii above (pp. 89-94).
566
Chapter Three, Section viii above (pp. 128-135).
567
Adam Johnstone, How to Embrace ‘The Three Colours of Your Spirituality’ In Your World:
Implementation Guide for ‘Passionate Spirituality’ (Carol Stream IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 2009), 49.

140
were asked to familiarize themselves with its “Ten Rules for Mutual Mentoring”.568 The

similarity of Celtic anamchara practices and NCD’s “mutual mentoring pilgrimage” was

embraced as providential for the experiment.

Secondly, more significant than this is the correspondence of NCD’s foundational

“biotic principle” of church growth569 with the understanding of spirituality this thesis has

argued is inherent in early Celtic Christianity: “the inter-communion between the Holy

Spirit and the human spirit which enables the work of sanctification”.570 The principle

text for this principle is the Parable of the Growing Seed, Mark 4:26-29.

This parable clearly shows what people can and should do, and what they cannot
do. They should sow and harvest, they may sleep and rise. What they cannot ever
do is this: they cannot bring forth the fruit. In the text, we find the mysterious
description of the earthy producing fruit “by itself”. Most commentators agree
that this “by itself” is the key for understanding this parable.571

Schwarz understands this, along with many of the “nature parables” in the Gospels, as a

witness to the truth that the Kingdom grows not primarily by human effort, but by the

grace of God. He then applies this same principle to church growth. Just as a plant needs

a good location, water and so on, in able to grow, so the church needs the eight “quality

characteristics” identified in NCD research in order to enjoy the growth enabled by God’s

grace.572 He references Matthew 6:28 for the choice of the word “natural” in “Natural

Church Development”: “See the lilies of the field, how they grow.”573 Jesus’ confidence

in the Father’s grace, so attested in his “nature parables”, as well as Paul’s corresponding

568
Johnstone, How to Embrace, 56; Schwarz, The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality, 185.
569
Christian A. Schwarz, Paradigm Shift in the Church, 214-232. Schwarz also calls this “the ‘all-by-
itself’ growth principle”. Schwarz, Color Your World, 82-86.
570
See Chapter Two Section II above, pp. 43-48.
571
Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 14.
572
Schwarz, Color Your World, 128 f.
573
Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 11.

141
reliance upon the “fruit of the Spirit” for spiritual progress, both important to Schwarz,574

have already been presented in Chapter One.575 This is in keeping with the Biblical basis

for the Celtic Christian disposition to know and celebrate the holiness of God in

creation.576 So there is a significant correspondence between NCD’s foundational “biotic

principle” and “Celtic Christian” spirituality’s confidence in the gracious generative and

regenerative mercy and power of the Creator.

John Strelan has been very critical of what he calls Schwarz’s “God of natural

revelation”,577 faulting him for an inadequate theology. Indeed, at his 2010 workshop

attended by the team from the Church of the Good Shepherd,578 Schwarz confessed he

became aware of this shortfall himself. His theological studies in response to this led to

his publication of The Threefold Art of Experiencing God in 1999. This “...has gradually

permeated the whole NCD paradigm.”579 Far from being a dry theological formula, he

teaches, the doctrine of the Trinity is a testament to the three-fold way in which God is

experienced by believers.580 God the Father is primarily known by what he calls the

“creation revelation”, or “the world”. God the Son is known in “salvation revelation,” or

“the Word”. God the Holy Spirit is known in “personal revelation,” or “the Spirit”.581

574
Schwarz references Jesus’ nature parables as an inspiration for the NCD “biotic principle” in his
Paradigm Shift in the Church, 234 f. He calls I Corinthians 3:6-9 the “locus classicus” of the “biotic
principle”. Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 256.
575
See Chapter One, pp. 32 f., 33 f. and 39 f. above.
576
See Chapter Two, Section VII, pp. 79-88 above.
577
John G. Strelen, Review, “Paradigm Shift in the Church: How Natural Church Development Can
Transform Theological Thinking.” Lutheran Theological Journal XXXiii.3(December 1999), 159-161, 160.
578
See Chapter Three, p. 102 above.
579
Christian A. Schwarz, The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a
Trinitarian Faith (Carol Stream, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 1999); Natural Church Development, 108.
580
Ibid., 5.
581
Schwarz, Color Your World, 51 f., 111; The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality 20-23.

142
In a passage reminiscent of Jesus’ evocation of the wind-like power of the Spirit in

believers’ lives,582 Schwarz compares spiritual transformation to sailing! “I can hoist the

sails. I can steer the rudder. But I am utterly dependent upon the wind....We cannot make

the wind blow, but we do have to hoist the sails if the wind is going to take effect.”583

This echoes the popular Celtic hymn: “I feel the winds of God today, today my sail I

lift...”584 This pneumatological understanding of the interplay of the divine and the

human in Christian spirituality is far from Strelan’s accusation of a graceless “natural

theology”. It is a fully Trinitarian appreciation, consistent with the insights of Celtic

Christianity.

A comprehensive experience of God in all God’s fullness will enjoy all three

dimensions of God’s reality. For shorthand purposes these are called the “green”, “red”

and “blue” dimensions of life under (the Father), with (Jesus), and in (the Holy Spirit) the

Triune God. “We need to cultivate a form of spirituality that is truly based on the Word

of God (red area), directed by the Holy Spirit (blue area), and focused on the world

(green area).”585 All NCD resources, including The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, are

based upon what Schwarz calls “the Trinitarian Compass”. “What is the secret of the

Trinitarian Compass? In essence, it is this: drawing closer to the living God.”586

So, thirdly, this applied, NCD Trinitarian theology reflects the “Celtic Christian”

delight in the Trinity on the practical level of experienced spirituality, rather than
582
John 3: 5-8, cf. p. 27 above.
583
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 38.
584
Jessie Adams, “I Feel the Winds of God Today,” 1907. Public realm. The United Church of
Canada, Voices United. The Hymn and Worship Book of the United Church of Canada (Etobicoke ON:
United Church Publishing House, 1996), # 625.
585
Schwarz, Color Your World, 110.
586
Schwarz, Color Your World, 48.

143
speculative dogma.587 The “T” in the P.A.T.H.S. practices (seven Trinitarian prayers a

day), was designed to increase the participants’ awareness of, and delight in, living

“under, with and in” the love of the Triune God throughout their daily life: “Three aid my

hope, Three aid my love, Three aid mine eye, and my knee from stumbling.”588

III. The “Nine Spiritual Styles” of NCD’s “Passionate Spirituality”

In reality, each believer has certain strengths and weaknesses in their spiritual habits

and apprehensions –their personal spiritual “colour” or, in NCD terminology, “style”.

The key to spiritual growth, according to NCD theory, is attending to those dimensions of

one’s spirituality which come the least naturally. To truly worship God in God’s full

Triune mystery and majesty, as well as to know God’s presence and blessing, one must

enjoy a “balanced” Trinitarian spirituality. This is as important to Schwarz as it was to

the “Celtic Fringe’s” earliest Christians.

To help with this, Schwarz identified nine spiritual “styles”, which are appropriated to

the various “colours” around his “Trinitarian Compass.” The “Trinitarian Compass” is

frequently presented in NCD publications, in relation to a threefold understanding of

God’s self-revelation, and its reflection in human identity; the natural world, knowledge,

the arts and the sciences; and every imaginable dimension of Church life and Christian

ministry. Below is one of thirty-eight illustrations in The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality:

587
See p. 73 above.
588
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 208 (cf. p. 75 above).

144
Illustration 1: The “Trinitarian Compass” and the Nine “Spiritual Styles”. 589

The top third of the “Trinitarian Compass” is “green” for the Creator and creation; the

bottom right third “Red” for the Son and salvation; and the bottom left third “blue” for

the Holy Spirit, and the sanctifying presence of God in believers. Regarding spiritual

“styles” however, the compass is divided into a further three divisions, intersecting (as

shown in the illustration above) halfway through each of the triune “colours”. These

represent what Schwarz calls “three spiritual value systems”. The “Beautiful” may be

appropriated either to God the Father (Creator) or God the Spirit (God’s delighting

presence in believers); spanning the “green” to “blue” spiritual colour. The “True”, which

may be appropriated to a rationally apprehended reality of the Creator, but may also be

appropriated to the truth of God’s revealed Word, God’s Son, and the Gospel, spans the

“green” to “red” colours. Finally, the “Good” may be appropriated either to following the

589
From Schwarz, The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality, 57.

145
Son, Jesus, in Christian work and witness, the “red” colour; or to subjectively

experiencing the goodness of God in the Spirit-focused “blue” spiritual colour.590

A “green” or Creator-oriented spirituality may be expressed either in a “Sensory” or

“Rational” way. A “Doctrinal” spirituality is on the border between the “green” and “red”

dimensions, reflecting an interest in the knowledge of God that mediated between the

“Rational” and “Scripture-driven” spiritualities. The “Scripture-driven” is one style of the

“red” or “Word”-oriented spiritual colour, which can be appropriated in Trinitarian

thought to the Son. The other style is a “Sharing” spirituality, which delights in engaging

in the mission of Jesus, either in evangelism or acts of compassion and seeking justice.591

On the border between the “red” and blue” colours is the “Ascetic” spiritual style, which

finds communion with God in actively chosen and disciplined habits of sacrifice and

prayer. The “blue” dimension, appropriated to a focus upon the Holy Spirit, may be

expressed in an “Enthusiastic” (such as in the Charismatic movement), or in a “Mystical”

style. On the border of “blue” and “green” spirituality is of course the “Sacramental”

spiritual style, which knows the life-giving God especially as God is “incarnationally”

present in elements of God’s creation –from the bread and wine of the Eucharist to an

intuitive apprehension of God’s presence in any element of the natural world. This

naturally flanks the “Sensory” style, bringing researchers back to the “green” colour. 592

By arranging these nine “spiritual styles” on the Trinitarian compass, one may identify

590
Schwarz, The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality, 55-59.
591
It is significant that the original German for the style called “Sharing” in English is missionarisch:
http://nge-deutschland.de/8h.html (accessed April 11, 2019).
592
This schema is outlined in Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, pp. 84-145. See his helpful
summary table of the nine “spiritual styles”, ibid., p. 52.

146
each one’s “Opposite Style,” which is the dimension of their spiritual life, growth in

which would be of most benefit to a more balanced, i.e. “Trinitarian”, spirituality.

Instead of describing all nine “spiritual styles” in detail, attention will be focused

upon the four that are prominently reflected in this project’s “Spiritual Style Test” results.

One would guess that the most prominent “spiritual style” in the parishioners under

study was the “Sacramental”.593 This would be expected among Anglicans, especially in

a parish with an Anglo-Catholic heritage.594 People with this style comfortably “...express

their spirituality through a connection between sensory perception and spiritual

reality.”595 Scripted and participative liturgy, music, visual arts, and of course the sacra-

ments are key to this style. All are carefully prepared and celebrated in the Church of the

Good Shepherd. More importantly, as Jonathan, an Orthodox priest who was Schwarz’s

“sacramental” mentor, said, for believers of this style: “All of life is sacramental.”596

The “Sacramental” is flanked on its “green” side in the “Trinitarian Compass” by the

“Sensory” style. Christians of this “style” find it “most natural to express their spirituality

through their five senses.” This includes the inspirational enjoyment of God in the natural

creation. It can be called a “down-to-earth” apprehension and worship of God. Schwarz

says of Jack, an American Methodist pastor, his mentor in this style, “The same things he

regards as being of great spiritual relevance, may be seen by others as dull daily

routine.”597 But for people of this style, daily life itself is charged with the glory of God.

593
Chapter Five below will indicate that the results confirmed this expectation.
594
See Chapter Three, p. 100 above.
595
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 140.
596
Quoted in ibid., 140.
597
Ibid., 84.

147
The “Sacramental” is flanked on its “blue” side in the “Compass” by the “Mystical”

style. “For Christians with a mystical style, it is most natural to express their spirituality

through a focus on the inner person (‘Christ in us’).”598 Schwarz’s mentor in this “style”,

Ole, a Danish Lutheran, delights in sharing and identifying the inner epiphanic moments

or transcendent experiences that have lately become important in many post-Christian

spiritualities; though he is eager to trace their reality to Jesus Christ and the Spirit.599

While these three expounded styles are all appropriated to the “Beautiful” wing of the

Trinitarian Compass (spiritualities which center on the experience of God as the Creator,

and/or as the Holy Spirit within), the fourth “spiritual style” intriguingly comes from the

opposite side of the NCD schematic: “Scripture-Driven.” Schwarz’s mentor in this style

was an Australian Evangelical Anglican priest, Ian. “His concern is sober hermeneutics,

the exposition of Biblical principles that are then applied to life.”600 In contrast to the

“Beautiful”, this focuses upon the “True”. For believers manifesting this “spiritual style”

“...it is most natural to express their spirituality through the study and proclamation of the

Word of God.”601 This happens to be the researcher’s personal dominant style.

The key question under research was: “How may an intentional path of five recovered

and adapted Celtic Christian spiritual practices effect the personal growth of parishioners

in the Church of the Good Shepherd?” So the “Spiritual Style Test” was employed in the

P.A.T.H.S. experiment as an indicator of spiritual growth overall, and of developments in

particular “styles” or dimensions of the participants’ spiritualities in particular. What

598
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 134.
599
Ibid.
600
Ibid., 105.
601
Ibid., 106.

148
were the changes in the aggregate scores of the participants, as well as any changes in the

aggregate scores in any of the nine particular “styles”? Changes in individuals’ dominant

“styles” were not expected.602

IV. A “Qualitative” Assessment of the Experiment: Focus Groups

If a comparison of “before and after” NCD “Spiritual Style Tests” is a “quantitative”

measurement of participants’ spiritual development, then, given the intimately personal

phenomena of spirituality, it was also appropriate to include “qualitative” data in

assessing the P.A.T.H.S. experiment. The method for obtaining this data was the post-

program discussions of participants in “Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups”603.

Richard Krueger and Mary Anne Casey answer the accusation that Focus Group

research could be considered scientifically “soft” with the observation that: “It wasn’t our

intent to quantify. Our intent was to find a range of feeling and opinion on [the] topic. We

did that. If by soft you meant without standards or rigor, then, no, it isn’t soft.”604 Martha

Ann Carey notes that people’s experiences, perceptions and opinions are notoriously

difficult to evoke and identify. For this reason, Focus Groups have become “...the most

common method of data collection both in qualitative inquiry and as the qualitative

component in mixed methods.”605 A popular and key method in consumer research,606

602
Detailed results will be presented and evaluated in Chapter Five below.
603
Erin Rothwell, Rebecca Anderson and Jeffrey R. Botkin. “Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups.”
Qualitative Health Research XXVI.6 (2016), 734–740.
604
Richard A. Krueger and Mary Anne Casey. Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied
Research. Fifth Edition (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2015), 241.
605
Martha Ann Carey, “Focus Groups—What Is the Same, What Is New, What Is Next?” Qualitative
Health Research XXVI.6 (2016), 731–733, 731.
606
Svend Brinkman and Steinar Kvale, InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research
Interviewing. Third Edition (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2015), 13, 17.

149
they began to be applied to social studies in the 1980s.607 Indeed, in 1984 David Morgan

and Margaret Spanish commended Focus Groups as “A New Tool for Qualitative

Research,” especially noting their value in coordination with more traditional

“quantitative” methods as a means of obtaining what they called “triangulation in

research.”608 “Researchers can use the audio tapes and transcripts produced by focus

groups either as a source of data in and of themselves or as an adjunct to other forms of

data collection.”609 With permission from all the participants, recordings were made

along with notes; and afterwards transcripts were prepared from the recordings, and

subsequently coded for analysis.610

Carey notes that “Focus groups are planned to capitalize on the synergy arising from

interactions of the members, which encourages participation in most well-planned

settings.”611 In addition to data from “informant interviews”, Morgan and Spanish note

that they also add the advantage of insights from “participant interaction”.612 A group

discussion format was both familiar and comfortable to the participants. Of the thirteen

who participated, twelve had been active in the Alpha program, with its use of permissive

and accepting discussion groups.613 Five have been active in the Anglican Cursillo

program, where members regularly interact in “Group Reunions” in a similar open and

607
Brinkman and Kvale, InterViews, 175.
608
David L. Morgan and Margaret T. Spanish, “Focus Groups: A New Tool for Qualitative Research.”
Qualitative Sociology VII.3 (Fall, 1984), 253-270, 253, 254 and 267.
609
Ibid., 253.
610
Rothwell et.al., “Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups”, 735.
611
Martha Ann Carey, “Focus Groups...”, op.cit., 731.
612
Morgan and Spanish, “Focus Groups”, op.cit., 259.
613
Nicky Gumble, How to Run the Alpha Course. A Handbook for Alpha Directors, Leaders and
Helpers. Revised Edition (New York: Alpha North America, 2001), 25, 51 f.

150
non-judgemental atmosphere of mutual acceptance and encouragement.614 All had

attended Bible Studies and other groups in the parish, and they were known and affirming

to one-another. Erin Rothwell et.al. assert that “small groups are ideal” for “deliberative

discussions” that evoke “thoughtful and informed statements ...leading to better quality

data.”615 That was truly the researcher’s experience.

Tim Sensing warns of seven possible “challenges” in Focus Group discussions, such

as certain participants being overly talkative, argumentative, intimidatingly emotional, or

shy.616 Thanks be to God, none of these difficulties occurred. As Rothwell et.al. noted,

“...one of the key assumptions for why focus groups are effective tools for research is

because they occur within a social context.”617 In this case, it was the context of fellow

parishioners, exploring and assessing their shared P.A.T.H.S. spiritual pilgrimage.

The groups were convened and moderated by the researcher. Morgan and Spanish

reported that this is most often the case, and that the possible advantages of employing

strangers in such explorations were not significant.618 Indeed, it felt most appropriate to

have parishioners and their rector explore their P.A.T.H.S. pilgrimage together.

Two single-meeting Focus Groups were convened, two evenings apart, with each

group having seven or fewer members. They were not informed of their before-and-after

NCD “Spiritual Style Test” results, so as not to prejudice or influence the discussion.

614
National Episcopal Cursillo, Group Reunion (Conway, SC: National Episcopal Cursillo, 2002), 4 f.
615
Rothwell et. al., “Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups”, 735.
616
Tim Sensing, Qualitative Research: A Multi-Methods Approach to Projects for Doctor of Ministry
Theses (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011), 121-123.
617
Rothwell et. al., 738.
618
Morgan and Spanish, “Focus Groups”, 255.

151
The format was a “semi-structured interview”619 guided by thirteen questions, as was

approved by Acadia University’s Research Ethics Board.620 Four introductory “Grand

Tour” questions opened the discussion,621 including a quick assessment of each practice,

recorded on a flip-chart. Was it: “not”, “somewhat” or “very worthwhile?” Then a similar

three-part question was asked for each of the P.A.T.H.S. practices. All answered each

time, taking turns as they felt comfortable: “...How did you undertake and experience

this practice? How do you evaluate its helpfulness for your life of faith? How might you

modify it?” The discussion concluded with four “debriefing” questions,622 including a

summary by the moderator of what he had noted, with opportunity to correct or add to his

observations. The groups opened and closed with prayers led by the moderator, selected

from the assigned “Trinitarian Prayers” of the experiment. Both lasted less than two

hours, including the introductions and conclusions.

V. The Rector as Researcher and “Participant Observer and Leader”

The researcher was also the long-term rector of the parish. He used, as Myers said, a

“pro-active research method” that “intentionally engaged in qualitative research while

proactively working toward transformation.” Myers further qualified this: “In this method

the researcher is passionately involved with the practice being evaluated.”623 The rector’s

own “passionate involvement” came from, first, the parish’s goal to grow in “Passionate

Spirituality,” repeatedly identified over five NCD surveys as its “minimum factor”

619
Nancy T. Ammerman, Jackson W. Carroll, Carl S. Dudley, and William McKinney, eds. Studying
Congregations: A New Handbook (Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 1998), 206 f.
620
See Appendix 7, pp. 221 f. below.
621
Sensing, Qualitative Research, 86 f.
622
Ibid., 124.
623
Myers, Research in Ministry, 29, as quoted p. 138 above.

152
inhibiting parish growth; and second, from his own aim of testing the feasibility and

efficacy of a recovered and adapted program of “Celtic” spiritual discipline in the parish.

Two concerns emerge when the pastor also acts as the researcher. The first was

flagged by Acadia University’s Research Ethics Board. They cautioned that “parishioners

feel no undue pressure to participate.”624 That only about one-tenth of active parishioners

signed up for the P.A.T.H.S. experiment is evidence itself that this was voluntary. This is

essential to Gospel-centered spirituality! In commending St. Aidan’s missiology for

today, Simpson and Lyons-Lee are inspired by his example of service, evangelism and

leadership. They reference Matthew 20:25-26: “The Kingdom of God stands in contrast

to the ancient domination system....” In terms of spiritual development, they argue, “We

will not mirror God to the world until men and women work in a partnership that frees

each one to come to his or her full flower.” 625 This is the researcher’s own conviction.

Invitations were extended only in a general way, in the parish newsletter, from the

pulpit, and at various group meetings (i.e., Vestry; Bible Study groups), always with an

indication that this was by personal choice and that people could withdraw at any time.

No invitations were made individually (though people asked questions or volunteered

their intentions). Though many in the parish share their rector’s interest in Celtic

spirituality, were curious as to its helpfulness today, and were in general supportive of his

doctoral studies and thesis topic, all actual formal engagement with the program was

spontaneous and free. In fact, several parishioners shared with the rector that they were

trying out elements of the P.A.T.H.S. disciplines on their own, including several who

624
Letter from Dr. Stephen Maitzen, Chair, Research Ethics Board, Acadia University, July 13, 2018.
625
Ray Simpson and Brent Lyons-Lee, St Aidan's Way of Mission: Celtic Insights for a Post-Christian
World (Abingdon, UK: Bible-Reading Fellowship, 2016), 111, 92.

153
purchased Durston’s book on the Psalms and others who mentioned undertaking various

“adventures in blessing” or activities aimed at “enjoying the holiness of God in creation.”

These of course had all been explained and commended in sermons and in the parish

Newsletter. While only thirteen parishioners “signed up” for the P.A.T.H.S. proper, about

two dozen of the (freely offered) project packets were picked up by worship attendees in

the late summer and autumn leading up to its commencement. This is again an indication

that participation was entirely free and voluntary.

The second concern arising from the rector’s acting himself as the researcher, was the

danger of biasing the data collected. In speaking of the roles of interviewers, Svend

Brinkman and Steinar Kvale describe the “pollster,” “interviewer” and “participant”. The

reality was that the researcher needed at different moments to act in all three roles.626

Nancy Ammerman et.al. note that the interviewer “...should be neither the detached

reporter/researcher nor the emotionally involved participant, but a little of both.”627 These

realities made the danger of biasing the responses of his parishioners all the more critical.

Two methods were used to obviate biased responses: the use of anonymity and

confidentiality; and an affirming, permissive atmosphere.

Potential participants were free to pick up the project kits, return them or keep them

without enrolling in the experiment. To enroll, they simply submitted a copy of the

signed consent form,628 and the completed first copy of the “Spiritual Style Test”

questionnaire to the Parish Secretary. Each questionnaire was numbered. Only the Parish

626
Brinkman and Kvale, InterViews, 109.
627
Ammerman et.al., Studying Congregations, 205.
628
See Appendix 3, pp. 206-209 below.

154
Secretary knew and recorded these numbers, so the second questionnaire could be

solicited at the end of the program and then collated with the first; and participants

contacted to be invited to participate in the Focus Groups. An opportunity to talk about

the test results was not given until after both the two tests and the focus groups were

completed. Indeed, the test results themselves were not shared with anyone until after the

Focus Groups had met, so as not to bias or prejudice people’s spontaneous comments and

observations. (A one-page summary of highlights from the aggregate test scores and the

anonymous group discussions were then published in the February parish newsletter.)

The publicity material and consent forms all made it very clear that all data would be

treated with the strictest confidentiality and securely safeguarded in keeping with the

requirements of the Diocese of Fredericton’s “Safe Church” legislation.629 However the

recruiting publicity as well as Consent Forms themselves did warn potential volunteers

“that though confidentiality will be expected of ‘Soul-Friends’ and the participants in the

Focus Groups, Rev. Chris cannot guarantee that all participants will each fully live up to

this expectation.” 630 There has been no evidence that either form of intimate sharing was

betrayed or compromised. Confidentiality and anonymity were not only maintained; they

were “seen to be maintained.” This certainly added to the success of the project.

The second means of preventing data bias was the consistent practice of an affirming,

permissive atmosphere. Sensing directed that “The role of you, the researcher, as the

primary qualitative research tool necessitates the identification of your biases, values,

629
Diocese of Fredericton, “Regulation 4.4: Safe Church Policy.” http://anglican.nb.ca/legislation
/regulations/4-4_safe_church.pdf. (Accessed for this thesis, February 9, 2019.)
630
See Appendix 3, pp.206-209, 208 below.

155
emotions, and agendas.”631 The rector’s urging his parishioners into a deeper “Passionate

Spirituality” would seem to complicate this. This is why it was repeatedly made clear, in

announcements, newsletters and other publicity, in the words of the consent form itself:

Please be assured that this program is for the purpose of evaluating the helpful-
ness of recovering and adapting an intentional program of “Celtic Christian
Spirituality” for Anglican parishioners today. It is the P.A.T.H.S. program itself,
and not the participants, who are being evaluated. The ‘Spiritual Style Test’
results and Focus Group discussions will only be used for this purpose.632

This point was also highlighted at the beginning of the Focus Group discussions. They

were conducted by the researcher in a “nondirective style” of interviewing,633 where

interventions were only for the sake of ensuring everyone had an opportunity to answer

each question, and that all thirteen questions were covered. As Brinkmann and Kvale

prescribed, “The moderator’s task is to create a permissive atmosphere for the expression

of personal and conflicting viewpoints on the topic in focus.”634 This was achieved.

The motivation and inspiration for adhering to these methodologies was not only the

desire to obtain a true and authentic assessment of the P.A.T.H.S. program. It was also

inspired by David Adam’s portrayal of St. Aidan as the prototypical, intentional yet

humble Celtic missioner.635 In the words of Isaiah’s prophesy of Christ as the “servant of

the Lord”: “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised

reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully

bring forth justice.” (Isaiah 42: 2-3) With Christ’s help, that was a guiding principle of

the researcher’s P.A.T.H.S. leadership, as it must be, Deo volente, of his entire ministry.

631
Sensing, Qualitative Research, 41.
632
Appendix 3, p. 207 below.
633
Brinkman and Kvale, InterViews, 175.
634
Ibid., 175.
635
David Adam, Flame in My Heart (cf. n. 441 p. 105 above).

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VI. Conclusion

This chapter has outlined the research methodologies used by the “participant obser-

ver and leader” in the P.A.T.H.S. experiment. Both quantitative and qualitative data were

obtained. The Natural Church Development “Spiritual Style Test” was presented and

defended as an appropriate tool for quantitatively measuring progress in the participants’

“Passionate Spirituality”. This included an explanation of NCD’s “Trinitarian Compass”,

and its nine identified “Spiritual Styles”, used in the analysis and evaluation that will be

reported in the next chapter. The use of semi-structured Focus Groups was presented and

defended as appropriate for gathering a qualitative assessment of the experiment. Finally,

the validity of the employed “pro-active research method” was asserted, while noting the

precautions that were taken to safeguard respect for the participants and integrity for the

data, given the rector’s role as the researcher himself.

Chapter Five will now present the exciting discoveries and conclusions of the project.

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Chapter Five:

Observations and Evaluations of the P.A.T.H.S. Experiment.

I. Introduction

As presented in Chapter Four, the evaluative tools employed for the P.A.T.H.S.

research project were chosen to best address the thesis question: “How may an intentional

path of five recovered and adapted Celtic Christian spiritual practices effect the spiritual

growth of parishioners in the Church of the Good Shepherd?” The results of this

experiment are both informative and encouraging. Participants grew significantly in their

“spiritual passion”, at least as it is defined and measured by the NCD “Spiritual Styles

Test”. They also reported a mostly “very worthwhile” experience in the Focus Group

discussions. From them, several insights and recommendations were gleaned for future

implementation of similar programs of “Celtic Christian” spiritual discipline.

This chapter will present the results of the participants’ before- and after- “Spiritual

Styles Tests” and review their significance (Section II). Then the results of the Focus

Group discussions will be summarized and evaluated (Section III). The congregation as a

whole undertook their sixth and seventh NCD Church Health Surveys in March 2018 and

February 2019. Relevant results from these surveys will be presented, along with

observations on how the parish as a whole may have been impacted by the P.A.T.H.S.

program (Section IV). Recommendations will ensue, regarding the future progress of the

Church of the Good Shepherd (Section V). This chapter’s Conclusion will end with a

poem written by one of the participants at the conclusion of the P.A.T.H.S. pilgrimage

itself. The following prayer for wise discernment is a good beginning:

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The Eye of the Eagle (1): A Prayer of Vision

Open my eyes
that I may see the wonder of you in all things, Lord.
Open my eyes to the things of heaven
and the spiritual realm.
Give me the vision to see clearly
what you have for me,
a clear vision of the path you have set before me,
that I may follow you in all I do.
Give me the eye of the eagle,
that I may see further, more clearly,
and to be able to look directly
into the Sun of Righteousness. 636

II. The “Spiritual Style” Tests

Thirteen participants signed the requisite Informed Consent Forms637 and submitted

the NCD “Spiritual Style Tests” both before and after the program. The results are

summarized in Table 1, Appendix 9 (p. 226 below). The group’s “aggregate” or total

score of their combined “normated” profile values638 before the program commenced was

10,814.639 The aggregate score after its conclusion was 11,529. This represented a growth

in score values of 6.6%. The average growth in scores was 55 points. The lowest change

in score was a negative 18 points; the highest a plus 198 points. Even removing these two

unusually highest and lowest changes in score, the group’s average growth was 5.8%.

This may be read as a significant average growth in the participants’ “Passionate

Spirituality” over the three months. (Please refer to the right-hand column in Table One

in Appendix 9.)

636
D. Cole, Celtic Prayers & Practices: An Inner Journey (Vestal NY: Anamchara Books, 2014), 74.
637
Appendix 7, pp. 221 f. below.
638
See the right-hand column of Table 1, Appendix 9, p. 222 below.
639
The theoretical maximum score would be 1,170 per respondent or 15,210; the minimum, 8,190.

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Read individually, a respondent’s highest score is taken by NCD to be their “native”

spiritual style, meaning that style by which they most comfortably and habitually relate to

the Triune God.640 Table 1, Appendix 9 shows the participants’ native styles in

September 2018 and January 2019, as well as the (normated) value change in the

(sometimes different) native style in January (see the left-hand column of three sets of

scores). Though there is much variety, there is a noticeable general movement toward the

“Beautiful” sector of the Trinitarian compass. For example, participant # 32 moved from

a “Doctrinal” to a “Sacramental”; participants 17, 19 from “Rational” to “Sacramental”

native styles. Even though participant # 44 moved from an “Ascetic” to an “Enthusiastic”

style, it may be noted that this was still a move of one style “clockwise” toward the

“Beautiful” sector on the compass.

Schwarz’s identification of a believer’s “opposite style” in spirituality is important for

NCD’s prescriptions for further spiritual growth.641 Believers naturally exercise and grow

in their spirituality primarily in ways that are familiar and comfortable to their “native

style”. He calls this “Level A Growth”.642 But Schwarz proposes that a more effective

“Level B Growth” in spirituality may come from seeking to relate to the Triune God in

the less familiar style that is the opposite of their usual styles,643 as these are identified in

relation to one another on the Trinitarian Compass.644 This leads to a fuller “balance” in

one’s spirituality. If one’s native style is in the “green” colour, for instance, centering on

the experience and worship of God as Creator, the Father, then further growth should
640
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 71-73.
641
Ibid., 72.
642
Ibid., 44-47, 75-77.
643
Ibid., 153-155.
644
See Illustration 1, p. 145 above.

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require development in their spiritual apprehension of another Person of the Trinity. This

might be in the “red” “Sharing” or “Scripture-driven” styles –for God the Son; or in the

“blue” “Enthusiastic” of “Mystical” styles –for the Holy Spirit. Schwarz calls this “Level

B Growth”.645 The same reasoning applies when analyzing test results in relation to the

“three spiritual value systems” of the “True”, the “Good” and the Beautiful”.646

According to Schwarz’s method, believers with a “Sacramental” native style (most

typical of Good Shepherd’s participants) should explore discoveries and practices which

would enable them to grow in either the “Scripture-driven” or “Sharing” styles.

Yet which “Opposite Style” is more profitable? Because there are nine spiritual styles

in the “Trinitarian Compass”, two styles are opposite from each one. This is where the

influence of a person’s “wing style” applies. “There is no pure style; every style has a

tendency toward one of its neighbour styles.”647 Of the two flanking styles, the one with

the highest value would be the “wing style”.648 The style directly across from the median

between the native and wing styles is one’s “opposite style”. Thus in the example of the

“Sacramental” style, one with a “Mystical” wing style should grow in “Scripture-driven”

disciplines; one with a “Sensory” style in habits of “Sharing”. The second and third sets

of columns on Table 1 reveal each participant’s personal “wing” and “opposite” styles.

It is remarkable that while the average change in the (January) wing styles from

September to January increased by an average of 7.2 normated value points, that in the

January opposite styles was zero! This is because P.A.T.H.S. provided participants a

645
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 46-47, 154 f.
646
Ibid., 55-59 (cf. Chapter Four, pp. 145 f. above).
647
Ibid., 71.
648
Ibid., 72-73.

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program of “Celtic Christian” spiritual formation, regardless of their own spiritual styles

and growth needs. No attempt was made to assign personalized disciplines. As was

emphasized, participants were told that it was primarily the P.A.T.H.S. program that was

undergoing testing and evaluation in the “experiment” and not their own spirituality.649

Table 2 in Appendix 9650 presents the aggregate scores, in September 2018, for each

of the lowest five normated spiritual style scores. There was some change in their relative

ranking over the three-month program. The “Scripture-driven” style remained in last

place in value, though it did receive a noticeable 9.0% increase in score. The “Ascetic”

and “Rational” styles each dropped two places in their ranking. They also evidenced the

lowest increase in scores, of only 1.8% and 2.5% respectively. Such small increases may

not even be statistically significant. Clearly, the P.A.T.H.S. disciplines had minimal if

any effect on these two dimensions of Christian spirituality as NCD defines them.

In contrast, the “Mystical” and “Enthusiastic” styles rose in their ranking. The former

significantly rose by three placements, from eighth to fifth, and exhibited a 7.8% growth

in scores. The “Enthusiastic” rose by but one place, with a 4.3% growth in value, placing

it at sixth place just below the “Mystical”, and just above the “Ascetic”. Note that on the

“Trinitarian Compass”651 both styles are at the centre of “blue” spirituality, for the

apprehension and worship of the Holy Spirit. Further, the “Mystical” is in the “Beautiful”

value system, just bordering that of the “Good”. The “Enthusiastic” is next to it, in the

“Good”, bordering the “Beautiful”. It seems that the P.A.T.H.S. program did have a

649
See Chapter Four, p. 156 above.
650
See page 227 below.
651
Illustration 1, p. 145 above.

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noticeable, though not major, influence on the relative growth of these two dimensions,

also called the “ethical” and the “aesthetic”, of the spiritual life.652

One may conclude from this that the P.A.T.H.S. program had no noticeable effect on

the “Rational” and “Ascetic” spiritual styles; while it did increase the potency of the

“Mystical” and “Enthusiastic” dimensions of the participants’ spirituality. Intriguingly,

though the “Scripture-driven” scores increased the second most of all nine –a significant

9.0%– this did not change its relative ranking as the least potent aggregate spiritual style

of the P.A.T.H.S. participants, collectively measured.653 The presentations in Chapter

Two would certainly lead one to conclude that “Celtic” Christians enjoyed a more

“Mystical”, and even “Enthusiastic” spirituality than a “Rational” one. Yet the results

would suggest that participants needed to, and in fact did, grow in reflecting the Celtic

love of the Scriptures, especially the Psalms. Growth was less reflective of the propensity

of Celtic monastics (if not laity) for “Ascetic” disciplines. In section IV below it will be

shown in the Focus Groups that, if uncharacteristic of what might be expected of the

early Celtic Christians, these lower measurements are demonstrably appropriate for the

typical parishioner at the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Lastly, Table 3 in Appendix 9 below records the four highest aggregate normated

value scores of the P.A.T.H.S. participants.

The highest aggregate score of the group of participants is that of the “Sacramental”

style. This is not surprising, given that it confirms the rector-researcher’s own reading of

652
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 58 f.
653
Though participant # 17 did give an outstanding significant score of 120 (out of a maximum 130)
on this spiritual style, by the end of the program, this was eclipsed by the even more astounding score of
128 in his/her Sacramental Style (see Table 3in Appendix 9, p. 228 below).

163
his parish. While it must be conceded that these “aggregate” style scores are an artificial

statistic that were not intended for measurement by NCD’s resources in growing the

personal “Passionate Spirituality” of church members, their significance nonetheless for

understanding the effect of the P.A.T.H.S. program is reinforced by the fact that seven of

the participants evidenced the “Sacramental” as their “native” style in either or both of

the September and January results; and a further two showed it as their “wing style”. On

the other hand only one evidenced it as an “opposite style” –participant “30”.654 In spite

of the participants’ pre-existing comfort and strength in this style, its normated value

score still grew by 5% over the period of the experiment. That matched the participants’

corporate “opposite”, i.e. “Sharing”, style values’ average growth of 5%.655

During the parish’s earlier exploration of The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality in 2012,656

much hilarity was shared in the discovery that the rector’s spiritual style, “Scripture-

Driven”, was the opposite, according to NCD, to that of most of his parishioners! It

explained much of his and their mutual frustrations, and eventual delights.657 Both rector

and congregation inspired “Level B Growth” in their opposite’s spirituality.

The second highest scoring style was “Doctrinal”. This may reflect Anglican spiri-

tuality generally,658 as well as the influence of two of the parish’s last three long-term

654
See Table 1, Appendix 9, p. 226 below, third column, for “opposite styles”.
655
Though Participant “30”’s Sacramental values remarkably decreased by 12 points or 11.7% during
the experiment, leading to only one of two aggregate decreases among the participants. The other, “23”,
experienced positive growth, though minimally, in only two style value scores. The anomaly which proved
the rule, perhaps? The “opposite”, “Sharing” style is discussed on pp. 165 f. below.
656
Cf. pp. 138 f. above.
657
More on this on p. 190 below.
658
John H.R. Moorman, The Anglican Spiritual Tradition (London UK: Darton, Longman and Todd,
1983); and comments in most of the contributions to William J. Wolf, ed., Anglican Spirituality (Wilton
CT: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982).

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rectors. Both the present one (2002-2019) and Father Milton Dorman (1974-1987) are

known for their propensity to teach and preach the truth and beauty of Christian theology.

Nonetheless it is significant that this was one of the two least growing scores among the

nine spiritual styles: a mere 1.8%. Just as “Celtic Christians” were not known for their

theological interest as much as for their practical concern for growth in holiness, so the

P.A.T.H.S. program did little to enhance this dimension of the participants’ spirituality.

The normated value scores for the “Sensory” spiritual style showed the highest over-

all increase during the program, at a notable 9.3%. Right at the centre of the “green”

dimension of the Trinitarian compass, this style is also at the “green” border of the

“Beautiful” value system. “Christians with a sensory style not only appreciate beauty, but

are able to see God’s handwriting in it –whether it be the beauty of nature or beauty

created by human beings, the arts.”659 This is illustrated in everything from the famous

Celtic illuminated manuscripts,660 to inspirational contemporary Celtic Christian hymns,

so beloved by the people at Good Shepherd.661 Without doubt, the fourth P.A.T.H.S.

discipline of weekly experiencing and reflecting upon the Holiness of God in creation

made a significant impact upon its participants.

The second P.A.T.H.S. practice, “Adventures in Blessing”, is surely what inspired a

5.0% growth in the aggregate “Sharing” spiritual style score. “For Christians with a

sharing style, it is most natural to express their spirituality through passing on the love of

659
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 89.
660
For two examples see Michelle P. Brown, Painted Labyrinth: The World of the Lindisfarne
Gospels. Revised Edition (London UK: The British Library, 2004); Edward Sullivan and Johan Adolf
Bruun, The Book of Kells (London: Bracken Books, 1986) .
661
For a list of hymns used in the parish see Appendix 8, p. 223 ff. below.

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God to others.”662 Though many would see this as inspiringly characteristic of the saints

of the outstandingly successful Celtic mission, “Sharing” has been a challenging growing

edge for the Parish of Lancaster.663 In fact, it represented the “opposite style” of eight of

the thirteen respondents –and therefore the one that NCD methodology teaches should be

the focus of intentional “Level B Growth” spiritual improvement.664 Yet the P.A.T.H.S.

discipline of a weekly “Adventure” outreach assignment, along with enjoying the

Holiness of God in creation, and the Spiritual friends (anamchara) partnerships, were the

three most enjoyed and celebrated elements of the experiment, as shall be outlined in the

next section, reporting on the Focus Group discussions.

Though the NCD test was not designed with aggregate scores in mind,665 those totals

identify the P.A.T.H.S. participants’ aggregate “wing style” to be the “Sensory”. This

would mean the collective “opposite style” would be “Sharing”, which did receive a 5%

growth in its normated value666 –the same as that of the “Sacramental”. The “Sensory” is

the “wing style” in this theoretical aggregation because its total values (1,246 and 1,362)

exceeded that of the other “wing” –the “Mystical” (1,166 and 1,257).667 Yet while the

“Sensory” grew by 9.3%, the “Mystical” also grew by a significant 7.8%. Remarkably,

662
Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 112.
663
“Needs-Oriented Evangelism” has been either the second or third lowest scoring “quality
characteristic” of the parish’s six NCD Church health surveys since 2011, when it was the lowest. Only
“Passionate Spirituality” has always scored lower!
664
See pp. 160 f. above.
665
Though Schwarz does expect a parish to collate parishioners’ “Spiritual Style test” scores and come
up with a congregation’s “predominant” (noticeably not called “native”) “style”. The 3 Colors of Your
Spirituality, 72; Johnstone, How to Embrace The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, 35, 60. The parish did
collate the results of “Spiritual Colors” workshop participants in 2012, and discovered that “Sacramental”
was in fact the “predominant” spiritual style in the parish.
666
Table 3, Appendix 9, p. 228 below, fourth column. These conclusions may be seen by examining
the diagram of the “Trinitarian Compass” in Illustration 1, Chapter Four, p. 145 above.
667
Table 2, Appendix 9, p. 227 below, second column.

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the “opposite style” of the “Sacramental” with a “Mystical” wing would be the “Scripture

Driven”, which grew by 9.0%. That and the “Sensory” are the two highest changes

experienced in the P.A.T.H.S. program. Participation in P.A.T.H.S. inspired

predominantly “Sacramental” parishioners to grow the most in their collective “opposite”

styles –“Level B Growth”! This is both a serendipitous confirmation the NCD theory that

the most effective spiritual growth comes from concentrating on one’s “opposite style”

(Adventures in Blessing growing the “Sharing” style score and Praying the Psalms the

“Scripture Driven”), and a testimony to the success of the P.A.T.H.S. experiment itself.

III. Learnings from the Focus Group Discussions

The formal P.A.T.H.S. program concluded on December 15 2018, just in time for the

Christmas busyness in parishioners’ family lives, and the life of the parish itself. In

January, after participants had completed their second NCD “Spiritual Styles Test” (but

before the results and their comparison with the September tests were made public in the

parish), they were invited to participate, as had been indicated in their Informed Consent

agreements, in one of two scheduled Focus Groups. Weather forced the postponement of

both groups, which met on January 30 and 31. Both meetings lasted for ninety minutes.

The shared experiences and evaluations in both groups were remarkably so similar,

that they may be summarized together. This speaks to the reliability of the observations.

There were periods of silence as people pondered their responses and/or waited for

the moderator to finish his notes, but none of these were long or awkward. There were

times when people responded to one-another’s comments with clarifying questions, or

affirmations that their experiences or observations were similar, or occasionally different.

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In other words, both meetings were open, comfortable, and reflective explorations both of

the participants’ self-discoveries, and the effectiveness of “P.A.T.H.S.” program itself.

III.1 Commencing Questions (1-4)668

In answer to the Opening Question, all of the participants were already known to each

other as fellow worshippers at Sunday Eucharists and in various capacities as program

participants and/or committee and guild members. These networks of familiarity fostered

open and intimate discussions. All said they tried out all five P.A.T.H.S. disciplines, from

the project’s beginning to its end. Most were even continuing some practices after the

experiment’s end. These included the Soul Friendships, Adventures in Blessing, enjoying

the Holiness of God in Creation. Three indicated they continued to read and pray the

Psalms. Five continued to offer a couple of the Trinitarian Prayers –especially the prayer

“When Rising” (though not necessarily when rising), and/or one of the mealtime graces.

In response to the Introductory Question, most confessed that they, in the words of

one participant, did not “have a clue what to expect”.669 In various ways, though, people

indicated they were seeking a more conscious routine in their spiritual habits, fortified by

their accountability to the program and to their soul-friends. “I am not good at reading the

Bible or other spiritual habits. I am really bad at it! So I thought I should try some real

parameters, and guidance would be helpful.”670 Some confessed they had previously

668
See Appendix 7, pp. 221 f. below for the Questions used in Focus Groups. The “Questioning
Route” of “Opening”, “Introductory” and “Transition Questions,” followed by “Key Questions” on each
P.A.T.H.S. discipline, concluding with “Ending Questions”, followed that commended by Krueger and
Casey, Focus Groups, 44-47.
669
Transcript of Focus Group 1, p. 1.
670
Focus Group 2, p. 1.

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followed spiritual disciplines, but had ceased to do so. “I wanted to get back on

track....This got me back.”671 This comment was typical of the general feeling:

It made you have a little discipline... waking up and thanking God for the day that
was coming –which I never did before. Also built a bond with my spiritual friend.
That bond, I hope, will never go away. I enjoyed reading Durston’s book on the
Psalms. Never read the psalms. Now I do, and enjoy them.672

Though all were Anglicans, many confessed this lack of familiarity with the Psalms.

Others felt that way about the whole Bible. They joined the program to help them become

“...more consistent in Bible reading.”673 Many also indicated they were “...looking for

more consistency in my prayer-life.”674 There was a general admission that the goal of a

consistent discipline remained a “work in progress”. As one participant confessed, “I

didn’t do a great job in general but I will have done more than I would have

otherwise.”675 While Bible-reading, prayer and the soul-friend disciplines attracted most,

only a couple people shared a particular interest in growing in Adventures in Blessing or

enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation. The blessings of those two disciplines

surprised many.

Several said that they joined the program because “I was curious about what Chris

was doing” or in order to support their rector’s studies. But the benefit and challenge of

the program itself soon provided the main motivation. “So I can do it for more than just

671
Transcript of Focus Group 1, p. 1.
672
Group 1, p.1. The reference was to David Durston, A Light on My Path.
673
Group 1, p. 1.
674
Group 1, p. 1.
675
Group 2, p. 1.

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Chris, I can do it for myself.” 676 “When I started this it was to help you, but it became an

exercise for my own progress.”677

A flip chart was employed for the Transition Question: Respondents were asked to

personally rate their “over-all assessment” of the P.A.T.H.S. experiment as “Not”,

“Somewhat” or “Very Worthwhile”. All assessed it as “Very Worthwhile” except two,

who wanted their mark placed on the “highest” side of the “Somewhat” category! Nor

can one wonder whether people not experiencing benefit from the program dropped out

early, for all who submitted consent forms and initial “Spiritual Style Tests” remained

active through to the end. It may be concluded that no one experienced the experiment to

be without any personal value. A second transition question at the end of the Key

Questions provided further insight into this evaluation, when the groups were asked to

“assess the relative value or helpfulness of each practice.” Only Praying the Psalms and

the Trinitarian Prayers were designated by some as “Somewhat Worthwhile”.678

Animated discussion on these evaluations led to several comments distinguishing

between participants’ convictions about the spiritual value of the Psalms and Trinitarian

Prayers disciplines, and their own limited success in the practices. Speaking of the seven

assigned daily prayers, one summarized that “I believed in the discipline even though I

flunked!”679 One person’s comment reflected a more general consensus: “Morning and

night [prayers] were easy, but throughout the day– that was a challenge! I would offer

676
Both quotes from Transcript of Group 2, p. 1.
677
Group 1, p. 9.
678
See Section III.7, p. 182 below.
679
Group 2, p. 8.

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‘arrow prayers’ as I needed to, but the discipline of seven prayers a day was new.”680 A

person in the other group said that “I don’t look upon missing some as ‘failing’ –I was

learning to pray more. To try this in the first place is hardly a ‘fail’!”681

Both groups returned to this theme of “challenging but worthwhile” in their reviews

of the value of the disciplines in answer to the first of three Ending Questions: “What

advice would you give to others who may want to participate in a program like

P.A.T.H.S.?” “Try it! It was very worthwhile.” “The repeated trying really helps for it to

become meaningful and worthwhile.”682

The first Key Question introduced an analysis of respondents’ assessments of each of

the five disciplines by asking “How did you personally participate, over-all, in the

program?” All felt they consciously tried out all five of the disciplines, though several

confessed to “playing ‘catch up’ sometimes”.683 People also shared which discipline they

had the most trouble fulfilling, or experienced the most easily. Three consistent trends

emerged. Two have been reported above: the challenges (for all except three) of praying

the psalms; and of offering seven prayers throughout the day. Indeed none could boast

they had grown to consistently practice this habit. Thirdly, many also humorously

complained, like typical Canadians, that the growingly inclement weather inhibited the

weekly conscious enjoyment of God’s creation!684

Questions (5) to (9) of the Key Questions addressed each P.A.T.H.S. practice.

680
Group 2, p.2. In Anglican spirituality, “Arrow Prayers” are brief petitions for help or acts of praise
and thanksgiving, often derived from beloved versicles and responses in the Book of Common Prayer.
681
Group 1, p. 8.
682
Group 1, p. 9. See Section III.8, pp. 185 f. below.
683
Group 1, p.2.
684
See page 178 below for more on “winter” in spirituality.

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III.2 Key Question 5: “Praying the Psalms”

“What I really got out of [P.A.T.H.S.] and did not expect I would enjoy is reading the

Psalms.”685 This comment was consistent with most participants’ feelings. “The only

thing I did a really good job at was night-time prayer, and the Psalms. I never liked

poetry... Durston’s book was a great help. I enjoyed that part of [P.A.T.H.S.].” People

who had used Durston’s A Light on My Path, with only one exception, found it helpful to

understand the psalms, and how they might evoke and guide prayer today. “Without

Durston’s book I would not have got anything out of the Psalms... Now when I read them

I have a different feeling, and now when I say my evening prayers I include a psalm.”686

As well as the recommended guidebook, people referred to the notes in their Life

Application, Women’s or other Study Bibles. People also found that obtaining a modern

English version helped. This was suggested in oral commendations, but it was an over-

sight to not include this in the printed instructions. One woman read the Psalms using her

grandmother’s Book of Common Prayer. The difficulty of understanding, let alone

empathizing with, the Elizabethan language made this practice frustrating for her.687 The

use of both Durston and a modern translation were commended to her by others in her

group.688 Several attested a deeper appreciation of the Psalm prayed responsively at

public worship, which had usually been assigned for the previous Thursday. So they were

more able to meaningfully pray it at church. “I felt it made more sense to me.”689

685
Group 1 transcript, p.1.
686
The first quote is from Group 2, p. 2; the second, from Group 1, p. 3.
687
Group 2, p. 3.
688
Group 2, pp. 8,9.
689
Group 1, p. 3.

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The most frequently mentioned challenge of reading and praying the Psalms was the

encounter with the psalmists’ raw, often negative, emotions.

Some of them were hard to get through... what I took from the Psalms is that it is all
right to be angry. Some of it is beautiful, it is music. You could get into them, the
lamentation ones would really draw you in: ‘I’m not a good person, God, but I know
you really like me and I am grateful.’ I work with cancer patients so I often pray: ‘I
don’t understand this. Why is it happening?’ Now I know it’s OK to pray like this.690

One participant confessed, “I never thought of the Psalms as prayers.” Another admitted

impatience with David’s frequent complaints about his enemies! “Think back on David’s

life and think, boys oh boys, David forgot what he was doing last week to somebody

else!” Yet this dialogue with the imprecatory psalms inspired the reader to more honest

petitions even in those times when she felt her thoughts were not “good” enough to pray.

“That was very helpful.” Others also attested the healing emotional movement that took

place in reading and trying to understand, and then re-reading and trying to pray a psalm.

A lot of times by the time you got to the end of the psalm, he had got it out of his
system and was praising the Lord, which I think was very human. Kind of makes
you feel you’re not quite so odd. First comes anger... then comes nicer feelings.691

This almost therapeutic benefit of praying the Psalms is a major discovery. Those

who persisted with the negative psalms learned the blessings of honest prayer with a

gracious, intimately present God (as Celtic Christians knew him). Jan Johnson speaks of

“moving from mourning to dancing” in her directions for using Lectio Divina in praying

Psalm 30.692 More resources could be made available to such participants in the future.693

690
This and the next comment come from Transcript of Group 2, p. 3.
691
This and the previous two comments came from Group 1, p. 3.
692
Jan Johnson, Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina (Oxford UK: Monarch
Books, 2016), 174-179.
693
In addition to Durston, A Light on My Path, cf. W. Brueggemann, Praying the Psalms. Engaging
the Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. Second Edition (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007); Ben
Patterson, God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms (see n. 77 p. 22 above).

173
This was perhaps the most encouraging fruit of “Praying the Psalms”. “These prayers

do directly apply to today!”694 One participant received agreement from the group when

he said, “The Psalms for me were the heart of the program.”695 In spite of the challenge

of this discipline, the participants for their efforts were blessed with a 9.0% growth in

their aggregate NCD “Scripture-driven” scores during the length of the experiment.696

III.3 Key Question 6: “Adventures in Blessing”

The second P.A.T.H.S. discipline received unanimous praise from both groups. One

of the main themes of the feedback was the experience that people were more intentional

in seeking to love others as God in Christ loved them. “In addition to random kindnesses,

this was really more specific. I liked putting more thought into it.”697 One person knew an

acquaintance was going through a difficult time. “At another time I would have just

thought about it. With the P.A.T.H.S. program: well, this was my opportunity ‘at work

and at play’!”698 Another participant lamented that during the program she became ill.

“When I got sick the only blessing I could give was thanking people for helping me.”

Most of the other members of the group were quick to encourage her: “...well that was

[certainly] a blessing. Saying thanks is not an easy one to give sometimes.”699

The reported “adventures in blessing” included telephone calls and conversations

with unlikely people, visiting the sick and shut-ins, spontaneously shovelling neighbours’

694
Transcript of Group 2, p. 3.
695
Group 2, p. 9.
696
See the fourth column in Table 3, Appendix 9 below, p. M.
697
Group 1, p. 4.
698
Group 2, p. 4, alluding to the first Trinitarian prayer, “Prayer at Rising” (p. 109 above).
699
Group 1, p. 4.

174
driveways, offering cheerful encouragement to seemingly distraught or disheartened staff

in stores or restaurants, and even befriending a refugee family. “We have become so

sterile in our public life,” said one participant. “This discipline inspired me!”700

It was especially encouraging that many found new courage to speak openly about

their faith outside of church. “Christian faith has drawn me, but the challenge of reaching

out was hard for me. The adventure challenge was good for my growth and confidence.”

Another in the same group confessed, “Anglicans are not evangelists! But I am having

more conversations.”701 Participants openly questioned the apparent social taboo against

speaking about the faith. A social worker reported, “We talked about our clients’ spiritual

void. I thought, wow! How courageous to confront these things at work!”702

The Group 1 participant who befriended an Afghani refugee family brought a couple

of them to worship. Group 2 got into an extended conversation on inviting others.703 One

person said, “I asked many. I got one! She said it felt good to be back in church.” She

explained her invitation: “I became a little more aggressive about it. And I loved it!”704

Another also brought a work colleague, who has now begun attending regularly.

Three participants shared their P.A.T.H.S. program with their less religiously active

husbands. All reported that this more domestic “adventure” had brought blessings. “My

700
Transcript of Group 2, p. 4.
701
Group 2, p. 4.
702
Group 2, p. 4.
703
Excellent resources for Anglicans are available from Wycliffe College’s Institute of Evangelism:
https://institute.wycliffecollege.ca/. The parish had previously employed the Institute’s “Spirit of
Invitation” training resource, and this may have been behind participants’ thoughts:
https://spiritofinvitation.com/. (Both most recently accessed, April 8, 2019.)
704
Group 2, p. 4.

175
husband ‘unofficially’ did the program with me. That was good!”705 Two shared in the

daily devotionals. One told his wife he “has started to pray, and that it helps him.”

We read his Catholic devotions every day... He didn’t read the psalms but I would
tell him what I learned from the psalm. He got hurt by church and so he withdrew
from outward religion. Though he is getting back a bit, thanks to P.A.T.H.S. His
Catholic mother is very impressed and pleased.706

Summarizing the group’s experience of this discipline, one man said that “I think it

just made you more aware to do it.” He had “...never thought of it as a ‘blessing’. This

made it more conscious.”707 It is significant to note that the growth in the participants’

aggregate NCD “Sharing” style grew by 5% during the length of the program.708

III.4. Key Question 7: “Trinitarian Prayers”

The Trinitarian Prayers” discipline turned out to be the most problematic of the five

P.A.T.H.S. spiritual habits. This comment reflected the common feeling: “I just couldn’t

do it. Couldn’t remember!”709 “I could not memorize them either. My mind was so

busy... was it an age thing?”710 Several mentioned cutting up the resource card711 and

leaving the individual prayers at strategic points around the house, in their purses or

wallets or at their desk at work. Those who were undaunting in persisting with this

discipline shared a growing success with the habit. “Doing the prayer routine was

confusing at first, until it became routine.” One person said they offered a new prayer in

705
Group 1 transcript, p. 3.
706
Group 2, pp. 4, 7.
707
Group 1, p. 4.
708
The first column in Table 2, Appendix 9, p. 227 below.
709
Group 2, p. 5.
710
Group 1, p. 5.
711
Appendix 6, pp. 219-220 below. Cutting it up was suggested in the written and oral instructions. A
more tech-savvy person might come up with a mobile ’phone app!

176
the middle of the afternoon each day. Another inspired much laughter when he observed,

“That was an extra prayer. Well... bonus point!”712 A teacher provoked sympathetic

laughter with the wish, “How I would like another kick at the can, for once I get to

school, there wasn’t thirty seconds to pray! It never happened.”713 Another found herself

simply repeating a concluding versicle from the Te Deum in the Book of Common Prayer

throughout the day: “Lord in thee I have I trusted; let me never be confounded!”714

Generally, participants found the first prayer in the morning and the prayer at the end

of the day to be the easiest to become routine. “I was really good at the night-time

prayer.” “Yes! Good at offering the ones on rising and at the end of the day.” In contrast,

with most people forgot or skipped the prayers throughout the day. “Mid-afternoon was

my hardest time. Morning and evening... OK; but mid afternoon...?”715 Save for the 9.3%

growth in their aggregate “Sensory” score, and 7.8% in the “Mystical,” the expectation

that participants grow in their sense of living “in the Trinity” seemed to go unmet.

“‘Trinitarian’ was different from how I normally pray...but I wanted to do it that way.”716

Yet one did say, “I stopped talking about being ‘lucky’. Instead I talked about ‘blessings’.

People said, ‘...OK?’ Yes, I am not lucky but blessed. All are gifts from God!”717

Three of the seven prayers were meant to be offered as mealtime graces. Several

mentioned they grew up with this, but had gotten out of the habit. Many now shared their

meals in front of the television. That disrupted the tradition of prayer at the table. One

712
This and the previous comment both came from Transcript of Group 1, p. 5.
713
Group 1, p. 5.
714
Book of Common Prayer, 9.
715
This and the previous comment both came from Group 1, p. 5.
716
Group 1, p. 5.
717
Group 2, p. 5.

177
couple celebrated that “...because of P.A.T.H.S. we now hold hands and say grace even

while eating in front of the TV.”718 But both groups spent time regretting the fact that

people had lost their inherited habit of thanking God with routine mealtime graces.

The difficulty of participants in engaging in this discipline is without doubt reflected

in the low, perhaps statistically non-significant, growth of only 1.8% in their aggregate

”Ascetic” score.719 Deeply ingrained cultural patterns make it far from easy for

comfortable, suburban parishioners to mimic Celtic prayer disciplines!

III.5. Key Question 8: “Enjoying the Holiness of God in Creation”

This discipline, along with “Adventures in Blessing,” proved to be the most popular

among the participants. “I love being outdoors in God’s beauty. I love taking pictures. I

hate foggy days, but if I make myself go out it is amazing what I see, and the pictures I

get.” Inspiration from a resident of foggy Saint John! Another responded, “We are

blessed to live where we live. The seasons, each with their own beauty...”720 Some gained

an appreciation of the Creator even in winter. “I hate snow, but I realized how beautiful it

is.”721 But a man confessed, “Shovelling out in God’s creation...not always a blessing!”722

Generally people felt that they always had at least an occasional sense of wonder and

worship of the Creator. But the intentional discipline made this more conscious and

prayerful. “I always did this. [P.A.T.H.S.] just gave me purpose and motivation.” “It

motivated me a little more, to overcome laziness and seek the blessing of God in
718
Group 1 transcript, p. 5.
719
The fifth column in Table 2, Appendix 9, p. 227 below.
720
Both comments recorded from Group 2, transcript p. 6.
721
Group 1, p. 6.
722
Group 2, p. 6.

178
creation!”723 One father confessed a very “Celtic” spiritual experience with his outdoors-

man son: “I was thrilled… how blessed by God I am, to be with him, just us and the

woods... and the animals coming right up to him!”724

People fulfilled this habit in different ways. Most went for walks, in the woods, at a

beach, or even around the neighbourhood. “I used to walk quite quickly. Now I take time

to count the ducks!” Others fed wildlife, watched the birds, or went for a drive and then

got out of the car to sit and take in the sights and fresh air. One person driving to work

rediscovered the beauty of the sunrises. Another had to qualify that with a note of reality:

“But ‘with red sunrises at morning, sailors take warning!’ That turned me off.”725 An

answer to that comes from a comment in the other group: “In nature, God gives us what

we need. There are reasons why it rains!”726 A grandmother said that watching her

grandson at the rink became a truly spiritual experience. “My four year-old grandson’s so

alive playing hockey –and he is God’s creation too!”727

The sharings on this discipline reflected the participants’ aggregate growth in the

NCD “Sensory” style of spirituality by 9.3%. It likely inspired growth in the “Mystical”

style by 7.8% as well.728 This discipline, along with the more challenging “Praying the

Psalms”, may be considered the most spiritually beneficial in the P.A.T.H.S. experiment.

723
Both quotes are from Group 1 transcript, p. 6.
724
Group 2, p. 6.
725
Both comments are from Group 1, p. 6.
726
Group 2, p. 6.
727
Group 2, p. 6.
728
Appendix 9, Table 3, column 3, p. 228 and Table 2, column 2, p. 227 below.

179
III.6. Key Question 9: “Soul-Friends (Anamchara)”

Ten of the thirteen participants covenanted with one of the others in Soul Friendships.

Three of the participants asked their husbands to support them, with the result, as already

mentioned, that they were able to see and delight in both their spouses’ spiritual growth,

and their closer faith-relationship as well. Two couples became partners with their same-

gender opposites, and also spent time together as a foursome. “A friendship grew out of

that.”729 Some reported meeting in their homes, at a coffee shop, or even over the

telephone. One pair booked a room at the church for their meetings. All reported a

developing deep bond, and most revealed that they would continue to meet together and

exchange prayer requests. Only one pairing –a younger person with an older ex-

schoolteacher– seemed less than ideal. Indeed, the younger partner experienced the only

negative change in her aggregate score in the program.730 Meanwhile her partner wryly

noted that “my soul-friend and I took the program very differently. I carefully answered

the questions in writing. She thought they were boring!”731 The other participants had

more compatible and inspiring partnerships.

Two highlights of the Soul Friendships stood out in the Focus Group discussions. The

first was the spiritual sharing and discussions which took place. “Pouring out our heart

and soul and being there with that person. Very special!” “We spent a lot of time talking

about how difficult it is to be a Christian... we really got to know each other.”732 One pair

was already close before they enrolled in the experiment. “We were soul-friends anyway.

729
Transcript of Group 2, p. 7.
730
Participant “23” openly shared her drop in scores with her Group:, cf. Appendix 9, Table 1, p 226
below.
731
Group 2, p. 7.
732
Both comments came in Group 1, p. 7.

180
It was a renewal of our friendship.” One woman said, “I like the idea of talking about

spirituality with someone special. This was a highlight for me.”733

The second highlight, new for most of the participants, was the experience of having

someone daily praying for them. “I found praying for each other very helpful. To know

that someone was praying for me...was really special.” Two male soul-friends met at a

coffee shop. “We prayed for each other regularly but we did not pray together... we were

in a public place. Though we did always say grace together before eating!”734 That was

an achievement for the two. One reported she “...picked up the habit of keeping a written

record of how to pray” for their partner.735 Another appreciated the mutual accountability

that this discipline enabled. “It was nice to know someone was praying for me –including

my difficulties with following the P.A.T.H.S.” Another delighted participant exclaimed

of her soul-friend, “I can call her anytime and ask her to pray for me, now!”736

Soul Friendship is the one spiritual practice that cannot be directly aligned with

growth in any of NCD’s nine particular “Spiritual Styles”.737 Nonetheless it certainly

energized the others, and provided believers with both mutual support and accountability.

Surely this is what this “Celtic Christian” practice is meant to achieve –as is Schwarz’s

commendation of “mutual mentors” in the journey to a richer “Passionate Spirituality.”738

733
Both comments are again from Group 1, p. 7.
734
Both comments from Group 1, p. 7.
735
Group 1, p. 7.
736
Group 1, p. 7.
737
Remembering that Schwarz’s “Sharing Style” refers to reaching out to others beyond one’s church
or normal circles of caring, and not “sharing” in the sense that is experienced between friends or partners.
738
See Chapter Two Section VIII, pp. 89-94, and p. 134 above.

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III.7. Key Question 10: Overall Assessment

The final Key Question invited participants to “...personally assess the relative value

or helpfulness of each practice.” Again, the flip-chart was employed for this rating. In

Group One, all placed all five P.A.T.H.S. in the “Very Worthwhile” category, with the

exception of one rating each of the “Psalms” and “Trinitarian Prayers” in the “Some-

what” column. In Group Two, everyone rated the “Adventures in Blessing”, “Enjoying

the Holiness of God in Creation” and “Soul Friendship” disciplines as “Very”, while four

rated the “Psalms” and three the “Trinitarian Prayers” as “Somewhat Worthwhile”. None

of the five practices received even one “Not Worthwhile” assessment. One person’s

comment seemed to express the experience, to a greater or lesser extent, of all the

participants. The reaction she got from her grand-daughter elicited much laughter:

For me [the P.A.T.H.S.] was about conscious prayer and gratefulness, and being
more aware of God’s world. Instead of getting up in the morning and growling, [I
was] noticing and expressing the beauty of the day. The sunset! I pointed it out to
my grand-daughter and she said, ‘...What?!’739

III.8. Ending Questions (11-13)

The first “Ending Question”,740 #11, solicited what advice people might give to

someone considering undertaking a program similar to P.A.T.H.S. The comments in the

first Focus Group generally commended P.A.T.H.S. “Try it! It is very worthwhile.” “The

repeated trying really helps for it to become meaningful and worthwhile.” ”It helps form

a discipline that we would not think of on our own.”741 There were also some helpful

hints on how the program might be improved. One insisted that having a Soul-Friend

739
Group 2 transcript, p. 2.
740
See n. 668, p. 168 above.
741
All from the Group 1 transcript, p. 9.

182
should be considered essential. Another suggested the wider group of participants should

have met occasionally, for mutual encouragement, inspiration and seeking clarifications.

The second Focus Group also responded positively to a member’s suggestion that

participants meet together as a group. “It would be encouraging to see other people.” As

this group’s discussion of the previous question on an “overall assessment” had been very

positive, the discussion at this point generated more critical remarks. “Brace yourself!

This format is big. It was a huge undertaking. Bigger than I am capable of right now.”

Another agreed: “The reading and prayer pieces [P. and T.] need to be ‘scaled down’

versions.” One demurred on this: “It depends where you are in your spiritual life. I love

to read, and be challenged.” Several responded, “That’s fair.” Yet the consensus was

expressed by this comment: “Tell people: It will be a real challenge!”742

The second group’s discussion of Question 11 particularly focused on Praying the

Psalms. There was agreement that everyone should have obtained Durston’s book.743

People should be encouraged to use a modern translation, and perhaps even a Study-

Bible. “This is the first time I have done the Psalms. It was very worthwhile!” “But we

struggled. The Psalms are not stories. The emotions could be overwhelming.”744

The Twelfth question consisted of the researcher’s summary of the main points and

insights, read back to the group from his notes. There was a consensus in both meetings

that he had accurately heard and noted the discussions. (This was confirmed when he

transcribed the groups’ recordings.) The last question summarized the purpose of the

742
All from the Group 2 transcript, p. 8.
743
Group 2, p. 8.
744
Group 2, p. 9.

183
P.A.T.H.S. experiment and asked, “Have we missed anything of importance in our

discussion?” The question led only to offers of thanks, commendations and best wishes in

both groups. “I felt lost when it was over... I need to continue to do something.”745

IV. The Post-P.A.T.H.S. NCD “Church Health Survey”

The parish undertook its sixth NCD “Church Health Survey” in March, 2018, as part

of its regular life and planning. That revealed its “Minimum Factor” to continue to be

“Passionate Spirituality,” as it had been since 2011.746 Its seventh survey was completed

in February, 2019. All the P.A.T.H.S. participants participated in that survey. Seven had

also completed the 2018 one. Vestry members, Lay Readers and other parish leaders or

“influencers” brought the total to thirty required respondents, as mandated by NCD.

Would the P.A.T.H.S. program, along with the other “Celtic Christian” elements in

preaching, teaching, liturgy and music, raise the parish’s “Passionate Spirituality” score

value so that it was no longer its “minimum factor”? Disappointingly, it did not.

The Church of the Good Shepherd’s average value score in its March, 2018 survey

was 56. Its average in the February 2019 survey was 50. Both figures placed it right in

the middle of the “average church health” range for Canadian congregations. The parish

has grown considerably, according to NCD’s assessments, from the time of its April,

2010 survey, which produced an average value score of 36 –placing it in the “lowest”

church health category.747 But why the small drop from 2018 to 2019? The parish had

745
Group 1 transcript, p. 9.
746
See Chapter Three, pp. 103 f. above.
747
All NCD results are confidential to a congregation. They are shared here with permission of the
Vestry and Corporation of the Anglican Parish of Lancaster.

184
just completed its annual meeting in February, where it lamented that 2018 had ended

with a deficit of over $ 12,000, mainly due to the deaths of several members. In a parish

of accomplished career professionals, it is beyond doubt that this cast a certain pall over

members’ assessments of their parish’s prospects. It had also learned of its rector’s

immanent retirement (July, 2019), and the uncertainty about its future leadership was

making parishioners cautious and fretful.748

In its “Passionate Spirituality” value score, the parish’s self-assessment dropped from

45.7 in 2018 to 37 in 2019 –a loss of almost nine value points.749 This almost equalled its

score on this “quality characteristic” of 35.1 back in June, 2013.

How can this loss in the parish “spiritual passion” score be explained? First it must be

said that NCD’s measurement of “Church Health” and its “Spiritual Style Test” quantify

two distinct things. One is a collective parish measurement; the other an individual’s

spiritual “styles” and strength. While the P.A.T.H.S. participants’ aggregate scores did

grow by 6.6% during the project, the parish’s “Passionate Spirituality” reading measures

a wider and more general quality of church life. It must be concluded that the enthusiasm

and growth of select, voluntary P.A.T.H.S. participants was insufficient for inspiring the

parish’s collective spiritual passion –at least as NCD measures this.

Chapter Three highlighted Schwarz’s understanding of a traditional spirituality of

“duty” being quite antithetical to a “passionate spirituality”.750 It also cautioned that the

Good Shepherd parishioners’ “strong sense of duty” required that the P.A.T.H.S. program

748
For example, two questions used to measure “Passionate Spirituality” ask about respondents’ hope
for the future of the church. Answers to these dropped considerably between the two surveys.
749
But see n. 748 above for a partial explanation.
750
Chapter Three, pp. 104 f. above.

185
“would need to be ‘user-friendly’, even fun (!), to be voluntarily taken up and indeed

enjoyed by a significant number of participants.”751 It appears that this goal was largely

unmet among those who chose not participate in the experiment. Their choice not to

respond to the rector’s and others’ enthusiasm about P.A.T.H.S. may have even further

demoralized their sense of not being happy in their faith.

One element of the parish’s experience is especially relevant. Following its June,

2013 fourth Church Health Survey, its leaders made a very close study of the values of

the particular survey questions that contributed to its Passionate Spirituality score. It was

discovered that the lowest scores within those questions were all in the area of reading

and enjoying the Bible. As has been pointed out, Good Shepherd is a predominantly

“sacramental” or Anglo-Catholic parish.752 Its rector’s Evangelical Anglican love of the

Scriptures was not shared by most parishioners.753 To address this particular deficit, the

church undertook Zondervan Publication’s The Story program from September 2013 until

May of 2014. Thirty-one Sunday sermons, home Bible readings, weekly adult video

study groups and the Youth and Sunday School curricula all familiarized and inspired

parishioners with Lucado and Frazee’s thirty-one chapter, abridged Bible.754 As a result,

its June 2015, survey score in “Passionate Spirituality” rose dramatically to 52.7.

The “Praying the Psalms” discipline inspired the P.A.T.H.S. participants’ aggregate

“Scripture-driven” values to grow by 9%, compared to their average value growth of

751
Chapter Three, p. 108 above.
752
See pp. 164, 166 f. and Chapter Three, p. 100 above.
753
See pp. 165, 166 and 170 above.
754
Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His
People (Selections from the New International Version)(Grand rapids MI: Zondervan, 2011). Supporting
resources include videos, teens’ and children’s books, small group study guides, and reference books.

186
6.6%. Yet this “Spiritual Style” remained the lowest of all nine style score values.755

Perhaps the rector’s frequent promotion of reading and praying the Psalms in the parish

during this period combined with the challenging though successful experience of the

P.A.T.H.S. participants to increase a low self-assessment in the enjoyment of the Bible

among parishioners generally. In fact, of the ten responses used to measure “Passionate

Spirituality”, the two questions on the use and relevance of the Bible scored the lowest –

and exhibited the greatest drop in value since their peak in the June 2015 survey. This

may have significantly affected the overall score in the parish’s continuing “Minimum

Factor”. Again, it must be conceded that unlike their “Celtic Christian” forbears, the

parishioners of the Church of the Good Shepherd are not Bible-centered.756

V. Recommendations for the Church of the Good Shepherd

Due to Acadia University’s ethical criteria for research in the humanities, participa-

tion in the P.A.T.H.S. program was strictly voluntary, and invitations were by general

appeal from the pulpit or in parish publications. In order to obviate any undue pressure on

parishioners, no one was approached or recruited by the researcher. This is in a startling

contrast to a pastor’s usual ministry of coaching, encouraging, even cajoling parishioners

to grow in their faith and Christian life!757 The rector has designed and implemented a

follow-up program where all parishioners are encouraged to participate. Running during

Eastertide, it fittingly concludes on the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit and the

755
See Appendix 9, Table 2, p. 227 below.
756
Page 186 above.
757
Indeed, this was the sort of person-to-person exhortation and encouragement applied to parishioners
during The Story program. Eighty-two copies of Lucado and Frazee’s Story Bible were sold. See the use of
McNally’s phrase, “participant observer,” pp. 138 and 157 above.

187
birth of the mission of the church on Pentecost.758 It is similar to the parish’s successful

The Story program in 2013-2014.759 Yet it was imperative that this be promoted and

administered in a spirit, not of “duty”, but of expectation in the Psalmist’s witness that

God “delivered me, because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:19b)

The program includes the successful “Soul-Friendship”, “Adventures in Blessing”

and encountering the “Holiness of God in Creation” elements –the second one being

quite familiar to the parish because of’ it exposure in Eastertide 2018 to Michael Frost’s

“B.E.L.L.S.” program.760 It continues the “Celtic” theme, using many of the prayers

quoted in this thesis. Simpler, more “user-friendly” daily Psalm excerpts are assigned,

complemented by short Gospel readings.761 The Trinitarian Prayers were simplified to a

Triune three a day. Apart from the impact this may have on the parish’s next “Church

Health Survey”, there would be no need for the intimidation of assessing parishioners’

spiritual progress, beyond what they share and discover informally in their small group

meetings, soul friendships, and conversations with the rector.

VI. Summary Reflections: “Delighting” in the Spirit

The most satisfying result of P.A.T.H.S. is the number of participants who wanted to

continue the practices, or, as one said, felt a loss at the project’s conclusion.762 “It made

you have a little discipline... waking up and thanking God for the day that was coming –

758
Christopher McMullen, P.A.T.H.S. in Celtic Spirituality: An Eastertide Pilgrimage (Anglican Parish
of Lancaster, 2019) https://www.scribd.com/document/406399921/PATHS-in-Celtic-Spirituality-for-
Eastertide. Uploaded April 17, 2019.
759
See p. 186 and n. 754 above.
760
M. Frost, Surprise the World, cf. Chapter Three, pp. 111 and 118 above.
761
See the Christological concerns in pp. 199-200 of the thesis Conclusion, below, for the rationale for
including Gospel readings.
762
See above, pp. 168, 184.

188
which I never did before.” “I always did this. [P.A.T.H.S.] just gave me purpose and

motivation.”763 One with initially less of an intentional spirituality affirmed: “I don’t

look upon missing some [daily practices] as ‘failing’ –I was learning to pray more. To try

this in the first place is hardly a ‘fail’!”764 Particularly delightful is the observation, “I

stopped talking about being ‘lucky’. Instead I talked about ‘blessings’... I am not lucky

but blessed. All are gifts from God!”765

“Delight” is mentioned repeatedly in this thesis.766 Christians know the promise of

Isaiah of the coming Christ:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,


my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)

Incorporated into him by faith and the communion of their spirits with his Spirit, they

may also affirm the same for themselves. Because the “soul” of the Lord “delights” in

people, “spirituality” may be seen as taking “...delight in the Lord, and he will give you

the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) This may be, as Schwarz puts it, antithetical to a

spirituality of “duty”.767 Yet perhaps “delightful” would be a better word than Schwarz’s

translation of Leidenschaftlich in “Passionate Spirituality.”768 One may recall Jesus’

image of the Spirit as a river of blessing flowing to and through the believer’s heart769 as

763
Above, pp 169 and 179.
764
Above, p. 170.
765
Above, p. 177.
766
Above, pp. 96, 117, 136, 144, 145, 146, 148, 164, 180, 181.
767
See pp. 104-5, 108 and 186 above.
768
https://nge-deutschland.de/8h.html (accessed April 15, 2019). As well as “passionate” this can mean
“ardent” (in the sense of “for the love of it”) or “passionately fond of doing”. Peter Tyrell, Collins German-
English English German Dictionary (London & Glasgow: William Collins & Sons, 1980), 431.
769
See above, pp. 28 f.

189
one prays Psalm 36:8: “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them

drink from the river of your delights.” This is the spirit of Psalm 119:47: “I find my

delight in your commandments, because I love them.” A Celtic-Christian inspired

spirituality may think of disciplines or “P.A.T.H.S” rather than the Jewish Torah.770

Delight often expresses itself in laughter. One example of this is illustrative of the

complicated relationship between the researcher as a “participant observer” and his

subjects –who also happened to be his dutiful parishioners. This could be a bane to either

research or spiritual formation. Or it may be a gift of God. When the Church of the Good

Shepherd undertook the NCD “Spiritual Colour Survey” in 2010, it was discovered that

while the parish was primarily “green” in its spiritual culture, the rector’s faith was at its

opposite, in the “red” dimension. Everyone saw this with humour.771 Later it was

discovered that the most effective “Level B” spiritual growth is to be enjoyed by attention

to one’s “Opposite Style”. Both the rector and parish leaders realized, with delight, that

the challenges and even frustrations of their seemingly opposite spiritualities had indeed,

through persistence and commitment in spite of trial, brought spiritual blessing to both.

Schwarz insists that a spirituality of “duty” is antithetical to “spiritual passion”.772 Yet

the concept of “duty”, no matter how unpleasant to the modern “consumer” mentality, is

part of true spirituality. Twice participants in the Focus Groups complained about the

challenge of experiencing the Holiness of God in his creation... in winter!773 Sometimes

770
As was pointed out, Psalm 119 was especially beloved by Celtic Christians. See p. 113 and n. 442.
In contrast to the “old covenant” II Corinthians 3:12-17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
771
See above, pp. 102, 108 and 164.
772
See pp. 104 f., 108 above.
773
See above, pp. 171, 178.

190
however a “winter of the soul” is a necessary part of spiritual growth.774 Participants

experienced this blessing in their struggle, and delight, in Praying the Psalms. However

this move from “winter” to “spring” was not experienced in their less persistent effort to

be faithful in Trinitarian prayer. Nor was it experienced by those who did not take up the

challenge of the P.A.T.H.S. experiment. Indeed, the 2019 NCD Church Health Survey

suggests that their abstention only left them even more demoralized in their faith.775

The practice of a “Rule of Life” has not been explored in this thesis.776 The

P.A.T.H.S. experiment can be understood as a temporary such “rule” –a concept as

central to Celtic monasticism777 as it is to the Anglican spiritual tradition.778 A sense of

commitment, even “duty”, to such a “rule” may nonetheless be indeed a critical element

to growing in spiritual “delight”.

VIII. Conclusion

The P.A.T.H.S. Experiment in Celtic Christian Spirituality may be considered a

significant success from several points of view. It can easily be adapted for other settings.

774
Pythia Peay, “Weathering The Winter Of The Soul”, Huffington Post Life. November 17, 2011.
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/weathering-the-winter-of_n_403014 (accessed April 20, 2019); Rick
Kirchoff, sermon, “The Winter of the Soul”, Methodist Healthcare Living Well Network, March 26, 2006.
http://thelivingwellnetwork.org/the-winter-of-the-soul (accessed April 20, 2019).
775
See p. 185 f. above.
776
But see Philip Frank Reindeers, “The Architecture of Participation: Examining the Role and
Function of a Rule of Life in a Christian Congregational Setting.” D.Min. Thesis, Acadia Divinity College,
Acadia University, 2017.
777
Cf. Uinseann Ó Maidin, The Celtic Monk. Rules and Writings of the Early Irish Monks.
778
Guidelines for a “Rule of Life” are found on page 555 of the Canadian Book of Common Prayer.
See Christopher McMullen, Five Five Five Alive! An Invitation to a Rule of Life. Fredericton: Spiritual
Development Team of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, 2012. http://archive.anglican.nb.ca/resources/
spiritual_growth/555_alive/555_alive_booklet_print_%202.pdf (most recently accessed, April 15, 2019).

191
In the participants’ “Spiritual Style Tests,” their “aggregate score” grew by a

significant 6.6% over the three-month period of the program. In their collective “native

style” they grew by 5% in “Sacramental” spirituality. But more tellingly, they grew in the

“Sensory” style by 9.3% –the highest measured growth– no doubt reflecting the benefits

of regularly seeking out the Holiness of God in his creation. They also grew by a healthy

7.8% in the “Mystical Style”, which probably reflected their greater attentiveness to

Trinitarian prayer throughout the day, as well as the greater intentionality and awareness

that would have been inspired by their Soul Friendships.

Significantly, though this represented their lowest spiritual dimension over-all, and in

fact with “Sharing” represented their “opposite styles”, participants grew in “Scripture-

driven” spiritual score values by 9% –their second-highest improvement. Their “Sharing”

scores grew by 5% as well, though it was already the fourth highest aggregate value score

of these members of a fairly missional parish. The “Sharing” growth may be attributed to

their encouraging experiences of Adventures in Blessing. More significantly, the growth

in “Scripture-Driven” scores, in a parish relatively not comfortable with the Bible, show

the “delightful” blessing to be found in regularly Praying the Psalms. According to

Schwarz’s methodology, growth in a believer’s “opposite style” is the most productive

for their spiritual progress.

Three of the “spiritual styles” grew by less, perhaps statistically insignificant

amounts. The “Rational” and “Doctrinal” values only grew by 2.5% and 1.8%. As neither

of these would be associated with “Celtic Christian” spirituality, it was confirming that

they grew the least, given that the P.A.T.H.S. program did not address these dimensions

of believers’ “spiritual styles”. The “Ascetic” style also only grew by a mere 1.8%.

192
Though one would think that such was characteristic of the Celtic missioners, it certainly

was not a “native” style for a typical, consumerist middle-class congregation!

Nor would the “Enthusiastic” style be associated with traditionally-minded Anglican

parishioners. Yet this style grew by 4.3% –perhaps a reflection of the participants’ greater

apprehension of “the inter-communion between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit” that

this thesis has defined as the concern of “Celtic Christian” spirituality.779 The Soul-

Friendship discipline of reflecting upon and sharing their experiences of God with their

partners no doubt contributed to this grow in the “enthusiastic” spiritual style.

These quantitative conclusions were confirmed by the qualitative observations shared

in the focus groups. The Adventures in Blessing, Experiencing the Holiness of God in

Creation, and Soul-Friendship disciplines were all enthusiastically reported as enjoyable

and successful. Praying the Psalms and offering seven Trinitarian Prayers a day were

more challenging, and even problematic. Though they were still regarded as worthwhile,

participants generally suggested more “user-friendly” versions of these disciplines.

Only in the post-experiment parish NCD Church Health Survey did P.A.T.H.S. not

live up to expectations. John McNally writes that Ian Campbell, the former NCD Canada

Director, told him in 2009 “that Passionate Spirituality ‘was so often the minimum factor

in Canadian churches.’”780 From his study of Anglican parishes around the world,

including over 300 in Canada, Schwarz concludes that “…passionate spirituality is the

greatest weakness – or minimum factor, as we call it, in Anglican churches.”781 Thirteen

779
See Chapter One, p. 6.
780
McNally, “Discerning Passionate Practices and Renewing Principles…”, 39.
781
C. Schwarz, The All By Itself Anglican, 37. See also the comparative charts in Schwarz, Color Your
World with Natural Church Development, 140 f.

193
participants in the P.A.T.H.S. program were unable, of themselves, to overcome this

double, wider parish spiritual handicap! A more “user-friendly” parish program in

spirituality, however, may be of benefit.

One of the participants, Ngaire Nelson, was inspired to write a poem about her

P.A.T.H.S. pilgrimage. With her permission, it will conclude this chapter:

P.A.T.H.S.
Praise and thanksgiving to God our Creator;
His mercy and grace give courage to all.
His love and forgiveness are there in His offering;
We acknowledge His presence – a wonderful call.

His Word through the Scriptures, both Old and New,


refresh and uplift, our heart to renew;
The Psalms offer praise to honour His presence;
Despite our neglect of His love and His truth.

We bear the Good News of His love to our neighbours


And pray through the Father, His Son and His Spirit
That our words and our actions reflect all His favours,
To strengthen, to love, to bring peace and comfort.

The paths in the forest, the waves on the seashore,


The flowers in their glory, the birds in their song,
Breath life of creation, a reflection of Eden,
For all who see beauty on their walk all day long.

Oh friends, we are part of God’s great designing –


His hands through His works are artful and strong;
His words are uplifting; our prayers are unending,
For we are His children, and to Him we belong.782

782
Ngaire Nelson, P.A.T.H.S. Participant, January 2019. Used with her permission.

194
Conclusion.

I. Summary

Who is nearest God? The one who contemplates Him.


Whom does Christ assist? The one who does good.
In whom does the Holy Spirit dwell? In the one who is pure without sin.

It is then that a person is a vessel of the Holy Spirit,


when the virtues have come in place of the vices.
It is then that desire for God grows in a person,
When worldly desire withers.783

This advice “On the most prudent person” comes at the conclusion of The Alphabet of

Devotion, by Colman mac Béognae, who died in 611 AD. It reflects an understanding of

“spirituality” that can be gleaned from the early Celtic Christian movement, as attending

“to the inter-communion between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit which enables the

work of sanctification.”784 This was illustrated with references to early Celtic Christian

writings at the beginning of Chapter One, and in Section II of Chapter Two.785

Chapter One then defended the validity of this understanding by presenting its

Biblical foundation in the witnesses to the interplay between God’s spirit and the human

Spirit in Genesis, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles. It also presented

Scriptural precedents for each of the five “Celtic” disciplines chosen and adapted for this

thesis’s research project: the “P.A.T.H.S. Experiment in Celtic Christian Spirituality.”

Building upon this understanding, the research project addressed the question:

“How may an intentional path of five recovered and adapted Celtic Christian
spiritual practices effect the spiritual growth of parishioners in the Church of the
Good Shepherd?”
783
Colman mac Béognae, “The Alphabet of Devotion,” in Thomas Owen Clancy and Gilbert Márkus.
Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery (cf. p. 54 n., 186 above), 195-207, 207.
784
Page 6 above.
785
Chapter One, pp. 2-3, and Chapter Two, pp. 43-47 above.

195
Chapter Two defended the legitimacy of looking to what is an admittedly modern

notion, “Celtic Christian” spirituality, for precedents for the spiritual formation of the

Anglicans who served as the subjects of the study. The main thrust of this was a literature

review of modern scholarship on the prevalence of the chosen five P.A.T.H.S. practices

themselves among Christians of the “Celtic Fringe” –disciplines that won for their time

of mission in Britain, Ireland and Brittany the designation, “the Age of the Saints”.786

Chapter Three introduced the Church of the Good Shepherd, and its ongoing goal of

growing in its “Passionate Spirituality” score according to the “Church Health Surveys”

of the Natural Church Development program. It then outlined the reasoning behind the

design of each P.A.T.H.S. practice, derived from the teachings of modern “missional

church” writers, as well as the recommendations of those commending disciplines of

Celtic Christian spirituality for believers today.

Chapter Four then presented the methodology for measuring and evaluating the effect

of this project on its participants and the parish. Before- and after-scores of participants

using NCD’s “Spiritual Style Test” measured relative strengths, growth and changes in

Schwarz’s identified nine “Spiritual Styles”. This provided a researched “quantitative”

measure of developments in their “Passionate Spirituality”, at least as it is identified and

measured by NCD. After the three-month “Experiment” was concluded, participants

shared in one of two “Deliberative Discussion Focus Groups”, which were transcribed

and studied, in order to ascertain a “qualitative” assessment of the program. Both means

of evaluation were defended as especially appropriate to the P.A.T.H.S. experiment,

given the continuities between NCD’s methodology and “Celtic Christian” faith; and the

786
Chapter Two, pp. 63, 91, 97.

196
experience, culture and goals of the parish and the participants. The role of the Rector of

the parish himself as researcher and discussion leader was also outlined and defended.

Chapter Five presented and evaluated the results of the comparative “Spiritual Style

Tests”, and summarized and drew conclusions from the Focus Group discussions.

It was found that the “aggregate value scores” of the participants significantly grew

by a group average of 6.6%, with noticeable growth in five “spiritual styles”, which all

could be associated with “Celtic Christian” spirituality. Surprisingly, the “Scripture-

driven” style, one of two aggregate “opposite styles” to that of the participants

corporately, grew by 9%. The value score of the other “opposite style”, “Sharing”, also

grew by 5%. The researcher attributed these developments to the influence of the third,

fourth, first and second P.A.T.H.S. disciplines: Adventures in Blessing; Trinitarian

Prayers; Experiencing the Holiness of God in creation; and Praying the Psalms.

In the post-P.A.T.H.S. Focus Group discussions, participants identified Adventures in

Blessing, Experiencing the Holiness of God in Creation, and Soul-Friends disciplines as

“very worthwhile” and inspirational. This indicated an increased “passion” in their

spirituality, as defined by Schwarz.787 As would be expected of believers undergoing

disciplines aimed at improving their “opposite style” –what NCD identifies as a person’s

“growth edge” – they generally found daily Praying the Psalms and trying to Pray in and

to the Trinity seven times a day to be very challenging. Yet they still insisted those two

practices were also “worthwhile,” though not as satisfying or successful as the others.

787
Chapter Three, pp. 104 f. above.

197
Only in the parish’s post-P.A.T.H.S. NCD “Church Health Survey” were the results

disappointing to the researcher. The participation of only thirteen parishioners in the

experiment did not raise the parish’s corporate “Passionate Spirituality” score. Indeed it,

like many of the other “Quality Characteristic” scores, went down from 2018 to 2019. It

also remained as the lowest value, indicating its continued challenge as the “minimum

factor” handicapping the parish’s growth. It was speculated that other factors, including

the 2018 financial deficit and the immanent retirement of the rector, may have hampered

whatever growth in ”passion” that the P.A.T.H.S. program may have otherwise inspired.

II. . Lingering Questions and Recommendations for Further Research

Recommendations for future spiritual formation programming at the Church of the

Good Shepherd were presented in Chapter Five, Section V.788 It was proposed that what

amounts to a more careful application of the rector’s Scouter friend’s advice be applied to

the parish.789 As suggested by the Focus Groups, simpler, more “user-friendly” Praying

the Psalms and Trinitarian Prayer disciplines might be assigned. Such an amended

P.A.T.H.S. could be less of a “duty” and more of a “delight” to its participants: “Take

delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Their desires fulfilled;

yet also that their desires will be blessed and God-given in the first place. The psalm goes

on: “Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way.” (Psalm 37:4,23)

This advice may apply to other similar spiritual formation programs. They could be

introduced in advance by preaching and teaching, and perhaps workshops or study series

on praying the Psalms. Following the requirements of authentic pedagogical and pastoral

788
See pp. 187 f. above.
789
Chapter Three, pp. 108 f. above.

198
leadership –the servant-leadership of Aidan790 and other Celtic saints– yet unrestrained

by the restrictions of academic research, they could include more personal coaching and

encouragement by the leaders, as well as group meetings with the participants. Perhaps a

simplified set of disciplines could be extended over a longer period of time.

A new element the researcher believes should be added, both for the sake of spiritual

formation generally, but also in order to more authentically reflect the spirituality of the

Celtic Christian mission, would be a clearer attention to the saving role of Jesus in the

Christian walk. This might be accomplished with the addition of daily reflective Gospel

readings, perhaps in coordination with the assigned Psalms.791

Speaking of the success of the “Celtic missionaries”, Elizabeth Rees concluded in her

extensive study of Celtic perigrinatio, Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers:

These men and women felt at home on planet earth; although they might have no
fixed geographical destination, their wandering was focused, even ordered. Their
love for God energized them and gave meaning to their journeying. They were
engaged in a passionate relationship with the Creator of the universe, and this
gave an eternal dimension to their adventures.792

This is certainly true, but it is missing the Christocentric nature of Celtic Christian

devotion. The saints were first and foremost followers of Jesus. Esther De Waal is one of

many promoters of Celtic Christian spirituality who understand that the Celtic love of the

Creator was always by and through the Incarnate Word, who redeemed all of nature by

his birth, everyday life in solidarity with human life, atoning death and transforming

790
Cf. pp. 105, 153 and 156 above.
791
See n. 758 p. 188 above.
792
Elizabeth Rees, Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2000), 183.

199
resurrection.793 “The Celtic celebration of creation is unparalleled.... But in a Celtic cross

we see that great round O, the circle of the globe itself, held in tension by the two arms of

the cross –creation and redemption together.”794 A “Celtic” form of spiritual formation

will benefit from more attention to the place of Christ himself in “Celtic Christianity”.795

A question related to this, but beyond the scope of this thesis, is the roles and relation-

ships between God’s grace in creation, redemption, and sanctification in salvation and

spiritual maturity. Pelagius has been referenced several times as an example of “Celtic”

teaching. Was he even in fact a “Pelagian”, i.e., a heretic who denied the need for God’s

redemptive grace in the Christian life? There has been considerable historical analysis

and debate on this.796 As for Celtic Christians generally, Allison Bonner shows that

Patrick was quite Augustinian in his understanding of grace.797 Gilbert Màrkus cites the

quotation from Colman mac Béognae which began this Conclusion, along with many

other examples, to demonstrate that Celtic Christians themselves were certainly not

793
As well as De Waal, see Simpson, referenced at p. 82 above; O’Donoghue, The Angels Keep Their
Ancient Places, 78 f.; Mary Low, Celtic Christianity and Nature, 180-183; Oliver Davies, Celtic
Christianity, 141-145; John Carey, “The Resurrection of the World,” A Single Ray of the Sun 75-106; John
F. Gavin, A Celtic Christology: The Incarnation According to John Scotus Eriugena (Cambridge UK:
James Clarke & Co., 2014).
794
De Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer, 141.
795
For a popular presentation see J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts. A scholarly study is Michael W.
Herren and Shirley Ann Brown, Christ in Celtic Christianity (Suffolk UK: The Boydell Press, 2002).
796
For some examples of studies informing the present researcher, see: Peter Brown, “Pelagius and His
Supporters: Aims and Environment.” Journal of Theological Studies, N.S., 19.1 (April 1968), pp. 93-114;
Robert F. Evans, Pelagius: Inquiries and Reappraisals (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010; first published,
New York: Seabury Press, 1968); R.A. Markus. “Pelagianism: Britain and the Continent.” The Journal of
Ecclesiastical History, 37(2) (1986), 191-204; B.R. Rees, Pelagius: Life and Letters (Rochester NY :
Boydell Press, 1998; first published as two volumes, 1988 and 1991); Craig St. Clair, “A Heretic
Reconsidered: Pelagius, Augustine, and ‘Original Sin’.” https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/cgi
/viewcontent.cgi?article =1001&context =sot_papers (accessed July 2, 2017); Burkhard Steinberg,
“Rehabilitating Pelagius: Another Look at Original Sin.” Theology CVIII.841 (January 2005), 14-22.
797
Alison Bonner, “Was Patrick Influenced by the Teaching of Pelagius?” Journal of Theological
Studies LXIII.2 (October, 2012), 572-607.

200
Pelagian.798 A theological study of original “Celtic Christian” texts, then, may shed some

helpful light on the thorny question of the relationship between grace and works, divine

initiative and gift and human responsibility, in sanctification and spiritual formation. This

thesis shares the “Celtic Christian” confidence that human sin, debilitating and evil as it

is, nonetheless need not finally over-ride either the goodness of God’s creation nor the

power of Christ’s redemption, communicated and restored in believers by the Holy Spirit:

“Grace for them is an enabling, and not just an excusing gift!”799 As Nicholson noted,

“the Celtic concept...finds its justification in the Age of Saints.”800 As many “missional

church” writers have indicated, the present day needs another such age of strong,

adventurous, spiritually empowered Christians.

This raises a final topic for further research. Both ancient “Celtic Christians” and

proponents of an adapted “Celtic” spirituality for today give great attention to the

saints.801 What role may inspiration from “the communion of saints” play in a program of

“Celtic” spiritual formation? That question would require another research project.

798
Gilbert Màrkus, “Pelagianism and the ‘Common Celtic Church’. A Review of Michael W. Herren
and Shirley Ann Brown, Christ in Celtic Christianity: Britain and Ireland from the Fifth to the Tenth
Century,” Innes Review 56.2 (November, 2005), 165-213.
799
See Chapter Two, p. 90 above. Cf. pp. 90-91.
800
Nicholson, “Celtic Theology: Pelagius”, 397, as quoted in Chapter Two p. 90 above.
801
Mary C. Earle and Sylvia Maddox, Holy Companions: Spiritual Practices from the Celtic Saints
(Harrisburg PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2004); Neil and Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones and Andrew M. Seddon,
Walking with the Celtic Saints. A Devotional (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004); John
Marsden, Sea-Road of the Saints: Celtic Holy Men in the Hebrides (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1995);
Graham Panes, Voyages of the Celtic Saints (Orsaf, Llanrwst, Wales: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2007);
Elizabeth Rees, Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers; Gabriel Cooper Rochelle, A Staff to the Pilgrim:
Meditations on the Way with Nine Celtic Saints; Edward Sellner, Wisdom of the Celtic Saints; Shirley
Toulson, The Celtic Year: A Celebration of Celtic Christian Saints, Sites and Festivals (Shaftsbury, Dorset
UK: Element Books Limited, 1993); Richard Woods, The Spirituality of the Celtic Saints.

201
III. A Final Prayer

Thus says the Lord:


Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)

“Celtic Christian” spirituality can be understood as a response to this invitation.802 In

Chapter One, it was argued that seeking the Spirit’s help in guiding one’s own spirit is at

the heart of what can be named as a “Biblical spirituality”: Celtic Christians confessed

with Psalm 142:3, “When my spirit is faint, you know my way.” They prayed with Psalm

143:7,10: “Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails…. Let your good Spirit lead me

on a level path.”803 And so this thesis has recovered and tested five possible “P.A.T.H.S.

in Celtic Spirituality”, whereby believers’ spirits may be more open to the sanctifying

work of the Holy Spirit.

David Adam exhibits a contemporary “Celtic Christian” example of this attention to a

“path” or a “way”. His Intercessions for the Sunday between June 26 and July 2 for Year

“C” in the Revised Common Lectionary include the versicles and responses, “Show us the

paths of life: Lord, graciously hear us.” In Commissioning the congregation and inviting

them to exchange greetings of Peace, the leader is to say: “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus,

who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that you may walk in the path of peace.” The

final benediction goes: “The Holy Spirit fill your whole being, that you may walk in the

way of love, joy and peace, and glorify the Lord in the beauty of holiness…”804

802
Quoted on page 132 above.
803
Quoted on page 19 above.
804
David Adam, Glimpses of Glory: Prayers for the Church Year, Year C (Harrisburg PA: Morehouse
Publishing, 2000), 94 f.

202
Two of the prayers in this thesis for the Spirit to guide the believer in delightful

“ways” or “paths” come from the ancient Celtic mission.805 Four more come from

contemporary pilgrims806 --including the poem by one of the experiment’s participants.807

Thirteen of the works referenced and included in the Bibliography below even highlight

“paths” or “ways” in their titles.808 Such concerns for the “paths” or “ways” of true

spirituality are reflections of the psalmist’s prayer: “You show me the path of life. In your

presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm

16:11) His prayer then is not only for faithful integrity and missional fecundity. It is also

joy and delight –in the words of Natural Church Development, “Passionate Spirituality”.

This thesis has been a prayerful attempt to answer God’s invitation through Jeremiah

to “look…to the ancient paths where the good lies; and walk in it...” Its contention has

been that at least five recovered and adapted ancient “Celtic Christian” practices do

indeed offer “paths” for increased spiritual passion today. The researcher’s prayers to this

end shall be concluded with this delightful petition from the Carmina Gadelica:

Be thou a bright flame before me,


Be thou a guiding star above me,
Be thou a smooth path below me,
And be a kindly shepherd behind me,
Today, tonight and for ever.809

805
An Eighth Century hermit, p. 46; St. Columba, p. 51 above.
806
John Philip Newell, p. 114; Thomas McPherson, p. 138; David Cole, p. 159 above.
807
Ngaire Nelson, p. 192 above.
808
See the Bibliography below for works by Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Ian Bradley (two), Esther de Wall,
David Durston, Andy and Jane Fitz-Gibbon, George G. Hunter III, John Macquarrie, John McNeil, Calvin
Miller and Michael Mitton, Gabriel Cooper Rochel, and Ray Simpson and Brent Lyons-Lee.
809
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 47.

203
Appendix 1:

P.A.T.H.S. Parish Newsletter Story and Invitation

204
Appendix 2:

“P.A.T.H.S.” Poster for the Parish

205
Appendix 3: Consent Form

Recovering Paths of Celtic Christian Spirituality:


Everyday Experiments for Anglican Parishioners in West Saint John.
Informed Consent Form
Date of Acadia University Research Ethics Board Approval (Project “REB 18-40”):
July 13, 2018.
Principal Investigator: Rev. Chris McMullen, Doctor of Ministry Student,
Acadia Divinity College
Thesis Supervisor: Dr. John McNally, Acadia Divinity College

Project Description:
You are being invited to participate in a research project, which will run for three months
commencing in September, 2018. This is to aid Rev. Chris in his study of Celtic Christian
Spirituality and its applicability to Christian life today.
The project, “P.A.T.H.S. of Celtic Christian Spirituality” will consist of an experimental
recovery and adaptation of practices inspired by the early Celtic Christian forbears of the
Anglican spiritual tradition. You will be asked to participate in five regular spiritual
disciplines, which will be explained by brief written guidelines. The practices will consist
of:
--“Psalms in Prayer”: Devotionally reading, reflecting upon and praying
each of a selected five assigned psalms or portions of a psalm each week,
during a simple daily “devotional time”.
--“Adventures in Blessing”: engaging each week in one personally chosen,
intentional activity of giving “blessing” to another or others outside the parish
fold. This may take the form of service to others, outreach, hospitality, an
encouraging communication like a visit or a card, etc. You may make journal
notes of your “adventures” for reflection and discussion with a “spiritual
friend” or anamchara.
--“Trinitarian Prayers”: Seven brief prayers offered each day (rising,
starting the day, three mealtime graces, the daily devotional time focused on
a psalm, and before going to bed). Prayers in the Celtic heritage (Trinitarian
and triadic, poetic and easy to remember) will be provided, or you may
choose or compose your own.
--“Holiness in Creation”: A simple activity or project each week, which you
will choose, to help you rediscover the presence of the Holy God in God’s
great creation (e.g. recycling; keeping a bird-feeder; nature walk; reflections
on the beach; admiring the stars).
--“Soul Friendships”: Bi-weekly meetings with a mutually chosen partner
for confidentially discussing and reviewing your progress and delight or
challenge in each of the five practices, to pray together, and share and support

206
one another, as you are led by the Spirit. This will be a simplified version of
the Celtic Christian practice of anamchara or “soul friendship.”

Your Role in the Research Project’s Evaluation:


At the beginning of the project you will complete the Natural Church Development
“Spiritual Style Test” in Christian Schwarz’s book, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality
(which will be provided), and share the numerical results with our Parish Secretary, Lori
Maker. She will assign you a number, alone by which Rev. Chris will know your scores.
You may keep the test itself.

(P.A.T.H.S. Consent Form, Second Page)

At the conclusion of the project, you will be asked to complete the same “Spiritual Style
Test” a second time, and again share the numerical results, identified only by your
confidential number, with Lori Maker, who will pass both sets of numerical results on to
Rev. Chris for comparison and analysis. You will get to keep, dispose of or use the tests
themselves as you desire.
Also at the conclusion of the project, you will be encouraged to participate in a recorded
“Focus Group” of no more than eight people, to review and evaluate the benefits, if any,
of the program.
Please be assured that this program is for the purpose of evaluating the helpfulness of
recovering and adapting an intentional program of “Celtic Christian Spirituality” for
Anglican parishioners today. It is the P.A.T.H.S. program itself, and not the participants,
who are being evaluated. The “Spiritual Style Test” results and Focus Group discussions
will only be used for this purpose.
All participants will be parishioners of the Church of the Good Shepherd (Parish of
Lancaster).

Possible Risks and Benefits.


The possible benefit will be your personal growth in Christian faith and spirituality.
There may be a risk of embarrassment or inconvenience in your chosen “adventures” of
giving blessing to others on a weekly basis. There may also be similar risks associated
with choosing and confidentially sharing with a “Soul Friend” about your Christian walk
and spiritual experiences.
It is Rev. Chris’s hope that this “experiment” will increase your personal spiritual vitality.
There are no foreseeable risks (other than possible disappointment) to our parish as a
whole.
The entire project will be governed by the mandate of the Diocese of Fredericton’s
“Regulation 4.4: Safe Church Policy” (http://anglican.nb.ca/legislation/regulations/4-
4_safe_church.pdf).
The commencing and concluding surveys will require about an hour of your time each.
The Focus Group Discussion will last from one and a half to two hours. The five

207
“practices” will require less than half an hour a day in total, and an additional two to three
hours a week for the “Adventures in Blessing,” “Holiness in Creation” and “Soul
Friendship” activities.

Voluntary Participation:
You are under no obligation to participate in this project, and you are free to withdraw,
without prejudice or disapproval at any time (including during the concluding Focus
Group discussions). The Acadia University Ethics review Board forbids Rev. Chris
from exerting any pressure on parishioners, making you feel obliged to participate!
The program and its parts will be explained in parish communications at regular intervals.
You are free to adapt, withdraw from, or recommence any part of the five “P.A.T.H.S.”
practices as you choose. Rev. Chris will be available to answer all questions, or respond
to any concerns. This will include the withdrawal of any or all test numerical scores that
you have shared, or any notes on your input gathered from the concluding Focus Group
discussions. The deadline for requesting the withdrawal of such retained information will
be two months after the official completion of the project. (The date will be announced
and shared when the project commences.) Simply let our Parish Secretary, Lori Maker,
know that your file is to be withdrawn from the project (635-8145).

Use of the Findings:


Rev. Chris will present and use the findings, in an aggregate manner, in his doctoral
thesis, which will be held in a public record at Acadia University. Individual scores or
comments will only be used anonymously, as illustrations of general observations or
conclusions. This thesis, or parts of it, might be published or shared with other people in
the future.

(P.A.T.H.S. Consent Form, Third Page)


Confidentiality:
Individual test scores and contributions to the Focus Groups will all be treated with strict
confidentiality and considered only under anonymity. Any voluntary questions or
discussions you choose to have with Rev. Chris, which would be only at your initiative,
will be treated with confidentiality as well, under the Diocese of Fredericton’s “Safe
Church” policy (see link above).
As well as retaining test scores, focus group notes will be taken and used. Both will be
stored in a secure, locked cabinet, either at the Church or the Parish rectory. At the
conclusion of Rev. Chris’s thesis, all numerical scores, results and notes (other than what
is in the thesis) will be destroyed.
Note: “Soul-Friend” partners are also expected to treat one-another’s discussions and
conversations with full confidentiality. Signing this form indicates your agreement to this
respectful practice.
Please note: that though confidentiality will be expected of “Soul-Friends” and the
participants in the Focus Groups, Rev. Chris cannot guarantee that all participants will
each fully live up to this expectation.

208
Responsibilities and Rights of the Participants:
Participants will be asked to willingly experiment with trying all five “Celtic Christian”
spiritual practices, in a prayerful and attentive manner which is personally suitable to
them.
You have the right to withdraw at any time from any of the practices, or the entire project
itself.
By consenting to participate in this research project, you will not waive any rights,
including that of legal recourse, which you have under Canadian or provincial law, the
research ethics criteria of Acadia University, and/or the Safe Church Policy of the
Diocese of Fredericton.

Compensation:
Other than a provided copy of The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, you will not be
compensated.

Ethical Concerns:
Should you have any ethical, scientific or scholarly questions about this research, you are
entitled to contact the Chair of the Ethical Research Board at Acadia University:
Dr. Stephen Maitzen,
Email smaitzen@acadiau.ca
Telephone: (902) 585-1407 Facsimile (902) 585-1096
Or the research supervisor:
Rev. Dr. John McNally
Email john.mcnally@acadiau.ca
Telephone: (902) 585-2231
* * * * *
Signature of Consent:
By signing, you indicate you understand all the above, and consent to participate under
the terms indicated.
Signed: Research Subject: __________________________ Date: _______________

Researcher: __________________________ Date: _______________


Rev. Chris McMullen, goodshep@nb.sympatico.ca, (506) 635-8145.
(Copies of this form to be retained by both the Research Subject and the Researcher.)

209
Appendix 4:

P.A.T.H.S. Participant’s Guide

210
(Participant’s Guide, Second Page)

211
(Participant’s Guide, Third Page)

212
(Participant’s Guide, Fourth Page)

213
Appendix 5:

Outline for the P.A.T.H.S. Daily Quiet Time

(Front Page)

214
(Second Page)

215
(Third Page)

216
(Fourth Page)

217
(Appendix 5 Fifth Page: Psalms Bookmark for the Participant’s Bible)

218
Appendix 6:

P.A.T.H.S. “Seven Trinitarian Prayers”

First Page

219
(“Seven Trinitarian Prayers” Second Page)

220
Appendix Seven:

Recovering Paths of Celtic Christian Spirituality:


Everyday Experiments for Anglican Parishioners in West Saint John.
Questions for Concluding Focus Groups:
Opening Question:
(1) Please understand that everything we share together in this time is to be considered
confidential, with the exception of anonymous notes retained by the researcher. Tell us
your name, and how long you participated in this “PATHS of Celtic Christian
Spirituality” experiment.
Introductory Question:
(2) The “PATHS” experiment revived and adapted for today, five spiritual practices,
inspired by the Celtic Christian fathers and mothers of our Anglican heritage. What were
you hoping for, when you volunteered to participate in this program?
Transition Question:
(3) Let us start with an over-all assessment of your experience in the “PATHS” Program.
We will chart these responses on a flip-chart, without attaching specific names: Please
feel free to also give one or more reasons for your assessment. For you personally, was it:
“Not Worthwhile;” “Somewhat Worthwhile;” or “Very Worthwhile”?
Key Questions:
(4) How did you personally participate, overall, in the program?

(5) The first practice, “P”, was to take a quiet time read, reflect upon and pray a selected
“Psalm” or part of a “Psalm” on five different days each week.
(5.1) How did you undertake and experience this practice?
(5.2) How do you evaluate its helpfulness for your life of faith? How might you
modify it?

(6) The second practice, “A”, was to engage in an “Adventure of Blessing” each week.
(6.1) How did you undertake and experience this practice?
(6.2) How do you evaluate its helpfulness for your life of faith? How might you
modify it?

(7) The third practice, “T”, was to briefly pray to God the Holy Trinity, seven times over
each day.
(7.1) How did you undertake and experience this practice?
(7.2) How do you evaluate its helpfulness for your life of faith? How might you
modify it?

(Continued...)

221
(Questions for Concluding Focus Groups, Second Page)

(8) The fourth practice, “H”, was to weekly experience the Holiness of God in God’s
great creation.
(8.1) How did you undertake and experience this practice?
(8.2) How do you evaluate its helpfulness for your life of faith? How might you
modify it?

(9) The fifth practice, “S”, was to partner and regularly meet with a “Soul Friend” or
anamchara over the life of the program, to share your experiences and support and pray
for each other.
(9.1) How did you undertake and experience this practice?
(9.2) How do you evaluate its helpfulness for your life of faith? How might you
modify it?

(10) Overall, how would you personally assess the relative value or helpfulness of each
practise?

Ending Questions:
(11) What advice might you give to others who may want to participate in a program like
“PATHS”?

(12) This would be my brief summary, as a Moderator, of what we have discussed and
shared in this focus group... Was this a fair summary, and did I leave anything important
out?

(13) The purpose of this experiment was to try out five spiritual practices, inspired by
some of the disciplines of the early Celtic Christian mission, in order to discover whether
such an intentional program of spiritual habits for today might have a positive impact on
our faith. Have we missed anything of importance in our discussions?

222
Appendix 8:

“Celtic Christian” Hymns and Songs

(Tune names are in Brackets.)

Sources:

CH Ray Simpson, ed., Celtic Hymn Book. Suffolk UK: Kevin Mayhew, 2004.
CHy4 Church Hymnary Trust, Church Hymnary: Fourth Edition. Norwich: Canterbury
Press, 2005.
CP Anglican Church of Canada, Common Praise. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1998.
ICA Keith Getty, Krystin Getti and Stuart Townend, In Christ Alone: Acoustic Praise for
the Growing Choir. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2013.
MP Peter Horrobin and Greg Leavers, Mission Praise. Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Music
Edition. London: Collins, 2009.
VU United Church of Canada, Voices United. The Hymn and Worship Book of the United
Church of Canada. Etobicoke ON: United Church Publishing House, 1996.

All Glory to God (Ash Grove) CH 5


Alleluia (Celtic Alleluia) CH 3
Amazing Grace (New Britain) CP 352
As Those of Old Their First Fruits Brought (Forest Green) VU 518
As We Gather at Your Table (Beach Spring) VU 457
Be Thou My Vision (Slane) CP 505
Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) ICA
Born of the Water (Bunessan) –Chris McMullen
By Faith (By Faith) ICA
Child in the Manger (Bunessan) MP 71
Christ be Beside Me (Bunessan) CH 28
Christ is Our Light (Highland Cathedral) CHy4 336
Come and Journey with a Saviour (Beach Spring) CP 482
Come, People of the Risen King (Come People of the Risen King) ICA
Creation Sings the Father’s Song (Creation Sings) ICA
Deep Peace of the Running Wave (Deep Peace) CH 40
Embrace the Universe with Love (St. Columba) CH 44

223
(Appendix 8, Second Page)

For the Fruit of All Creation (Ar Hyd Y Nos) CP 259


From the Falter of Breath (Iona Boat Song) CP 489
From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable (Immanuel) MP 1045
Gather Around, for the Table is Spread (Skye Boat Song) CH 53
God is Here, As We Your People Blaenwern) VU 389
God the All Holy (Bunessan) VU 484
Here, Lord, We Take the Broken Bread (St. Columba) CP 65
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (How Deep the Father’s Love) MP 988
How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place (Brother James’ Air) CP 498
I Bind Unto Myself Today (Candler) –Chris McMullen
I Cannot Tell (Londonderry Air) MP 266
I Come with Joy, a Child of God (Land of Rest) CP 60
I Feel the Winds of God Today (Kingsfold) VU 625
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (Kingsfold) CP 508
In Christ Alone (In Christ Alone) MP 1072
In the Place of Stillness (Christ in Quiet) CH 93
Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him (Blaenwern) CH 101
Jesus Draw Me Nearer (May This Journey) CH 104
Lord of All Hopefulness (Slane) CP 506
Lord of the Dance (Simple Gifts) VU 352
Lord, We Hear Your Word with Gladness (Blaenwern) CP 447
Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service (Beach Spring) CP 585
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (Blaenwern) CP 486
Morning Has Broken (Bunessan) CP 3
My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness (Thankfulness) MP1209
My Life Flows on in Endless Song (How Can I Keep from Singing) CP 401
My Soul is Filled with Joy (Wild Mountain Thyme) CH 138
O God, Creation’s Loving Source (O Waly Waly) VU 490
O God of the Elements (Ag Chriost an Sìol) CH 143
O God, You Gave Your Servant John (Candler) VU 718
Our Father... (“Millennium Prayer”) (Auld Lang Sine) –Paul Field and Stephen Deal

224
(Appendix 8, Third Page)

Put Peace Into Each Other’s Hands (St. Columba) CH 161


Should I Rehearse with Human Voice (A Rosebud) CP 495
Shout to the North (Men of Faith, Rise Up and Sing...) (Smith) MP 1094
Sing Ye Praises to the Father (Arfon Major) CP 391
Spirit of God, Come Dwell Within Me (Mallaig Sprinkling Song) CH 172
Spirit of God, Unseen as the Wind (Skye Boat Song) CH 174
The King of Love My Shepherd Is (St. Columba) VU 273
There is an Everlasting Kindness (Compassion Hymn) ICA
This Day God Gives Me (Bunessan) VU 410
Though I May Speak (O Waly Waly) VU 72
Through the Love of God our Saviour (Ar Hyd Y Nos) CH 193
Touch the Earth Lightly (Tenderness) CH 197
Up From the Depths I Cry to God (MacPherson’s Farewell/Rant) VU 852
Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters (Beach Spring) CP 35
We Cannot Measure How You Heal (Ye Banks and Braes [Candler]) CP 292
We Shall Go Out with Hope of Resurrection (Londonderry Air) VU 586
When I Survey (Celtic Version) (O Waly Waly) MP 1126
Who Would Ever Have Believed It (Ae Fond Kiss) CP 199
Will You Come and Follow Me (Kelvingrove) CP 430
You Whose Breathing Fills Our Bodies (Blaenwern) CH 219

225
Appendix 9:

Tables of NCD “Spiritual Style Test” Results

Table 1: “P.A.T.H.S. Aggregate Scores”

PATHS in Celtic Christian Spirituality NCD "Spiritual Style Test" Data: Sept'18 - Jan'19
Spreadsheet 1: "PATHS" Aggregate Scores.
Part. "Native Style" * "Wing Style" * "Opposite Style" * Aggregate Score
No: Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change
12 Sac 84 Sac 91 7 Sen 70 Sen 87 17 SD 70 Sha 86 6 644 711 67
17 Rat 129 Sac 128 13 Doc 126 Sen 120 3 Ent 118 Sha 119 0 1033 1074 41
19 Rat 99 Sac 101 5 Sen 90 Sen 90 0 Asc 74 Sha 98 2 764 838 74
22 Asc 106 Asc 109 3 Ent 81 Ent 86 5 Rat 87 Rat 81 -6 784 828 44
23 Sac 123 Sac 115 -8 Sen 93 Sen 96 3 Sha 92 Sha 77 -15 843 825 -18
29 Sen 123 Asc 130 13 Sac 118 Ent 89 -8 Asc 117 Rat 123 7 994 1091 97
30 Sha 116 Sha 116 0 SD 97 SD 110 13 Sac 103 Sac 91 -12 898 894 -4
32 Doc 102 Sac 113 12 Rat 70 Sen 105 21 Ent 70 Sha 86 19 738 853 115
33 Sac 115 Sac 129 14 Sen 108 Sen 126 18 Sha 98 Sha 104 6 813 1011 198
36 Sen 111 Sen 120 9 Sac 110 Sac 113 3 Sha 104 Sha 110 6 916 936 20
37 Doc 119 Doc 121 2 Rat 102 Rat 111 9 Ent 99 Ent 89 -10 806 840 34
44 Asc 109 Ent 118 14 Ent 104 Mys 106 -2 Rat 90 Doc 99 -3 848 877 29
45 Sac 96 Sen 98 17 Sen 81 Sac 108 12 Sha 77 Sha 73 0 733 751 18
Total: 101 94 0 10814 11529 715
Average growth: 7.7 7.2 0 55.0
Abbreviations for Spiritual Styles: Asc: "Ascetic" % Growth: 6.6%
Doc: "Doctrinal"
Ent: "Enthusiastic"
Mys: "Mystical"
Rat: "Rational"
Sac: "Sacramental"
SD: "Scripture-Driven"
Sen: "Sensory"
Sha: "Sharing"
*"Change" in the "Native", "Wing" and "Opposite Style" columns refer to change in new January style since September

226
Table 2: “P.A.T.H.S. Lowest Five Scores”

PATHS in Celtic Christian Spirituality NCD "Spiritual Style Test" Data: Sept'18 - Jan'19
Spreadsheet 2: "PATHS" Lowest 5 Scores (In ascending score)
th th
Part. Scripture Driven (9 ) Mystical (8 )* Enthusiastic (7 )* Rational (6 th)*
th
Ascetic (5 th)*
No: Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change
12 70 76 6 70 79 9 70 70 0 70 75 5 70 77 7
17 120 122 2 91 103 12 118 118 0 129 126 -3 103 111 8
19 70 81 11 79 79 0 78 86 8 99 75 -24 74 70 -4
22 84 91 7 72 97 25 81 86 5 87 81 -6 106 109 3
23 84 84 0 88 88 0 97 97 0 84 81 -3 83 88 5
29 115 112 -3 109 122 13 102 120 18 96 123 27 117 130 13
30 97 110 13 97 94 -3 97 89 -8 96 93 -3 91 100 9
32 70 89 19 73 85 12 70 84 14 70 90 20 88 97 9
33 84 89 5 100 122 22 99 115 16 102 108 6 100 109 9
36 102 102 0 103 100 -3 104 102 -2 96 102 6 80 83 3
37 79 91 12 94 103 9 99 89 -10 102 111 9 109 97 -12
44 76 94 18 108 106 -2 104 118 14 90 87 -3 109 85 -24
45 70 81 11 82 79 -3 78 75 -3 75 75 0 70 88 18
Total: 1121 1222 101 1166 1257 91 1197 1249 52 1196 1227 31 1200 1244 44
Average growth: 8.4 7 4 2.3 3.4
% 9.0% 7.8% 4.3% 2.5% 1.8%
* Change in rank
Sept-Jan: 9→9 8→5 7→6 6→8 5→7

227
Table 3: “P.A.T.H.S. Highest Four Scores”

PATHS in Celtic Christian Spirituality NCD "Spiritual Style Test" Data: Sept'18 - Jan'19
Spreadsheet 3: "PATHS" Highest 4 Scores. (In descending score)
st nd
Part. Sacramental (1 )* Doctrinal (2 )* Sensory (3 rd)* Sharing (4 th )*
No: Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change Sept. Jan. Change
12 84 91 7 70 70 0 70 87 17 70 86 16
17 115 128 13 126 126 0 117 120 3 116 119 3
19 96 101 5 89 84 -5 90 90 0 77 99 21
22 81 84 3 106 104 -2 78 90 12 89 86 -3
23 123 115 -8 99 99 0 93 96 3 92 77 -15
29 118 123 5 119 121 2 123 130 7 95 110 15
30 103 91 -12 114 114 0 87 87 0 116 116 0
32 101 113 12 102 104 2 84 105 21 80 86 6
33 115 129 14 97 109 12 108 126 18 98 104 6
36 110 113 3 106 104 -2 111 120 9 104 110 6
37 98 113 15 119 121 2 114 114 0 92 101 9
44 93 91 -2 77 99 22 90 99 9 101 98 -3
45 96 108 12 89 82 -7 81 98 17 77 77 0
Total: 1333 1400 67 1313 1337 24 1246 1362 116 1207 1269 61
Average growth: 5.1 2 8.9 5
% 5.0% 1.8% 9.3% 5.0%
* Change in rank
Sept-Jan: 1→1 2→3 3→2 4→4

228
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