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In my series, Redefining Orthodoxy, I attempted to explain how my beliefs–though atypical–fit within Christianity orthodoxy. This post marks the formal end of the series. However, as I feel so inspired, I may occasionally add additional posts. I hope that the series has not only helped clarify my perspective, but also provided an challenging and though-provoking alternative to traditionally held beliefs.
I recently read the following quote in Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen and felt it would be a fitting way to end this series.
Prayer as the language of the community is like our mother tongue. Just as a child learns to speak from his parents, brothers, sisters and friends but still develops his own unique way of expressing himself, so also our individual prayer life develops by the care of the praying community. Sometimes it is hard to point to any specific organizational structure which we can call “our community.” Our community is often a very intangible reality made up of people, living as well as dead, present as well as absent, close as well as distant, old as well as young. But without some form of community individual prayer cannot be born or developed. Communal and individual prayer belong together as two folded hands. Without community, individual prayer easily degenerates into egocentric and eccentric behavior, but without individual prayer, the prayer of the community quickly becomes a meaningless routine. Individual and community prayer cannot be separated without harm. This explains why spiritual leaders tend to be very critical of those who want to isolate themselves and why they stress the importance of continuing ties with a larger community where the individual prayer can be guided. This also explains why the same leaders have always encouraged the individual member of their communities to spend time and energy in personal prayer, realizing as they do that community alone can never fulfill the desire for the most unique intimate relationship between a human being and his or her God.