The www.feralspirituality.uk web-site began life last autumn, and this Lent, among other things, I’ve found myself mulling on what its existence has meant for me personally. To my surprise I realise that its opened my eyes in a number of ways.
Firstly, simply by naming ‘feral spirituality’ publicly, has meant that I now see it everywhere. That’s a common experience I think. I remember years ago when I bought a Skoda car. I’d never really noticed Skoda cars, but now driving one I was aware of lots of them on the road. Naming something often allows a greater awareness of the thing named. So it was for me with feral spirituality.
Spirituality is about life under God and implies knowing & being known by God, on the one hand, and responding in life on the other. Feral spirituality is about that outside & beyond the bounds of organised religion. It is impossible to know for sure if somebody knows God or is aware of being known by God, but its not so difficult to recognise activity that demonstrates living out of that knowledge, and so to some extent, named or not named, knowing it. St Paul in Galatians names the fruits of the Spirit of God as being “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I’d add ‘hope’. Wherever & whenever we encounter those things we are encountering feral spirituality, and its everywhere. There are stories on the web-site of that happening in places you might not expect to find, that excite & encourage me. But it mostly happens in tiny ways, involving people of all faiths and none, and usually well below my radar, which of course seems to be God’s preferred ‘modus operandi’.
Secondly, that links with my increasing preference for talking about spiritual conversations rather than spiritual direction. A spiritual conversation can take place, and frequently does, with anyone & anything. Its not just human beings who are called to incarnate something of God, its everything. I can & sometimes do, have a spiritual conversation with a flower, a tree, a landscape, an animal, a piece of music, a painting or sculpture, a poem, as well as with a fellow human being. If I can, everyone and everything can.
I am excited by this not because I imperialistically want to plant a feral spirituality flag or a spiritual conversation flag on lots of new territory. But because I want to plant a God flag there. God is not dead but everywhere, it’s a matter of becoming aware. God is active and busy in the lives of people of all faiths & none, and in every aspect of creation.
Thirdly, all of the above, has coloured my understanding & love of the feral Jesus.
The implications of this seem to me to be huge, life changing, and very much needed, not only by me, but much more importantly, by our world. If ‘feralspirituality’ can increase its awareness in even a small way it will have justified its existence.
I’ve just spent a relaxing weekend with one of my daughters who lives in Swansea. She introduced me to Clyne Gardens which are close to her new home, and on Saturday while she was out, I went for a wander there. I wandered rather than walked, as there is so much to look at its best to go slowly & to stay open to surprises. I found a bench by a small pond and sat & gazed around me in silence. After a while a lady walked past with her dog, and we fell into conversation. Her dog was getting on in years and she told me that it had been rescued from the streets of Cyprus greatly overweight and brought back to Wales where she had adopted it and cared it into a much healthier condition. ‘Hmm’ I thought.
She then went to tell me of how a woman she she knew had recently wandered past the pond where we now were, and had noticed that a bat had flown into the water, presumably by accident, had managed to get to the pond’s edge but was unable to get itself out. So, she knelt by the pond, slipped her hand into the water & beneath the bat, & had lifted it up & out, before holding it sunshine until it was dry and able to fly away. But not before biting her hand. ‘Hmm’ I thought. ‘That’s two examples of feral spirituality that I’ve learnt about in less that five minutes”
I wandered on and found a small decorated caravan covered in plants where another woman was selling refreshments. As she was not busy, I fell into conversation with her too. She was kind & friendly, made me an excellent cup of tea & sold me a piece of shortbread & one of rockyroad, that I took to a nearby bench to eat & drink. There were parents encouraging small children to walk & to explore; there were people with dogs, many dogs, having great fun chasing each other; there were people just strolling by, others standing & chatting, & others like me drinking tea & eating. I thought ‘this place is full of examples of feral spirituality in every direction I look.’
There’s a chapel in the Gardens, with a service on a Sunday, and I had thought I might go, but I realised that I didn’t need to as I was being offered all the hospitality & spiritual nourishment I needed sat on this bench. Some of the couples walking by were holding hands, and for a moment I felt lonely sat on my own. But then I thought ‘Come on H, you’re sat in this beautiful place surrounded by feral spirituality if you have the awareness to see it, surely God is holding your hand here?’ And it was true.
First posted at www.feralspirituality.uk