News and Updates: New Spirituality Faculty at GSRRE and upcoming lecture at Westchester

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Spirituality Faculty at GSRRE and upcoming lecture at Westchester

GRE Spreads the Word about Spirituality

By Joanna Klimaski

Few would question the link between Spirituality and Christianity—but what about the spirituality of business?

The two might seem at odds, but faculty and administrators at the
Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) believe
that spirituality can play an important role in many fields of study.

“Spirituality is about learning how faith can concretely help your
relationships become better and your life become better,” said C.
Colt Anderson, Ph.D., dean of GRE. “Our focus on spirituality
[at GRE] is to draw these horizons together so that people can
understand the truth of the teachings in themselves, and how these
principles are at play in the world.”

In its broadest sense, spirituality is the way in which one “lives out”
a faith, Christian or otherwise. Spiritual practices often include
religious activities such as praying and reading Scripture, but they
also have practical secular components. “Meditative practices, for
example, allow you to get outside of situations to rejuvenate
creativity and focus,” Dean Anderson said. “You can apply this to
business, politics, communications—taking the time out for quiet
contemplation, getting perspective on things.”

He cited, for example, corporate expert Jim Collins, author of
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
(HarperCollins, 2011), who wrote about the “paradoxical blend”
of humility (deferring personal needs for the greater good of the
company) and ambition (the drive to help the company succeed)
at work in the corporate world.

These traits, which Collins argues are requisite for corporate leaders,
are also considered Christian virtues.  “Christian spirituality is consonant
with leadership and management skills today,” Dean Anderson said.
“Christian leaders also encourage channeling egoistic needs away from
oneself to focus on the larger goal of building the Kingdom of Heaven
which is not a personal mission, it’s a larger mission… These leaders are
humble, but they’re very ambitious.”

The study of spirituality has always been central at GRE—several
master’s and doctoral programs, as well as a faith formation certificate
, include concentrations in spirituality. Recently, though, GRE has taken
steps to amplify the message.

This year, the school added two new professors of spirituality: Shannon
McAlister, Ph.D., an expert in the history of feminine language for God,
and Francis McAloon, S.J., former associate professor of Christian
Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University.

On Oct. 26, the pair will give a joint lecture, “New Directions in
Spirituality,” at Fordham Westchester.  McAlister’s talk offers an
innovative take on the Christian conception of God. “There’s this
concept of speaking about God as like a mother, and specifically
conceiving and giving birth,” she said. “You find this in Scripture,
and I argue that you find it in the theology behind the Nicene Creed.”
McAlister explained that the original rendition of the creed used the
Latin word natus, meaning “born,” to describe Jesus as “born of the
Father”—wording that evokes mother imagery. Incorporating such
language could promote a more holistic spirituality and help women
see themselves as “fully made in the image of God,” McAlister said.

Father McAloon will discuss discernment, a key element of Christian
spirituality and, at its core, a decision-making process, by tracing the
practice from the New Testament to Ignatian spirituality.  “Spiritual
discernment means taking seriously that God has an intention or desire
for each of us, and part of our spiritual journeys include discerning what
God’s will is for us,” Father McAloon said. “I think it’s helpful to go
back and look at the Pauline letters and other texts that support this idea
that spiritual discernment is key to Christian discipleship.”  McAlister
and Father McAloon said that spirituality is important for the religious
and non-religious alike.

“Having a spirituality is constitutive of being a human person,” Father
McAloon said. “It’s part of everybody, no matter whether you believe
in a God or are an atheist. It’s part of what orients us beyond ourselves
to some sense that there is more than just ‘me’ in this world.”  It’s a
message that the GRE plans to take beyond the classroom by hosting
public events such as the Westchester lectures, forging new connections,
and more. “My hope is that we’re going to take the discipline of spirituality
and really show people how to carry it out into the broader world,” Dean
Anderson said. “[To show] that spirituality is relevant to professional as
well as personal life, and that it needs to be carried out in the other schools
and in involved partnerships with secular institutions, such as businesses.
“Because spiritual traditions could contribute to a more equitable and, indeed,
even more profitable society.”

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