The Spiritual Practice of Remembering

The Spiritual Practice of Remembering We Often Dismiss History As Dull Or Irrelevant, But Our Modern Disengagement From The Past Puts Us Fundamentally Out Of Step With The Long Witness Of The Christian Tradition Yet, Says Margaret Bendroth, The Past Tense Is Essential To Our Language Of Faith, And Without It Our Conversation Is Limited And ThinThis Accessible, Beautifully Written Book Presents A New Argument For Honoring The Past The Christian Tradition Gives Us The Powerful Image Of A Vast Communion Of Saints, All Of God S People, Both Living And Dead, In Vital Conversation With Each Other This Kind Of Connection With Our Ancestors In The Faith, Bendroth Maintains, Will Not Happen By Wishing Or By Accident She Argues That Remembering Must Become A Regular Spiritual Practice, Part Of The Rhythm Of Our Daily Lives As We Recognize Our World To Be, In Many Ways, A Gift From Others Who Have Gone Before

Margaret Peggy Bendroth is Executive Director of the Congregational Library and Archives and a historian of American religion.

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  • Paperback
  • 142 pages
  • The Spiritual Practice of Remembering
  • Margaret Bendroth
  • English
  • 01 August 2019
  • 9780802868978

10 thoughts on “The Spiritual Practice of Remembering

  1. says:

    What is the value of an old hat placed under a glass plate in a New England church Never mind the book value The question has to do with the importance of any serious reflection on the past I was drawn to the book because of the author s answer to this question right up front There is something awe inspiring about an object that is indescribably old Bendroth impresses me with her insights on the spiritual meaning of remembering, but she comes to them as a historian Neurologically, we now know that memory centers in the brain are tucked fairly deeply within the folds under our skull, and that they connect to some of our primal nerve centers that in many ways inform our subconscious selves This is also a spiritual reality, even if it is a non traditional one Bendroth as a religious historian has sensed this without the biology In a world so seemingly at odds with the past where only the up to date and technologically advanced ideas win the day Bendroth reminds us that we need real stories, mythological fantasies, even the memory of suffering if we are not to remain stranded in the present I was impressed by her argument that the Holocaust banished our previous if local Christian anti Semitisms But I was even persuaded by her argument that religious tradition is, At its heart a long conversation And that the doctrines that may focus our piety and our belligerence are not the only spiritually meaningful ties to the past So although it is possible to study history in a strictly rational way, it is often meaningful certainly spiritually meaningful to remember the past as a personal journey of the imagination If Bendroth s short book is really of an essay, her argument is weighty indeed This is a book I will refer to frequently.

  2. says:

    Based on Professor McKenzie s recommendation, I checked out this book from our local library for summer reading As a student of history since retirement about 3 years ago, I have enjoyed reading a number of books on both church history and American history As such, this book provided a heightened appreciation for my continued reading and study of history.First of all, the author provides a healthy and sound motivation for a history student history is not about sorting the good people from the bad, or the real believers from the frauds, as if we had a God s eye view across time and space It is not about finding allies to support our personal judgments or the particular causes of our time Historical perspective is a way of knowing ourselves, of seeing clearly the strengths and weaknesses of our Christian faith as it has been shaped by the demands of the early twenty first century Moreover, one could use imagination to be a real participant in history In a sense history is always about the imagination, since there is no way to travel to the past as we would to a foreign country But there is a thin line between approaching people and events through imagination and assuming that they are in fact imaginary The first assumes that the past was real, with a separate integrity all its own the second that there is no past at all beyond what we choose to see For a student of church history, one has the added privilege of connecting with Christian thinkers in the past aka communion of saints Christian faith offers points of connection with our ancestors In fact, our religious traditions come with an endless array of talking partners, people from the past who might challenge or delight us, frustrate or anger us but are still speaking the same language of faith None of us in this old, old conversation have or better truth than the other we are not high on the chronological ladder of enlightenment than our ancestors We are simply part of the same communion of saints, God s people spread across time and space, who need each other to perfect our faith We are not isolated from the past or forever stranded in the present we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses In a profound sense, memory is a process of re collecting and re membering scattered people In the end, the author shed a thoughtful light for our role in His story For all our worries about divine providence and God s will, the really hard part about history is accepting the humanness of the past and its people Our ancestors are on the one hand terribly alien to us, yet we are also profoundly connected to them They confront us with the full span of human diversity, in beautiful, frustrating, and challenging ways We do not need to excuse them for their various sins and omissions, treating them as if they came from some wildly exotic civilization We have the right and the responsibility to disagree and complain and rail against them within the framework of our common tradition, that extended argument constantly unfolding across both space and time Even though they do not literally talk back, it is still possible to learn to hear their voices clearly WIthout our ancestors, we can t really know what it is to be human to be human is to bury our dead and, even important, to remember where they are being human means possessing a deep, rich soil, layers and layers of all that has gone on before we were born This is the kind of soil that makes life out of dead things, that connects them in a cycle of fertility and growth We are, after all, born of the dead, taking over their physical space, their language, and their ideas and we are the ones who will hand these over to our unborn We the living are a ligament between the generations, the only connection between what was long ago and what is yet to come.

  3. says:

    While this book is small in size only 132 pages it is an extremely important read for those who care about the church and about the Christian faith We live in a place and time that is often eager to forget the past Yet, the past has much to share with us, including much wisdom Margaret Bendroth is a historian serving as director of the Congregational Library in Boston Her calling is to help congregations remember their past so that they might have a healthy future It is a calling close to my heart She writes especially to Protestants who have, since the Reformation, tended to discount Tradition, confusing it with Traditionalism She speaks to those of us who come from Restorationist traditions that not only distrust the past, but want to jump back to the origins forgetting all that has come in between There is spiritual value in connecting with those who preceded us Indeed, we are connected with one another It is what makes us human to remember And, as she notes, Christians and Jews serve a God who Remembers why else would the biblical writers encourage God to remember I strongly recommend this book It has great spiritual value.

  4. says:

    Margaret Bendroth s book reminds us all of how important it is for individuals and groups to remember and honor the past to gather people together to re collect the past, to recognize the past s presence and its future possibilities Her last chapter evoked lovely images of our connections to the communion of saints and generations yet to be born I only wish that she had continued and offered practical insight into how the discipline of noticing and remembering can be practiced, especially by groups.

  5. says:

    Gave me a greater appreciation for history, for one thing Presented in the context of Judaism Christianity, but applicable to any connected group of human beings A great read

  6. says:

    I ve had many of these ideas, but not articulated nearly as well History matters because it connects us when we use it wisely.

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