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The Spirituality Revolution - the emergence of contemporary spirituality

Author: David Tacey
Published By: Brunner-Routledge (London)
Pages: 250
Price: £15.99
ISBN: 1 58391 874 4

Reviewed by Sue Clements-Jewery.

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God”. This quotation (from Lenny Bruce) effectively sums up the spirituality revolution which is the focus of this book.  The author starts with the recognition that we in the west have outgrown the ideals and values of a religious era, and goes on to describe the new, spontaneous interest in, and expression of, spirituality not confined to the ever decreasing minority who practise organised religion. He draws on the research of David Hay and Kay Hunt of Nottingham university (Is Britain's soul wakening up?) which showed that more than 76% of the population admit to having had a spiritual experience while only 7% continue to attend church on a regular basis.

Tacey, associate professor of Psychoanalytic studies and Reader in Arts and Critical Enquiry at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, describes how, in his quest to follow the 'spirit of our time', he started with the Christian west, was challenged by the influence of the East and of Australian aboriginal cultures, and then moved on to study psychology , theology, sociology and history of religions. A veritable polymath!

I found this book an absolutely fascinating read! Part 1 surveys the contemporary scene, in which the author contrasts the closedness and rigidity of traditional religious systems with the openness of new more fluid movements exploring depth and meaning.  Part 2 (Youth Spirituality) draws on his experience in the university teaching a course entitled 'Spiritual rites of passage', part of a literature programme in the faculty of Humanities.  This, the longest section of the book, explores the 'underground stream' of his students' spiritual search.

'Discernment', the subject of part 3, asks vital questions about the authenticity of what passes for contemporary spirituality. Tacey challenges  the postmodern 'pick and mix', me-centred approach and highlights concepts of self sacrifice, social responsibility as sacred imperative and mysterium tremens . He rejects nostalgic traditionalism and rising fundamentalism as authentic expressions. In 'Concluding Reflections', he addresses gap between the church and the current trends, emphasising that the new movement of the spirit cannot be contained by old structures (new wine needs new wineskins?)  The last few pages are given over to a comprehensive bibliography entitled 'Spirituality as an emerging field of knowledge'.

Any pastor concerned to bridge the gap between the churched and the unchurched, and interested in emerging church issues, should find this book a stimulating read.

Sue Clements-Jewery

UKCP registered sexual and relationship psychotherapist in private practice in Huddersfield. A former Director of WHCM Bridge Counselling, she is a consultant to the Churches' Ministerial Counselling

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You are reading Issue 36 of Ministry Today, published in March 2006.

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