Christian Expansion

Reflection
Belief and Unbelief
Being Church
Deepening Spirituality
Image of a person with an arm over another person's shoulders
Author
Don MacGregor

Don MacGregor is a retired Anglican Priest in St Davids, Wales UK. He has been a science teacher, then a priest in numerous churches, large and small, suburban and rural, and a university chaplain. He is also a meditator and a student of Perennial Philosophy.  He is passionate to find a new way forward for Christianity which incorporates twenty-first century science and worldviews.

I call myself a Christian. What do I mean by that? I mean that I am a follower of the teachings and example of Jesus the Christ. But I am not the same sort of Christian that I started out as. I am also a seeker after truth – things have to make sense to me. Following the teachings of Jesus have made sense to me as the best way for me to live. Before I started following Jesus seriously, I had looked into various other religions of the east: Hinduism, Buddhism and various more esoteric teachings like Theosophy, and all the Mind, Body Spirit stuff that you see in the bookshops. I am a questioner, I don't take things for granted, and I'm open-minded about a lot of what the Church has tied down as Christian doctrine, Christian 'truth', worked out over the years by all sorts of theologians, many of whom have had their own axe to grind at times. 

For instance, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, almost single-handedly put together the Book of Common Prayer in the mid 1500's. Those writings have influenced our view of Christianity for four centuries. Beautifully polished phraseology it may be, but it contains views of Christianity that many would not agree with nowadays. The confession during Holy Communion contains “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time have most grievously committed...The remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable” At Morning and Evening prayer, the plea to the Lord is to “have mercy on us miserable offenders”, and a lot more in the same vein. It has always seemed to me that either people were a lot more sinful and guilty in those days, or Cranmer was rather overzealous about it. That kind of 'woe is me' mentality is not, I believe, where God wants us to be, constantly whipping ourselves into paroxysms of guilt. It held the Protestant church in its thrall for four centuries, and we are only just beginning to escape from it through revision of the liturgies we use. I seek the truth, and in the teachings of Jesus I find a God of love, a way of being, the kingdom way, that is the best way to live, I believe. So I am a follower of Christ, for that reason, and find freedom in casting off some of the expressions of Christianity that have arisen over the millennia that I do not find helpful.

How did I get there? I grew up in a middle-class household, secure and loving, with a Christian background, going to Sunday school until I was nine, but then not entering a church again until I was thirty. In secondary education, I took the scientific route, with a very agnostic view of the world – there might be some force behind the universe, but it had nothing to do with me. I eventually became as a science teacher in a secondary school in Leicester. Whilst teaching, personal circumstances brought me to the end of my own resources. My wife suffered a severe depressive episode over a period of four years, which brought me up against my own limited abilities. I had tried everything I knew to help, in both medical and complementary therapies, all to no avail. In this situation of desperation, I cried out "If there is a God, help!" And that was the awakening of my spirit.

This led me to an interest in spiritual writings, but, having been to Sunday School, I thought I knew and had rightly rejected Christianity, so I spent a number of years searching and exploring various aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism, Theosophy and the Perennial Wisdom teachings of Alice Bailey, which included daily meditation and praying the ‘Great Invocation’. I was a ‘New Ager’ in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Through these teachings and meditation and numerous experiences, I came to a belief in God.

I turned back Christianity aged 30, through a combination of thinking, reading, asking questions and the influence of a loving church. Whilst on holiday in Pembrokeshire, Wales in 1983, I had a profound conversion experience of God’s love and my heart was opened – and my path became that of a ‘born-again’ charismatic evangelical. During the following seven years, I prayed in tongues, practiced deliverance ministry, had a curse cast out of me, and had numerous profound experiences of what was termed ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’, but what I would now prefer to call an experience of oneness with the divine or unitive consciousness. I always knew, somewhere in my ‘knower’, that my previous experience in and understanding of the New Age sphere was not wasted. (Not that there was much ‘new’ about it! It draws mostly on ancient practices and teachings)

I felt the call to full-time ministry in the late eighties, trained as an Anglican priest in Nottingham from 1991-1993, and have been a priest in a large evangelical middle-class church, small mid-Anglican Church, and chaplain to a major UK university, before moving to Wales. Here I have been a priest for eight small, traditional churches in Pembrokeshire, before retiring in 2017. In the last twenty years I have been drawn to the silence of contemplative prayer and meditation, the wisdom of the mystics, and more liberal and radical theology. Both the Centering Prayer method of Contemplative Outreach and the method taught by John Main of the World Community for Christian Meditation have been my mainstay in recent years. During this time I have been walking joyfully into a deeper understanding of the spiritual path, reading all sorts of other teachings outside of the church, ranging from quantum physics to metaphysics and the spiritual realms, and perceiving many connections between the two.

Lately, I have begun to recognise a movement in human consciousness over the last fifty years, a quickening, another evolutionary stage in the story of humanity, beginning to move us from tribal behaviour between peoples and nations to a place of compassion and recognition of our common humanity. In my first book, Blue Sky God: the Evolution of Science and Christianity I attempted to join up some of the dots between Science and Christianity, both of which are evolving to a new understanding in their respective spheres and are showing signs of convergence. My second book, Christianity Expanding: Into Universal Christianity, begins a series in which I am charting a course from the dogmatic framework of traditional Christianity to a bigger, more expansive cosmological picture, that of the Perennial Wisdom teachings. I am still a Christian, but one who follows the direction given to us by Jesus the Christ, rather than that of the Church doctrine. At its heart, it is a very simple teaching, to love one another, to want the best for each other, to care for and respect those in need and to have an understanding and compassionate heart towards those who fail to live up to their humanity. We are all on a transformative journey as we open up to the divine within and find ourselves changed, our hearts strangely warmed.

 

www.donmacgregor.co.uk

MacGregor, Don, 2012. Blue Sky God: the Evolution of Science and Christianity. Alresford UK: Circle Books, John Hunt Publishing

MacGregor, Don, 2020. Christianity Expanding: Into Universal Spirituality. Alresford UK: Christian Alternative Books, John Hunt Publishing

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