Curating the Pastor's Heart: A Prescription for Renewal Through the Contemplative Lens of Thomas Merton
“Curating the Pastor’s Heart: A Prescription for Renewal Through the Contemplative Lens of Thomas Merton” argues that one of the most significant problems faced by parish pastors today is that they lead complex volunteer organizations that are shaped by the surrounding culture as much, if not more, than any New Testament paradigm. Pastors are pulled in various directions by the expectations of a culture and members that call for relevance, popularity, and power in ways similar to secular organizations and leaders. These expectations are rooted more in power and acquisitiveness than in the self-emptying Gospel of Jesus Christ. How can parish pastors remain rooted in their relationship with God while facing these demands? Drawing on the work of the philosopher James K.A. Smith, this thesis argues that parish pastors are desiring creatures whose love is formed by their habits, and that parish pastors to rise to the occasion of today’s leadership challenge must cultivate habits that draw them into deep relationship with God. The contemplative tradition explicitly seeks direct experience of God and provides rich resources for the parish pastor of the twenty-first century. “Curating the Pastor’s Heart” then draws on a limited selection from the corpus of the writings of Thomas Merton on contemplation to construct a thematic paradigm of discipleship practice as a resource of hope and renewal for parish ministry. The result is a paradigm that defines contemplation and calls the parish pastor to pursue a contemplative life of integrity, solitude, prayer, discipline and gratitude leading to hope and flourishing in challenging times.
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