Falling in love with God : praying scripture with imagination


Falling in love with God : praying scripture with imagination


By Blake, Sandra Caswell, 2019. "The view from the chancel of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church/Denver on Sunday reveals 70 - 90 year old gray heads vastly outnumbering the young. It is cause for the concern among Episcopal churches and other Christian denominations that white Christians in the United States are statistically in decline. Folks who declare no religious affiliation at all are growing in number. Social Scientists call this phenomenon lagging generational replacement, changing racial demographics and cultural movement embracing diversity in America (diversity viewed by some as antithetical to Christianity). The Pew Research Center in 2014 reported five million fewer mainline Protestant adults than in 2007. And young adults (millennials raised in mainline traditions) are particularly unlikely to stay with mainline churches.2 Episcopalians in the United States appear to be a remnant people in a post-Christian age. In light of those inarguable trends, it was interesting that two young adults (in their late 20s and early 30s) that don’t usually attend adult education programs at St. Luke’s, were the first to volunteer for Falling in love with God, praying scripture with imagination, the subject of the Advent Retreat proposed to St. Luke’s as this dissertation project. Volunteer narratives from the study indicated serious desire to go deeper in the faith, in spite of the frenzied life-styles of many volunteers.

After nineteen years of doing ministry in Colorado, (17 years in jails and prisons concurrently with 13 years in parish ministry), I wondered about the potential for deeper intimacy with the divine in both venues that tended to be generous in head-based religious programming and sparse in programming leading to depth in spirituality. I wondered if the future thriving of the Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations might be contingent upon deeper inner experiences of God by parishioners. It seemed that the process of praying scripture with imagination in conversation with the risen Christ as practiced in the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life (19th Annotation Retreats) at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Colorado might be an “intervention” in this study to encourage a deeper relationship with God. Fifteen parishioners at St. Luke’s were willing to test Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises as a path to greater intimacy with the divine during an Advent Retreat in 2017. </p><p>Methodology for the act of ministry in this thesis project is hermeneutic phenomenological qualitative inquiry.

This methodology is narrative driven, focusing on lived experiences of parishioners during the Advent Retreat. The project was deepening relationship with God engaging the process of Spiritual Exercises praying scripture with imagination, journaling dialogue with the risen Christ, sharing experiences born out of that spiritual practice, and giving feedback in written and spoken form. Volunteers came out of curiosity, out of friendship with the researcher/priest, and with desire to take their spirituality to a deeper level. In the end there was expressed hope that there be more experiential heart centered spirituality in faith formation programs of St. Luke’s.

A bracketed presupposition of this dissertation project is Karl Rahner’s belief (shared by the researcher/priest) that Christians in the future will be mystics in love with God or they will not exist at all. A practical presupposition is that research by this researcher/priest as a project leader from St. Luke’s might reflect limited, even skewed, critical response from volunteers for the project."

-- Abstract.


Blake, Sandra Caswell


Virginia Theological Seminary.




©Copyright 2019, Sandra Caswell Blake.


Date Added
June 24, 2019
VTS Doctoral Theses
Item Type
Blake, Sandra Caswell, “Falling in love with God : praying scripture with imagination,” Bishop Payne Library at Virginia Theological Seminary, accessed April 19, 2024, https://vtsbpl.omeka.net/items/show/29.