Voices in Christian Formation: J. Philip Newell

BY Doug Jones

November 8, 2012

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Voices in Christian Formation is a series of posts to help introduce some of the contemporary authors and speakers we can learn from as it pertains to our Christian formation. The posts focus on critical components of our Christian formation and provide a short bibliography to investigate each topic further.

The voice being highlighted today for our series will probably be the one that pushes us the most. The Rev. Dr. J. Philip Newell is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland and has served in a variety of posts, including as warden of Iona Abbey. He is a prolific author and has garnered international acclaim for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality.

When I first began reading Newell, I was often more frustrated and angry than encouraged and helped. For reasons I can’t completely explain, though, I was drawn again and again to his writing, and after a bit of struggle and a lot of thinking and evaluation, Newell’s ideas began to bring new light to the way I thought about our world, the One who made it, and my place in that order. Sometimes those who seem most challenging and different from us are most helpful in our formation as followers of Jesus. For me, J. Philip Newell is that person.

A taste of Newell:

God is to be found not by stepping aside from the flow of daily life into religious moments and environments, or by looking away from creation to a spiritual realm beyond, but rather by entering attentively the depths of the present moment. There we will find God, wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing. Our times of religious observation and meditative practice are not alternatives to encountering God in the ever-flowing stream of life. Rather they are moments of preparing ourselves to be alert to the One who is always and everywhere present, closer to us than we are to ourselves.  

– The Book of Creation, pp. 8-9

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