Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us

Author: Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg
Publication details: Downers Grove: IVP, 2005

Summary: Calhoun uses ‘WORSHIP’ as an acrostic to organise over 60 spiritual practices  drawn from the breadth of the Christian tradition into 7 groups: ‘Worship’, ‘Open myself to God’, ‘Relinquish the false self’, ‘Share my life with others’, ‘Hear God’s word’, ‘Incarnate the love of Christ’, and ‘Pray’. For each practice she includes a tabled summary, a few pages of discussion, reflection questions, practical steps to help the reader experience the discipline, and finally a list of further resources. The book also contains an excellent introductory section on exploring desire, and useful appendices on a variety of related issues, such as suggestions for spiritual mentors and postures for prayer.

Evaluation:  Urging people to just ‘pray and read your bible’ is rarely a helpful approach to encouraging the  vital nurturing of spiritual health; natural variance in spiritual temperaments and life seasons mean people are looking for a whole host of ways to foster spiritual authenticity in their journey. Whereas texts such as Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines focus on just a few classic disciplines and require a concerted effort to work through,  Calhoun offers a highly accessible pathway into a wide range of spiritual practices that lay people can flick through and use as an entry point into further discovery. She maintains a healthy balance between personal and communal practices, and includes practices such as ‘Unplugging’ which have particular contemporary relevance. Every faith community should have a copy in their resource collection. Highly recommended.

 Reviewed by: Bruce Hulme

Lecturer in Spirituality and Practical Theology, Tabor Adelaide

 

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