I have a long list of spiritual giants to whom I’ve looked for inspiration in my following life. Names like C.S. Lewis, Teresa of Avila, Madeleine L’Engle, and Eugene Peterson come to mind, and it’s likely that you also have a list, different from mine, but comprising familiar names from church history or Christian culture. North American and European scholars and thinkers have traditionally held predominate places on our personal hero lists, and in Soul Care in African American Practice, Barbara L. Peacock throws open a window to the fresh thinking of African church fathers and more contemporary African American contributors to our spiritual heritage.
For example, when we read Augustine, Clement, Origen, Tertullian, and Athanasius, does it ever occur to us that they are of African descent? A careful reading of the New Testament reveals that the gospel actually reached African soil before it traveled to Great Britain or Western Europe.
In her writing, Peacock has filled a room with African American voices, the familiar as well as the unfamiliar, and then invited her readers to overhear a conversation about spiritual formation. For me, it is a rare privilege, indeed, to be the white person in a black room, so I took careful notes, scribbled in the margins, and underlined names and concepts for future research. Join me now in that room with this thought front and center:
“The disciplines of prayer, spiritual direction, and soul care are needed in all communities.”Page 158
Citing the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Dr. Harold Carter, and others, Peacock demonstrates the impact of a prayerful life on an individual and on the course of history. Prayer is the “spiritual discipline that causes our ear to be attentive to the voice of our almighty, all-knowing, and all-powerful God as he speaks his words of wisdom and direction.”
It was fascinating to be reminded that spiritual direction in the African American community would have begun on slave ships as one captive spoke words of encouragement and hope into the ear of another. Faith born and nurtured in tribulation and under oppressive conditions becomes a sinewy thing. Peacock has played a key role in promoting the teaching and practice of spiritual direction in the African American Church, and her website, Barbara L. Peacock Ministries, is a resource as well as an inspiration for those committed to a deeper relationship with God.
Dr. Jessica Ingram is just one of the leaders introduced as a trailblazer in caring for souls. In her ministry, she emphasizes the importance of relationship with God as our traveling companion who gives us permission to slow down and tend to the needs of our soul. Intimacy with God is the fountain that continually fills up the thirsty soul, providing living water for the individual that spills over into a robust community of faith.
Barbara Peacock is first and foremost a teacher, and since we learn best by doing, she has equipped her readers with opportunities to practice habits of holiness, embedded in each chapter. Richard Foster defined a spiritual discipline as “an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability to do what we cannot do by direct effort.” As we show up, faithfully, to receive power from God to do what only he can do in our hearts, we move one step closer to God’s vision of a glorious church in which souls from all “peoples and tribes and languages and nations” will join in worship, and in which every room becomes the “dwelling place of God with man” in which “he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
Grace and Peace to You,
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Soul Care in African American Practice, simply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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