I wanted to let you all know that I will be gone for several weeks during May, and the good news why. I have two trips to Europe, each an exploration of what has come to be known as the ancient future of the church: what is ancient being rediscovered and newly adapted for our future vitality as church. The renewed interest and practice in Celtic and contemplative Christian practice are in recent years are two examples of ancient future.
On May 6th, I will fly to The Netherlands to help lead a retreat for 15 Christian leaders from Canada and the United States. This retreat is sponsored by Ligare (ligare.org), a nonprofit which calls itself “A Christian Psychedelic Society.” The retreat is a Christ centered experiment exploring the practice of praying with the support of a plant medicine sacrament, in this case psilocybin truffles (which are legal in Holland). This work is related to postgraduate training I recently completed and to learning I have been doing for several years. There is highly suggestive evidence in the literature and archaeology (The Immortality Key, Muraresku) as well as medieval chapel art (The Psychedelic Gospels, Brown and Brown) that some Christians participated in plant medicine prayer.
The second trip will occur in late May to southern France to encounter the sacred sites and the stories of the Mary Magdalene tradition and lineage. She is believed to have gone there after Jesus’ crucifixion and the Resurrection experiences to spread the healing and teaching of the Good News. Growing up as a United Methodist, I didn't learn anything about Mary Magdalene except that she was someone whom Jesus helped and seemed to be around at the end of Jesus’ life. What I've learned so far as an adult is that most of what I was told is either extremely limited, highly skewed, or outright false (such as the accusation that she was a former prostitute). More recent scholarship as well as the discovery of other early Christian texts like the Gospel of Mary indicate that she was much more, perhaps Jesus’ best student and even partner (The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, Bourgeault).
Both of these trips are for the purpose of learning what modern Christianity may have lost in ancient tradition and how it can be incorporated in a vital future. This is what makes both trips an exercise in ancient future exploration as well as an expression of The Sanctuary for Sacred Union project that I co-founded with my wife Allison which seeks to uplift the Divine Feminine and focus on the direct experience of the Living Christ.
I will be around May 1st and 15th but gone the other Sundays of May.
I look forward to sharing more of what I learn on these trips upon my return.
The Rev. JT Smiedendorf has been a UCC minister since 2001, serving churches in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington. He has a particular passion for reclaiming the earthy, embodied, and experiential aspect of Christian spiritual practice. He and his wife Allison are co-founders of The Sanctuary for Sacred Union, an inter-spiritual initiative, and he is currently earning a postgraduate Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research. Read more about JT here.