A letter received from Erik de Jongh (Netherlands), our first guest staying at the Andrew Murray Centre for Spirituality…
Today is the first day of my study leave from the Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. I am honored with the invitation to spend these two and a half months in the Andrew Murray Sentrum vir Spiritualiteit. For me it is truly a privileged time, Kairos, a decisive moment.
Two years ago I visited South Africa for the first time, exactly 50 years after setting foot on African soil for the first time, as an 8-year old schoolboy. (Yes, I turned 60 tears just two months ago.) I took the opportunity to meet various colleagues of Stellenbosch University. And I remember well how my attention was drawn when Pieter van der Walt told me about a plan for what I understood to be a retreat center. Then, last year, Willie van der Merwe heard about my interest in the retreat center. He was so kind to introduce me to Frederick Marais, who happened to be in Holland at the time. So many people contributed to creating this Kairos.
I work as Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Leadership. My main job is to coordinate the Spiritual Care program, which attracts students every from various denominations, including Eastern Orthodox Churches, Buddhism, Islam, as well as a large number of students who do not fit in with one or other denomination. My interest in spirituality was raised when I went to a boarding school of the Jesuit Fathers at age 12. After high school I initially studied business administration. Five years after graduating I decided to take up studies in theology. Since then I have been working at the interface of management and spirituality (although most of my students are bound to reject any association with management). All the same, I am convinced that it is important for theologians who work in institutional contexts to engage with the world of management.
There are many ways to understand spirituality. My own understanding has been formed by the Jesuit Fathers. They make a distinction between Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit spirituality. Ignatian spirituality is for non-ordained, lay people. This has become my way of life. What is attractive to me is that it emphasizes that God is working directly with his creatures. In order to understand how God is working we must also use our rational capacities. Ignatian spirituality, therefore, is experiential and reflective. Looking beyond the Ignatian tradition, I like to think that spirituality is concerned with “The living and concrete human person in dynamic transformation toward the fullness of life.”
It is in this sense that I am looking forward to share in the life of the Andrew Murray Sentrum vir Spiritualiteit.
Erik de Jongh