Unique spiritual life

Aug 19, 2019 by

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On July 27, about 40 people gathered at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary for a memorial service for Alice Bauman. Alice had prepared the service, reflecting the spirit of poustinia, the practice of worship in silence and the name of her and [husband and AMBS professor] Clarence’s Hermit­age, their home ­located at the Sixth Street entrance to AMBS. For some students, their life and unique ministry was life-changing.

The service consisted of five parts, with five minutes of silence between each. The celebration conveyed the mystical poustinia — silence and the unity of all being, physical and spiritual, life and death, all within the Martin Buber I-Thou relationship. Here is a paragraph from the homily she prepared:

“To know You is always to know more of everything: Of world, of self and other. To know You dissolves any boundary between us and the beyond. This entry into Your infinity is our faith that to know you is eternal life. It is our conscious decision to be born (with warmth and unconditional intimacy of heart and mind) of Spirit — to see Your qualities of character forming our Earth personality in an ever-flourishing fountain of life.

“This is supreme revelation: To perceive the life of a human person becoming the instrument of the life and love of God. This is God’s breakthrough into visible reality — his unending revelation — the Anabaptist ideal of the exchange of the human for the divine.”

Alice despaired of church as most experience it. On occasion, sitting in the garage of her neighbor, she would invite me to join “garage church” as I walked home from AMBS. I paused to converse for some minutes but regret to say I ­didn’t join them.

An excerpt from a prayer ­Alice gave me, which I read at the memorial service, gives a sense of her spirit-mind unity: “Dear God, . . . Grant us a profound awareness of your immediate presence at the heart of nature, in the center of history and at the boundary of our own precarious existence, so that we might be suspended and sustained by the faith that makes life possible and in the love that makes it real.”

Willard Swartley
Goshen, Ind.

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