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Lent: The Black spiritual tradition of waiting expectantly

Lent prompts many individuals to voluntarily give up various habits or behaviors ranging from social media engagement to unhealthy snacking. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recommends a book by British theologian Selina Stone titled “Tarry Awhile: Wisdom from Black Spirituality for People of Faith,” reflecting the increasing global significance of Black spirituality within Christianity, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where 40% of the world’s Christians are projected to reside by 2050.

The “tarrying” concept emphasized in Stone’s book and rooted in biblical literature denotes patiently waiting in anticipation, whether for spiritual enlightenment, social justice, or divine intervention. This practice, prevalent among Black Christians but not limited to religious circles, is a spiritual discipline encouraging mindfulness and prioritizing the spiritual over the mundane aspects of life. Tarrying involves deliberate focus and devotion, particularly within the Pentecostal tradition, where it is seen as a means to invite and cultivate God’s presence amidst life’s distractions and anxieties, ultimately reflecting a conscious choice to prioritize spiritual growth and connection over worldly distractions.

The Conversation:

The Bible uses the word “tarry” at least 30 times. In particular, as Stone highlights, it is the word (in the King James version) the Gospel of Matthew uses, when Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. Overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, he asks his disciples to, “tarry here and watch with me”.

The concept of tarrying surfaces in the historical development of academic Christian theology . It remains popular among Black Christians, but it is not exclusive to this religious group. In fact, it is not exclusive to religious communities in particular either. It is a term used by philosophers, psychoanalysts and religious leaders alike.

Read more here.

Photo by NATHAN MULLET on Unsplash

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