About the Editor

Sally SmithUntil recently, I worked in educational publishing, producing materials for teaching Christianity in RE lessons. My work there built on years spent in classrooms but also gave me a whole new set of skills in editing and project management. But then I heard I was being made redundant. After the normal horror and panic, I began to wonder what I could do. The whole process was steeped in prayer, with many people praying for, and with, me, and, in a strange way, I felt privileged to recognise God's involvement in the whole process. God didn't tell me what was next; he just promised that the future would contain gold and jewels.

I like to have everything planned out so, although this was comforting, it was also, to my eyes, unsatisfactory. What would a 'gold' future look like? What would I be doing? What reason would I have to get up in the morning? How was God going to weave together the editing, spirituality and educational strands that were all equally important to me? But God was true to his promise and provided more than I could have imagined.

I had long used and admired Quiet Spaces, so being asked to take the best of Quiet Spaces and merge it with the concept of Bible reading notes seemed a dream request. I was being asked to produce the publication I had been looking for on bookshop shelves but had failed to find. At first, it felt self-indulgent: imagine what you would like and then make it happen! But as I talked to other people about the idea, I was encouraged: they were asking when it would be out and how they could get a copy. They wanted to develop their prayer life and keep it fresh and creative. Bible reading notes provided a brilliant structure and were feeding these people intellectually, but they were looking for something else as well, for ways of engaging with God on a different level. They wanted to develop their walk with God in practical ways. So, the idea grew. Take a theme for two weeks and explore that theme in a range of different ways, allowing for different personalities and styles.

It soon became apparent that the format needed to be flexible. It would be no good telling readers to explore a Bible passage artistically on a day when they barely had time to stop - if on another day they could devote a whole hour or so to a prayer walk. So, the individual elements needed to be undated, with readers being encouraged to use the most appropriate element for them on any particular day. The message would be: if you miss a day or find something that doesn't appeal, that's OK, you can try something else. If you only get halfway through, you can come back and finish it tomorrow. Or you can do several elements in one day, creating a personal quiet day when you have time and space to try something new.

There began to be a rhythm to each theme, with some elements being longer or shorter, more or less involved, active, creative or thoughtful. The rhythm fitted across a day - from the morning, when concentration levels are often higher, through to the afternoon, when concentration is lower and something more active or practical is useful, and on into the evening, when we often become more reflective and want to look back on the day. The rhythm worked across a week as well, with some days when we have energy and time and are able to put more of ourselves into our prayer life, and other days when we just want to be fed.

With this flexibility came a sense of freedom. Readers can use the material as suits them best, but there is always the possibility of simply taking one element a day and working through the book in order. There are times when we need the comfort that such structures bring.

We will be including some of the classic writers on prayer, to explore how we can learn from them, as well as using the Bible in prayer and, of course, retaining the themes that Quiet Spaces has traditionally been so good at addressing. The contributors are coming up with some creative ways of entering the themes and responding to them, enabling readers to grow in their relationship with God and to keep prayer as a central part of their lives.

It is certainly a period of gold and jewels for me, bringing together my editing skills and my experience of leading and attending quiet days and retreats. It is an exciting adventure to edit the new Quiet Spaces. I am working with some great writers who have caught the vision and are producing excellent materials that are already enhancing my prayer life, leading me on that journey to, and with, God.

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