Review: Soul Care in African American Practice by Barbara Peacock
Excerpt from a review originally published at Englewood Review of Books
In 2019, after a few years of fast-paced work, I paused for a long sabbatical. I’d hoped to use the period to do less, and listen to God more. Bolstered by some readings on contemplative prayer, I signed up for a three day prayer retreat in California. On the flight, questions set in: would I be able to sit quietly for that long, would the barebones accommodation be comfortable and, most of all, would anyone who looked like me be there? Though I was drawn to contemplative practice, the little I knew of it made me doubt it was “for me” as a 30-something Protestant black woman. I know my share of prayer warriors, so praying intentionally resonates strongly as part of black Christian practice. But contemplation? Not so much.
I’ve since learned of the African roots of Christian contemplative practices, from church fathers like Augustine and Tertullian, to 20th century giants like Howard Thurman. So when I first heard of Dr. Barbara Peacock’s book, Soul Care in African American Practice, I was immediately drawn to the term “soul care.” In the book, Peacock highlights the spiritual practices that have sustained generations of African American Christians and urges black Christians to prioritize intentional soul care.
When Peacock writes of “soul care,” she means prayer and spiritual direction for the purpose of spiritual formation. She purposely uses the language of the “soul” to reframe spiritual direction for African American Christians. Her claim is that, though the terminology spiritual direction is not traditionally used, its practices have lived out in the community. She examines the lives of notable black Christians and draws a direct connection between their spiritual practices and their faithful endurance. The stories are meant to encourage, to remind us of the deep spiritual wells from which we can draw, and to urge us to slow down and claim these practices.
Read the full review at Englewood Review of Books