Friday, November 2, 2007

Nurturing the Soul

Lately the most powerful messages I feel I am hearing in my life is the need for tending the soul. Not just a general tending of the soul, but a developing of practices for tending the soul. Within congregations we tend to program ourselves to death - spiritual death - because we don't build in spiritual practices. I have been at a week long class on intentional interim ministry and the most powerful part of the week for me has been the morning Bible study experience in small group. I've learned a lot of head knowledge, and have had good interactions with colleagues during the week, but the deepest experience has been the focus on listening to the Word of God. The simple reading of scripture deliberately together, and allowing time to process and then to share. My energy - natural tendencies - are intellectual and interactive, so I have to be deliberate about tending to soul care. And as a pastor, it has become clearer to me over the years that parishioners are not having deep soul tending experiences other than possibly at worship if it is done well. I'm thinking that during Advent I will offer four weeks of "Deepening our Spirituality through Prayer: Waiting on God" based on a lectio divina model, using candlelight, music, scripture, and silence. My desire as theologically trained and interested in spiritual depth seems many times in conflict with what is expected of me as parish pastor or interim pastor. I have the skills to do those things well, but my experience has been that most people seeking spirituality are outside the church and those inside the church aren't as interested in spirituality. Is there something wrong with that? It helped to understand some history that I learned in my conference last week about the establishment of church as we know it and how it needs to change as we head into the future of "post-Christian" society. For me, discerning what God is up to in my life and how I live out my call to serve will be the focus of my own Advent "waiting on God."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Planting the Word

I have been attending a class all week which begins each day in small group Bible study at 8:15 a.m. Now, I have to tell you I am not a morning person - so I've really resisted this time, but I have dutifully risen each morning to attend. Our study is a focused model (African Bible Study) which is similar to lectio divina. I am part of a small table group of six who interact throughout this week together and our relationships deepen throughout the week. My experience is that most of the deepening for all of us happens at this Bible study. What I am always struck with is the way Scripture speaks to each of us where we are - in the midst of our lives and in the midst of what is on our hearts. A Scripture passage is read three times with reflection between readings - and sharing according to specific questions at the end of periods of silence. The whole process takes 45 minutes. Yet, the depth and breadth of the sharing is amazing. The way Scripture informs all of us is varied and wide ranging, and yet as each person shares the connections and understanding deepens and the Word is alive in a new way for all of us. At the end of the sharing time, each of us in the group prays for the person on our right based on the sharing and we end with the Lord's prayer. Wouldn't this be a wonderful model for faith communities? I'd love to give up preaching and break everyone into small groups in order to deepen the community involvement in scripture and in sharing at a deeper level with one another. Obviously, I can't do this, but I am thinking of setting up two different times (during the day and during the evening) during the season of Advent to practice this type of Bible Study together. Don't know how many people might be interested, but it would be a worthy practice to implement. I'd also like to find a small group of folks to meet together with and do this on a regular basis. This study has far and away been the best part of this week!