I have been of the contention that it is only through sound spiritual formation (not to be confused with religious formation) that people can be empowered to become spiritually mature and through which we can bear witness to the effortlessness of authentic discipleship. Now I have proof that it works.
Discipleship by Accident (but not really)
My first “official” role at the Newman Center (Catholic Campus Ministry) and my first “official” foray into lay ministry was as the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) Coordinator. My job was to provide the process through which interested adults could become formal members of the Catholic Church. From the beginning….I accomplished this task in a non-traditional way (go figure!). Instead of providing a program grounded in religious formation (doctrine, dogma, catechism), I provided a program firmly rooted in spiritual formation. My reasoning was that if you didn’t know God and you didn’t know yourself, what good was a bunch of knowledge about rules? As such, the focus of this process was the rich tradition of spiritual practices that were part of the Christian tradition – Lectio Divina, Imagination/Contemplation, Mantra prayer, etc. etc. etc. What we ended up with at the end of the 9 month process was a group of empowered individuals, excited and enthusiastically ready to use their gifts in service to God and to the world. They had come to know God intimately and personally, in coming to know God they had come to know themselves, and in doing so, had come to identify their own unique gifts and how they were being called to share them in the world. In a process that nationally has an abysmal retention rate of only 30%, the Newman Center’s 70% retention rate showed me that the approach we had chosen worked. Today I thank my experience with the RCIA (and Fr. Jeff VandenHeuvel for assigning me to this ministry) for being the foundation upon which I have established my post-Institutional ministry work, and I am continually awed by the results.
The Ministry Team has Already been Formed
So, as I stand on the brink of accepting more fully my call to be “priest/ess” and to acknowledging that what I have been doing (since leaving professional employment in the Catholic Church) is and always has been “church” and wondering exactly what that might mean and what that might look like, I find that the “ministry team” has already been formed. Standing ready and right in front of my eyes is a group of men and women who have courageously followed the path of sound spiritual formation, and who are apparently chomping at the bit to put their formation to work. (who knew?!) When I first dared to share this discernment in the world, my email inbox was full of inquiries, “How can I help? You will need children’s programs and that is my gift. We would like to offer relationship classes. Can I help with presiding?” YIKES! I hadn’t even mentioned the word “church” and I have a mob of people who have been fully formed ( in my opinion) and are ready to step into their own unique giftedness to help others find the peaceful contentment, joy, compassion and personal empowerment that they have all found through a 3-4 year process of sound spiritual formation. Ha…..I knew it….this stuff works!
What tools have you discovered to help you know God, to know yourself and to empower you to share your gifts in service to love for the betterman of humankind?
Authentic Freedom Ministries