Posts Tagged ‘Rule of Ministry’


Introduction

Throughout my travels since April 2019 I have come into contact with young and seasoned youth pastors seeking to break the cycle of “trying to compete” and “bigger-better events” to realize it was not creating depth of Christian life. It led to conversations around spiritual formation and discipleship, investing in the person before you, with coffee with my minister it was talk of the emerging discussion of Liturgical Living. That is the rhythm of life. When we think of Liturgy, it is Latin for “work of the People”. It is the way the church year, and worship service is structured. It gives the ebb and flow of birth, life, death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is an emergence of ancient practices for our modern world and led me to bring together some thoughts from my years of community building, and monastic formation with the Franciscans.

Corporate Personhood

On the 6th Day in the ancient Hebrew Poem[1] that is Genesis 1 lets us know that humanity is made in God’s Image (Imageo Dei). What a beautiful image that each of us is a reflection of the Holy? This idea is then carried further by the writings of Paul (Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and 1:24) that points to Christ as the head, but we are all parts of the body. Each one of us significant, and different, but together functioning, it is a coming together of the personal and corporate personhood. Within the work of community building this sometimes takes the look at discovery what our own names mean (first, middle, last) and has it had any effect we were not aware or are aware of in shaping who we are. What does the name of our community have on shaping that? For youth, it was the work then of discussion and choosing a name through consensus that reflected our new Body of Christ, and from that flows out who we are.

Corporate Identity

As individuals we encounter tough situations in life. We have our own guide posts. Our own mentors, family and friends that feed into our being whether positively or negatively for our own growth, and shape our core being that is given the guideposts of core values, beliefs, and learning. The corporate religious person is the same. The challenge is that each part of the body exists within a spectrum of spiritual development. Yet, in a corporate gathering we can work together with the guideposts. For Paul wrote to the church of Corinth “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for eyou were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,” (1 Corinthians 3:2, English Standard Version). It is the beginning of a journey, but we are laying ground work and preparing, working as one to cast a vision for who we are now, and who we are being called to be. It is like the Liturgy, for what the Liturgy in a service builds to reflect what is valued most by the gathered community, same as with the spiritual formation process.

It leads to opening up to setting of core values that become the guide posts for behaviour, and conversation creators. I remember in the late 1990’s when I began working with youth and children, doing events and retreats, the standard across mainline and evangelical circles was rules based on “thou shalt nots” and SAD rules (No Sex, Alcohol or Drugs). Discussing with colleagues and finding that incidents were up quite high at events, we entered a time of discernment for something different. That was the shift to the Values, and the who we are, and out of that our actions will be shaped. Much like Jesus when he would sit with the woman at the Well, the religious leaders, or even his disciples…remember when he called Peter Satan? It was a teaching moment to remind Peter who he truly was based on the Shema (the Great Commandments, a prayer of the Temple) and to get out of his head and back to his Godly heart. So too this conversation of Corporate Personhood, shapes the community and creates the courageous safe space for any to enter, and know what they are joining, and that it is a journey of transformational change ahead.

Just like the rhythm of prayers in the Liturgy of gratitude-thanksgiving, grace, confession, reconciliation, assurance of pardon, prayers of the people…so too the community values set the rhythm of life for each gathering. It also allows for the courageous conversations of what topics the gathered are struggling with or curious about to set the Holy Conversations (curriculum) and what aspects of the Bible and faith they want to deep dive into.

One Example

There are many examples that can be drawn of those within church families and those that came from community and the change this type of rhythm created in their life. Positive shifts, minute or major, yet each story is personalized and contextualized. What happens though with the corporate personhood becomes the lighthouse in the community, “Your word is a lamp for my feet,  a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105, New International Version). This is what shaped my coming to corporate personhood. It is the benchmarks in the Rule of Life Ministry of the lay Franciscan Orders. I have modified some of the questions that can arise, as I have used this in many contexts of spiritual formation classes for the Christian to the Non-Christian in church, spiritual direction centres, simple communities, and post-secondary classes (non-Christian schools), please note my thoughts are italicized (and on my YouTube channel short thoughts about each):

The Holy Eucharist.

Since we see the Eucharist as the heart of our prayer, our personal rule would call us to frequent participation in this Sacrament. We partake of the Eucharist on all Sundays and all these Principal Feast Days — Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and All Saints Day (if available in your area.)

Eucharist, or communion, a sacred gathering of being family, at the Institution of the Sacrament we have two versions, in the synoptic gospels it is highly focused on the meal and the symbolism. In John, we get the sacrament of service, with the foot washing that became part of early practice within Ana-Baptist communities, and a part of the Maundy Thursday Service, highly powerful if uncomfortable. The symbol of care for feet, the often ignored, but most important part of the body, for one who uses a wheel chair it could be the hands. It is showing care for the least thought of symbolically.

It is also more, for in these stories, it is Christ shifting from Master to friends. The equality of all. There is a structure given, but also the acknowledgement that something holy happens each time we gather in community to eat together. The being present in the now, and listening not simply to respond, but the shift to listening from the heart. That is to understand one another, and discover who each other are. It shows the power, as Peter’s anxiety is revealed, Judas’ treachery, all in the conversation, and letting the silence rest to be filled. It creates space for the corporate Personhood to become healthier, and a place of belonging.

What questions does it raise for the value placed around ensuring enough for all?

Ensuring that all are heard?

That all are valued?

What is the practice of the Eucharist for yourself and community?

Penitence. (Daily Self Examin)

Regular examination of our obedience to Christ is necessary. To be reconcilers we must first be deeply reconciled to God. We practice daily self-examination and annual use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I have used in my own praxis the concept of self-Examin, instead of penitence. The reason of heart is simple, not everything is about self-flagellation. In the course of the day there is oops, could’ve done that better, should apologize, but there is also beautiful moments of knowing the Holy Spirit, seeing God show up unexpectedly, feeling gratitude, joy, hope and love. It becomes a look at our own day, and knowing that God is in it all, and it is okay to have the full spectrum of emotions. The journey takes us through, as Psalm 23 phrases “The valley of the Shadow of Death” but also in Psalm 23 it lets us know that all we need is God, for all the rest creates white noise, that is if we truly come into our understanding how does it shift our experience of life?

What is reconciliation? Obviously not a Presbyterian Sacrament, it is Roman Catholic and-or Anglican. It is not just the sin list, but the work that comes to reconcile with those harmed by actions. Yet, there are a time when that is not safe, or times when the reconciliation is about yourself to God. Sometimes reconciliation is about coming to love yourself, and letting what the world or church has put on you to be blown away with the Ruah (breath of God) to be who we are truly called to be.

For beginning learning about this, the space for positivity can be created by asking for 3 things thankful for, 1 thing to do for health or helping, and one thing that has been learned between each gathering from members.

Personal Prayer.

We set aside a definite time for prayer each day to spend time with God, to pray for others, to meditate and to express our thankfulness. Prayer is the root from which our lives and ministries grow and are nourished.

Set times, and all times. It is the discovery of healthy relationship with God and others. Understanding the wide variety of prayers and way of prayers that are out there- labyrinths, art, music, drama, writing, journaling, liturgical prayers, personal, prayers of petition, prayers of celebration, and the list goes on. Prayer is about learning how to build a relationship, to get to know God, you and neighbour, much like the Psalms show us (Billy Graham encouraged a reading of 5 Psalms a day so each month you would read through the whole book, the idea being that it shows how to be with God).

Self-Denial.

This is the discipline of saying “No” to oneself by putting God first. We are often aware of the places in our lives where additional self- discipline is needed, but our Spiritual Directors should be asked to help in this area. We also focus on eliminating the ways we may manipulate others to our own ends.

In Lent we practice giving something up. This is a step into this. The idea of fasting. It can be giving something up to replace that time to know God more. What does it mean? Within spiritual communities I would create the shock by making the time “phone free” that is the youth turning their phones in at beginning of the night to be completely present with one another. It is about understanding that there are moments in time when we step outside of ourselves to be present with neighbour, self and God for learning, discovery and growth. Too often we use things to create walls between ourselves.

Retreat.

Silent retreats and quiet days provide an opportunity to rest and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. At least once a year, we participate in organized or private retreats of at least 24 hours of silence.

Silence is hard for a retreat, trust me. I look to teaching in short spurts to enjoy silence, with prayer working on meditation, and sitting in the silence. But the idea of retreat is important. This is the understanding of Sabbath in life. Turning off the work of the day, the burdens (and yes many times this can be technology). It is also about creating structured times of being with God individually and corporately. There can be themes, specific Bible stories and spiritual practices used, but no fixed outcome. It is not like a business retreat where we are creating a vision, this is about being in the Holy Conversation with God and seeing what emerges for the next of life.

Study.

We all need to learn more about God’s will for us. Study of the Scriptures and of Franciscan spirituality is important to our Christian growth.

How does life and faith interact? What do we need to discover about culture? About our faith? Billy Graham also noted reading a chapter of proverbs a day to learn how to be with neighbour, perhaps this is like that. We spend time with our Bible, and with our newspaper and other scholarly materials to discover the intersection of life. Scholarly does not mean heady tombs, these can be books found in the non-fiction sections of bookstores and libraries on a variety of topics of interest or need.

Simplicity of Living.

Simplicity calls us to examine our giving of self as well as the material things over which we have control. Our cluttered lives, our preoccupations with “belonging”, can interfere in our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to a life of simplicity, eliminating those aspects of ourselves and our lives which prevent our full expression of God’s love.

Work.

Service has always been an important part of the Franciscan vocation. Daily work is one way in which Tertiaries serve God and others; we are often also called to serve God and our brothers and sisters in individual ministries, ranging from prayer to social activism.

We have a cultural narrative that sets out what is valued. We miss in the cultural narrative that each person has a vocational call upon their soul from God. It is about knowing what work we have to do for survival or paying the bills. There are moments work is a must (you own a house you need to mow the lawn whether you like it or not), chores, etc. Yet, there is also choices of what we pursue in our own time as volunteers or actual callings. We live in a society that takes all types of work for our world to function, and all that needs to be honoured as we help one another discern who we are meant to be, and how to serve, learn and grow.

Obedience.

All Tertiaries are obedient to the decisions of Third Order Chapter. We say the Daily Offices, we support each other by prayer, attendance at Fellowship meetings and a pledge of financial support to the Third Order. We report regularly to the Order on the keeping of our Rule. We have Spiritual Directors whom we see regularly.

What is obedience in this day and age? Being a part of an organization usually has reporting structures. What this speaks to is an understanding of who we are (our core values), and are we living out of those values? What challenges are arising? What times of redirection? Times of change? New opportunities? Doors closing for us? New doors opening? It is about developing one’s character so that we are living our profession, and when we aren’t we are aware and go to the safe (sanctuary) space to renew and replenish.

Conclusion

St. Francis of Assisi was an odd-duck as most of the Mystics and Monastics of the Church were and are. In Franciscism there is no set “Reformation” moment in church history, it is about constant rebirths, resurrections and reformations as we continue to discover how to live the Gospel life and be the Body of Christ in our own pockets of this world. The lighthouse that casts a light. The teaching was simple, you took a Biblical teaching to heart, once it was part of you then you moved on to the next one, not before, so it was not simply knowledge amassing, but wisdom.

In the world of creating youth religious communities, it is the investment, the commitment and knowing that the goal is not confirmation but rather, does the youth know what they believe? Why the believe it? And when they are on their own, will they live it? That is discipleship, which in my humble opinion is the crux of the liturgical life.

 

 

 

[1] Poetry as in Hebrew it rhymes ideas not words as in English.