Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Longing and Prayerful Listening

Throughout the stories of spiritual formation ministries in A Quiet Pentecost, there is one common thread – cultivating the art of prayerful listening for divine guidance. As individuals learn to listen to scripture in new ways, messages are received that link direction from God to our human longings for a world of peace, justice, and hope.

Individuals learn to listen as they shift their prayer from a focus on their own human need to making time for God to speak, as well. This practice requires some time to cultivate. As we turn to the season of Advent, our invitation is to listen to our deepest inner longings for a world of love, peace, justice, and kindness; and to listen for how that human longing is met with divine inspiration. 

In A Quiet Pentecost, we discover individuals receiving a summons to new personal mission. Cindy Serio answers the call to be a loving presence for women in prison. Gene Turner found a mission trip to Liberia to be personally life-altering and life giving to two rural parishes in Illinois. Melanie Baffes created a year-long sharing time for high school women, because she noticed that in mixed setting, these young women did not speak up as much as the young men. Suzanne Clement created a mid-week vesper service, which sustained the congregation through a difficult time of transition. Over a few years time, the vision for a house ministry came into being in the heart of Cathy Brewton. With much diligence and community support, LifeHouse Ministries, Inc., has come into being as a place of refuge and hope in Ruston, Louisiana.

We are assured that God's guidance will give each of us the direction we need in our own life and current circumstances to claim our sense of mission and life purpose as we dwell into the Advent hope:


LISTEN in this time of national and international unrest for the fresh summons of God’s gracious call upon your life.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Study Guide to Shape Your Spiritual Formation Ministry

Using A Quiet Pentecost to shape your spiritual formation ministry

Chapter 8 of the book, A Quiet Pentecost, is a study guide to be used by a small group, going chapter by chapter, to assess and develop the spiritual formation focus in your congregation or other ministry setting.

The Holy Spirit is ready to guide your congregation into a quiet Pentecost. The Spirit’s guidance will be quite specific for your congregation and your community. There is no cookie-cutter pattern to enhance your spiritual life or move toward developing a spiritual life center for your congregation and community. Instead, Jesus wants to lead you into unique patterns of prayer, small-group support, local and global mission, and sustaining worship.

Each chapter of the book can be a springboard for conversation among the lay and pastoral leadership of your congregation. Start with the first step in “Getting Started” below—designing a team to work through the book together on behalf of your congregation. Use the questions related to each chapter as a guide for your group’s conversation in a series of meetings.

Invite all participants to read the questions at home before they read the related chapter. Read the book in the spirit of lectio divina, lingering over particular passages, stories, or images that strike you as significant for your congregation. It is helpful for group members to keep a journal of reflections as they read.

Use the additional resources on the blog site
 with your group and your leadership team.

Getting Started

1. Forming a team. If you do not already have a spiritual life or spiritual formation committee in your congregation, work with your pastor and administrative body to develop a task force to work for six months or more in prayerfully considering potential new areas of ministry. You may want to use an existing prayer ministry group such as an intercessory prayer team.

2. Covenanting together. This work will require commitment and prayer. Set a regular time to meet. Commit to regular prayer for the work of this task force or committee. Be committed both to inspiration arising from prayer and to practical tasks of information gathering.

3. At your first meeting explore the two themes below. There are no right answers to these two questions—only what is right for your congregation!

a. What is your definition of spirituality? What is the range of subject matter that will be effective in your congregation? Be realistic! Do not push edges too quickly. Think about what people need within your own setting and what kinds of resources will be well received.

b. Is your work for your congregation only or is it for the broader community as well? What are implications of promoting your classes, groups, retreats, and so on to those beyond your congregation?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New England 3-day Academy for Spiritual Formation

Join me October 9-12 at Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center to keep exploring A Quiet Pentecost.

Over the past year, I've had the remarkable experience of sharing the stories of spiritual formation applications in A Quiet Pentecost in events in Louisiana, Tennessee and Michigan.

People are inspired that the seeming "nothing" of the quiet we experience in contemplative prayer, becomes the "something" of inspired life together in the church and missional outreach into the world.

In these fierce times where "there is no peace" in so many aspects of the world and the church, we can claim the peace and blessing of the Holy Spirit and find our way with God's guidance and blessing to meaningful new life emerging each day.

To register, contact Rosemary McNulty 978-682-7676 x201

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Call in Conference and eSeminar

Join Dwight Judy on May 13, 2014, for conversation with Johnny Sears, Director of Upper Room Academy for Spiritual Formation. We look forward to an exciting conversation via this live Call in Conference at 11:30 a.m. Central Time on Tuesday, May 13. Cost is $19. For registration information, click here.

Beginning on May 19, 2014, Upper Room hosts a four-week eCourse on A Quiet Pentecost. Bring your own spiritual formation ministry to life with this guided on-line experience. Most of the course is asynchronous. You will be able to participate on your own weekly schedule. There will also be a live call-in conference with Dwight Judy during the course. Interviews with several of the practitioners of spiritual formation ministry are within the course. The course will bring alive the way people are developing their spiritual formation ministries -- and how you can as well. Registration is $50. For information, click here.

Celebrate Eastertide and Pentecost with conversations to bring A Quiet Pentecost to your congregation.

Blessings to all.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The "more excellent way" to meet together across our human divisions!

As we begin Advent, let us dream of true Christian community, in which we can meet across the differences of sexual orientation and other issues that may divide us. There is a “more excellent way” than our current sustained fights over doctrinal issues within the church. That way is to listen together with scripture. Deep community will emerge.

In the book, A Quiet Pentecost, Marianne Chalstrom describes the power of sustained work with scripture for an ecumenical group of women who explored scripture story through a variety of imaginative processes:

I developed this class out of years of pastoral experience and frustrated observation that all too often churches succeed at Christianizing people without really moving them toward inward transformation that helps them become more loving and Christlike. Yet it’s the latter task that the Gospels attest is possible; the texts themselves carry that power when opened with the imagination (heart) engaged. That has been true in my own life and throughout my ministry.

I invited nine women to my home, representing three churches and two denominations. We were a diverse group, spanning three generations, some lesbian, some straight. 
This small group had two aims:
1. teach life-transforming ways of reading the Gospel, inviting participants to engage the imagination in various ways;
2. build community as we came together to share our experience with the text during the week.

Some questions we hoped to address in the course of this group experience were:
1. How can reading these familiar texts become new in my experience?
2. How can scripture reading, the Gospel passages in particular, lead me to new levels of personal growth and healing?
3. How can reading the Gospel accounts help me be a better follower of Jesus?

Resources I drew upon in writing this course were Morton Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence; and John Sanford, The Kingdom Within.

I gave participants a list of different ways to read scripture engaging imagination, called “methods of reading the Bible for transformation.” Some of these are basic journaling techniques, such as “Write a letter to one of the story participants,” or “Imagine yourself as one of the persons in the account and write about it.” Some of them are traditional reflection practices such as lectio divina. The process was simple: each week we all read the same Gospel text, then reflected on it using the method of our own choosing. The group process was also simple. After a brief invocation asking the Holy Spirit’s blessing and guidance, we read the text together to bring it before us, then I opened the conversation with something like “Who has something to share about how this text impacted your life this week? What method did you use and how did it work for you?” Then we all listened as one by one individuals offered what they were comfortable sharing with the group. People asked questions for clarification or affirmed something they identified with; but doctrine and opinion as such were not part of the conversation.

    The power of the experience exceeded our expectations: as people got into reading the Gospels for themselves with open mind and open heart, they began to experience God’s presence in new ways. Even more astounding was the sense of community that grew in a short time among previous strangers. As we began sharing life experience on a fairly deep level around these Gospel stories, we learned that what we had in common as women was much deeper and stronger than any differences we had.

This experience has been a great encouragement to me spiritually. My main support has been the other pastor in the group. We would meet and debrief following most of the sessions. In the last session of the group we served Holy Communion together. Her encouragement has been a great support during difficult times.

This study group experimented with different ways of relating to scripture with profound results. The group also experienced what is normative for shared experiences of lectio divina—they created a bond of mutual respect that transcends differences of denomination, theological perspectives, generations, and sexual orientation.

This is “meeting together in Christ.”

This Advent, let us commit to fostering this work of deep respect, as we indeed seek to "meet together in Christ."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

LifeHouse Ministries in Ruston, Louisiana

Cathy Brewton shares the story of the development of a community ministry in Ruston, Louisiana.

LifeHouse Ministries, Inc., is a nonprofit ministry of spiritual formation and healing, governed by a board of directors and advisory board. The vision for LifeHouse is to provide a presence of healing, hospitality, and reconciliation with God, neighbor, and self. Our desire is to enable persons to deepen their inner lives with God and become aware of God’s presence in their everyday lives as a result of the opportunities that are offered.
           The purpose of LifeHouse Ministries is to serve as a ministry portal or door into the kingdom of God offering sacred space, respite, and repose for persons who are spiritually impoverished, experiencing a faith crisis, or in need of healing. It is an ecumenical ministry open for all people to embark on the journey to wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. LifeHouse Ministries is a place to fabricate community and build relationships. For descriptive video, visit the LifeHouse Ministries website here.
            Director Cathy Brewton writes: I am a United Methodist minister serving as a deacon in the church through my specialization in spiritual formation. I am called by God to move beyond the walls of the church into the world, to embody the grace and love of Jesus Christ to those pushed to the edges of our society, and to empower all persons to begin to see themselves as God’s beloved. During my seminary journey of study, writing, meditation, and reflection, I began to have a vision for this place in the community, this house, for people to come and experience God in new and different ways. God has placed this ministry in my care and asked me to be the steward, the abbess for LifeHouse; and God desires for spiritual formation to be the centerpiece of all that we do in this sacred space.
           Truly the beginnings of LifeHouse happened on the pages in my journal. Through prayer and listening, I began to gather board mem- bers; at our first meeting in the fall of 2009 we started the founda- tional work of this ministry. I worked with an attorney, a CPA, and the IRS to establish our nonprofit status and corporate name through the state of Louisiana. Our prayer as a board has always been to discern “the next thing” that God needs us to do in order not to become over- whelmed. We held our first fund-raising event in October 2010 and continue having big events once per year with smaller fund-raisers intermittently. At the first fund-raiser, a family offered a space for our ministry to be housed; the seed monies and monthly pledges acquired at that event gave us the means to use the space.    We are located in the heart of the community surrounded by businesses and residences.
             We currently offer prayer classes, organic gardening and horticul- tural therapy, and individual spiritual direction to help people with their relationship with God. We also offer spiritual movement classes accom- panied by scripture reading or sacred music, so persons can embody the scriptures, hence the grace of our God. We offer space for healing ministries like Alcoholics Anonymous and Divorce Recovery.
            LifeHouse offers clergy care for ministers in the community and sur- rounding communities and parishes. Ministers and pastors do not get a lot of quiet rest, so we provide space to them for quiet, meditation, and soul tending. Our hope is that they return to their families, churches, and places of ministry revitalized for ministry with God.
            LifeHouse hosts community meals twice a month for anyone who wishes to sit together at the table. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to remind us who we are and whose we are. Through his life we learn how to live and how to love each other. We always want to reach out to those in our community—those who are pushed to the margins. Meals together nurture reconciliation; masks come off and people see who they really are. Eating together and listening for God in each other’s lives remind us that we are not alone, that we are one body of Christ.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Prayer, Worship, and Evangelism in the African-American Church

Rev. Sheila Wilson-Freelon, Esq., describes amazing renewal in the African-American Church in A Quiet Pentecost.

Today, in my role as a district director of evangelism, I lead a thriving transformative ministry in the Sizzling South District of the Chicago Conference of the Fourth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Four times a year, hundreds of people participate in a mini Fire-Filled Revival and Evangelistic Crusade under the ministry’s theme: Love, Unity, One Accord=Holy Ghost Power. Our theme for the worship services is Come Feel the Fire: Fueling Flames of Holy Ghost Power.

This ministry brings nineteen churches together each Fifth Sunday at a designated church in the South District. The contemporary services are upbeat with a charismatic move of the Holy Spirit. For each service, we wear unity colors, which have either spiritual or cultural significance (i.e., white for purity of the Holy Spirit or Afrocentric attire for Black History Month). The ministry serves to strengthen four areas of our spiritual lives in Christ Jesus: (1) love of Christ, love of neighbor, unity and one accord; (2) kingdom building; (3) Christian fellowship; (4) deeper prayer life. The most important of these emphases is promoting the Love of Christ, Love of Neighbor, Unity and One Accord among the nineteen churches, as found in Acts 2:42-47

During worship, each host pastor delivers a sermon on our theme. This service is a catalyst for the ongoing nurture of the four attributes described above long after the Fifth Sunday worship service has ended. Additionally, the presiding elder and I (as worship leader) promote and encourage Acts 2—Love of Christ, Love of Neighbor, Unity and One Accord—as we address the congregation. The Saturday before the Sunday worship, the district evangelism team provides Friendship and Street Evangelism training to the host church members. Through these kingdom-building efforts, the ministry trains churches to win souls for Christ as they canvas the neighborhoods by distributing flyers and invit¬ing residents to the Fifth Sunday worship and fellowship. 

To support a deeper prayer life among district members, our presiding elder had previously established a district prayer team and required each local church to establish a prayer team for evangelistic purposes. The district prayer and evangelism teams pray in and anoint the host church with blessed oil the Saturday before the worship service. On the day of the worship service, we pray for love, unity, one accord, blessings, salvation, and protection for an entire hour before the service begins. Prayers for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and for the anointing of all in attendance also go forth. This Holy Spirit anointing equips us with spiritual power to effectively minister in preaching, teaching, giving, and evangelism for the glory of God. 

Participants have expressed their enjoyment of the worship and the fellowship. Many have informed me that they feel the fire of the Holy Spirit in these meetings. Those who have canvassed and invited the neighborhood initially expressed apprehension about participating in street evangelism; however, they return from these activities reporting stories of praying with and leading people to Christ on the streets in the Chicagoland area. They return from their street evangelism activities floating on a spiritual cloud as the Holy Spirit anointed them with the joy of witnessing. As a result, more and more churches are engaging in street evangelism. More significantly, more souls are being saved and given access to fundamental gospel truths. The spiritual life force in the district is very positive as the Holy Spirit honors our efforts to model the dedication of the church in Acts 2. As a direct result of this ministry, a new church has been started in the district. Another has changed its name to Unity Temple. 

I am humbled by my God-given vision, God’s vision in action, and the impact the Holy Spirit is making in the life of the AME Church. We give God all the glory, honor, and praise for Fueling the Flames of His Holy Ghost Power in evangelistic revival throughout our unifying district and the community. To God we are forever grateful.