Thursday, January 22, 2015

Start a Quiet Pentecost in your Congregation in 2015

The ministry of spiritual formation is becoming the leaven in the Bread of Jesus Christ—gradually forming and shaping the culture and ethos of our congregation. We are raising up spiritual leaders and empowering them in their calling. The ministry provides the container for a committed core group to delve deeper into spiritual practice. We are enabling members to reach out into the world and become agents of God’s redemptive, saving grace. (p. 105, A Quiet Pentecost)

These powerful words come from Cherri Johnson at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They reflect the depth of commitment, community, and spiritual awakening that occurs when people live the Christ-like life of prayer and surrender. As individuals steep themselves in spiritual disciplines, particularly daily prayer, they receive assurance of the Spirit’s invitation to the devoted life of love. Cherri Johnson shares how she developed a focused ministry in spiritual formation over a period of 10 years and the way individuals who have been taught the ways of prayer and small group spiritual formation have created a climate of profound love and service within this congregation.
Cindy Serio describes what can happen when we pray regularly.

One morning as I was meditating on Luke 4:18, these words shimmered off the page straight into my heart: “proclaim release to the captives.” Suddenly I knew God was sending me to the women at a local prison. After a long conversation with the chaplain, he asked me why I was there and I was honest: “I don’t know. I only know that God wants me to be here. He smiled a knowing smile and said, “Follow me.” (p. 60)

Cindy Serio’s story of the impact of her listening ministry with incarcerated women shows how one loving person can make a difference in the lives of many individuals.
As individuals within congregations learn to pray together, congregations can be enlivened by a new sense of mission and purpose. Brenda Buckwell tells the powerful story of a fragile urban congregation that found new life as their leadership team learned to pray the scripture together over several months.
I was astonished. The leadership team of the small urban congregation had just signed their death certificate. In response to the question “What is your greatest desire in ministry?” a tenterhearted gentleman in his early seventies, with head held high, stated, “To keep the doors of the church open until the oldest generation dies.” The team was not surprised by the man’s response. . . . In my astonishment, I paused a moment and then leveled the playing field of mission and ministry for this congregation. With a deep breath and the infilling of the Spirit, I replied: “You can certainly do that if you would like. I can speak to the bishop about sending someone here to your declining ministry to do just that, close the congregation. I am just not that pastor. If you would like to venture forth with me, we can discover God’s desire and mission for this congregation together.” Now it was the team’s turn to be surprised. That very night the leadership team had their first experience of lectio divina, and the journey to amazing new life began at First United Methodist Church in Zanesville, Ohio. (pp. 49-50)

After six months prayerfully discerning mission together, the team unanimously decided to open The LifeWell Free Store in unused areas of their downtown church building. An ecumenical board was created. The community embraced this store where “no money changed hands” and the congregation now thrives.
            As we begin the New Year, invite the Holy Spirit into your heart and into your congregation anew. The book, A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life, relates the experience of more than 40 people who are teaching spiritual practices to individuals and to their church councils and other decision-making bodies. The model for our awakening is taken from John 20 in which Jesus comes among the discouraged disciples after his crucifixion, astonishes them with His presence proclaiming: “Peace be with you.” As He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, He commissions them for their ministry in the name of the Resurrected One.

            Jesus invites us in the same way today. A Quiet Pentecost is designed to encourage you as well as guide you in deepening your spiritual formation ministry. Video resources are now available to use along with the book’s study guide on this blog. Look around the new tabs at the top of the page. Use these with your planning group along with the study guide.

Let 2015 be the year to receive new life in the Holy Spirit, as we learn to listen for Jesus’ guidance.
Post and photo from: Upper Room Book Blog: Click on the link for easy access to ordering A Quiet Pentecost from Upper Room Books.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Remembering Bishop Rueben Job

From One Degree of Glory to Another

A Tribute to the Life and Death of Bishop Rueben P. Job,
Feb. 7, 1928 – Jan. 3, 2015

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NRSV)

The countenance of Bishop Rueben P. Job shows us the meaning of this extraordinary vision for Christian life, expressed by St. Paul. As tributes pour in for our beloved Bishop Job, words such as humble, faithful, prayerful, visionary, spiritual mentor are used to describe him, as one “living and praying in the Spirit of Christ.”

As pastor, Bishop, World Editor of the Upper Room, author of more than 20 books, mentor and spiritual director to many, Bishop Job exemplified the spiritual life to which he constantly called us. In Bishop Job’s manner of living and dying, we glimpse the possibility of the transformed life described by St. Paul. You and I are invited to look face to face into the glory of God and to allow ourselves to be transformed from one degree of glory into another as did Bishop Job.

Raised on a prairie farm in North Dakota, he graduated in 1957 from Evangelical Theological Seminary, one of two seminaries joining to create Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Bringing the Evangelical United Brethren legacy into The United Methodist Church, Bishop Job became known for his call for the renewal of spiritual life within the church. He contributed to this renewal with his constant stream of publications including A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, co-written with Norm Shawchuck, followed by A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. His book, Three Simple Rules, brought the themes of the historic Wesleyan Societies into contemporary life.

Like so many others, I also knew Bishop Job in a more personal way. He graciously became a discernment partner for us in our family decision in 1993 to move from Northern California to Northern Indiana to work with the renewal of Oakwood Spiritual Life Center. I well remember personal visits and phone conversations in which his wisdom helped confirm our decision.  From this move a few years later came my work at Garrett-Evangelical as Professor of Spiritual Formation.

As we thought on the possibility of creating an endowed professorship in spiritual formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, we could not imagine a better way to honor the seminary’s alumnus, Rueben Job, and to assure the continuation of his work in spiritual formation than to ask his permission to seek the endowment in his name. He honored us by allowing us to honor him in this way.

Peace and blessings, Rueben, in this transition for which you so well prepared yourself. In your own writings on dying and your peaceful passing, you show us how the “mortal body puts on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:53). You surely are being transformed from the degree of glory you shared with us in earthly life to a yet brighter degree of glory in the eternal life.

Prayers for Beverly and your family.

Find many more tributes to the life and witness of Bishop Job at The Upper Room website.

Dwight Judy, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, author of A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life

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."