Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharing Thin Places

Each month I will post excerpt from A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life (to be published, February, 2013, Upper Room Books). Please respond with your experience or questions related to the practice. -- Dwight Judy

This month's post is from a group of 6 women who have met weekly for 6 years. They follow the method of group scripture reflection (lectio divina) as outlined by Norvene Vest in Gathered in the Word.

After a short period of “coming together” we quiet ourselves by lighting a candle or striking a small Tibetan bowl to prepare ourselves for “hearing the Word.” The leader reads a selected scripture twice after which members are invited to repeat a word or phrase that has stood out for her. Following the next reading we reflect upon and share how the phrase has touched our lives. After a period of silence as the scripture is read once again we listen for an invitation as to how we might respond to the Word in the coming week. Allowing further time for individual contemplation and having listened to each others’ responses, we end with personal prayers that include a prayer for and about the person seated on our right.
As time has evolved, leaders have occasionally brought added material such as poetry, hymn verses, or other short readings. Other formats have been introduced, such as the examen, in which we review life experiences looking for God’s presence, but we have primarily stayed close to the lectio practice.
The group has provided a context for stimulating both discipline and new directions in individual contemplation. It has been a private journey traveled alongside people we have come to love and trust. Certainly we have encouraged each other to keep up daily devotional reading and meditation and we have pondered the meaningful phrases in what we’ve read. We have learned to pray our gratitude and concerns aloud even as we’ve wrestled with our “images” of the God we are addressing.
In a way, being there for each other has become an expression of the “yearning.” We have shared “thin places.” The experience of God’s Presence has been powerfully felt in the weekly prayers for each other and as we have coped with serious illness and the deaths of loved ones. It has been a sustaining energy for one another – a place where we can bring our vulnerability and can count on needed support. The power of this time together remains central in our lives and has provided the bond that keeps us together. None of us has become a mystic, but we have realized that God is in relationships to one another and our loving response to the needs of the world.
While our group itself is not obvious to the congregation, our search for spiritual depth was recognized and supported by our pastoral staff, and over the past six years spiritual formation offerings have become prominent in adult programming.

Have you shared "thin places" with others in your small group experience?