By Sophfronia Scott Gregory
On February 14 Trinity’s Christian Formation Commission held the first of five sessions in our Lenten series, "Growing a Rule of Life.” In this series, developed by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) and the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at the Virginia Theological Seminary, we’re focusing on the development of spiritual disciplines to support our personal growth and connection to God.
An enthusiastic group gathered in the undercroft for the 9 a.m. program. I facilitated the discussion and offer here a brief recap for anyone who may be following along by receiving the daily emails and videos from SSJE but can’t make our in-person sessions. (By the way, you can still sign up for the daily emails at www.SSJE.org/growrule.)
This session focused on exploring the definition and concept of a rule of life and connecting it to the rhythm of nature. We began with each participant sharing one moment, place, or experience in God’s creation that was particularly meaningful for them. The exercise fostered a wonderful sense of connection in the class as we learned new things about each other.
Next, we looked at definitions of a rule of life and why writing one might be useful in our everyday lives. We covered these particular points:
To aid the discussion we viewed one of the daily videos presented by the Brothers of SSJE, this one featuring Brother Mark Brown. The video may be viewed at this link. Here’s an excerpt of the video’s transcript:
Some of you may be asking, “Why have a Rule of Life at all? Why go to all the trouble?” I am reminded of a well-known poem by Mary Oliver called “The Summer Day” and at the end of it, she asks a question. She says, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” So, in a sense, a Rule of Life – that’s the plan; it’s the plan for what you do with that precious gift. I also begin with the understanding, with the sense that life itself is a very precious gift that we have been given by God. So the Rule is what we plan to do with that very precious gift.
After viewing the video we broke up into smaller groups and read various samples of rules of life and spiritual practices including those of the author C.S. Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
Some Daily Practices of C.S. Lewis
Write/read from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
In the afternoon, take a walk outdoors in silence.
Spend tea time in solitude.
Write from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Spend evening time with loved ones.
Practices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Protestors (during SCLC protests in Birmingham)
Observe with friend and foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.
Perform regular service for others and the world.
Refrain from violence of fist, tongue and heart.
Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
Meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus.
Remember always the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
Walk and talk in the manner of love; for God is love.
Pray daily to be used by God that all men and women might be free.
Sacrifice personal wishes that all might be free.
During this brief study I encouraged the group to use the space in the “Seed Packet” images in the Participant’s Workbook to record particular spiritual practices they felt appealed to them from the samples or from what they’d learned about the lives of others. The idea is these seeds may be sown as we move forward in the program and develop our own rules of life.
Our first session done, participant Nancy Cole expressed her enjoyment of the program: “I have been following along on the SSJE.org site, but this morning it came into focus for me—hearing from others how God is present in our everyday life, through signs in nature and our fellow travelers! Planting and tending to my garden is a great plan for spiritual growth.” During the sharing Nancy told of getting lost on a hike and how a boulder played an important role in the spiritual experience she felt as she found her way.
Next week’s class will focus on your relationship to God. In the meantime, I will leave you with these reminders from SSJE as you continue viewing this week’s videos and thinking about your own rule of life:
Every person has their own unique way of living into the fullness of God’s love. Some do it with words, others with images. Some folks use their bodies, others find God in stillness. One seed, one garden, is not necessarily better than another. It is important in this process not to feel overwhelmed and try to do it all. Being realistic, patient, and creative is crucial for every good gardener!
This is an exciting opportunity to dream big and to think creatively about how you want to live deeper into your own unique life with Christ. Try not to limit yourself too much. Think about what kind of garden plot is possible in this season of your life.
Throughout the next week, reflect on the following questions:
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