Spiritual formation as part of the candidacy process
So as an interlude to the various construction-themed posts of late, what follows is a brief account of a different aspect of my education here at the Divinity School than I have usually spoken about: spiritual formation. Put simply, this is the combination of all things spiritual which I do, from studying to praying to contemplating to service work, and how these as a whole are helping to shape me into a Christian leader (specifically in my case as a candidate for the Lutheran diaconal ministry, this translates into enabling me to properly try and model the Christian life, while working to bring the Word of God and the work of the church out into the world). It is strongly suggested by YDS for MDiv students, and many of us have taken this suggestion to heart. At the same time, however, the Lutheran church and the candidacy committee expects me to do a fair amount of this formation process before I am even a third of the way through the candidacy process; as such, it is a good thing that I have set all of this up so early (that next candidacy meeting is October 21, so it is quickly approaching!).
Many individuals take a different approach to spiritual formation, as one must work with a director who they click well with, and with whom they can be very open. In my specific case, I am working with the pastor for the Divinity School campus, Julie Kelsey. We have a lot of similar outlooks which enables us to discuss well, but she is also an Episcopalian priest, and so brings enough of a different perspective to this process that we are able to learn from one another in the process. Her office is lovely (check out the first photo below, which is of the gorgeous pair of wooden carvings about which 0 is know, but which everyone desires knowing about so they can buy their own set; myself included!), and the plan is that once per month, for approximately an hour, we meet and discuss spirituality as it is, has been, and seems to be going in my life. We are both disinclined towards a strongly rigid system (so we do not have a book or guide to the specifics); instead, we meet and speak as we feel called to do so. Thus far, we have spoken in depth about my fairly rough and tumble experiences abroad, and how this has and continues to affect my sense of faith; very fruitful discussions, to be sure. In between the meetings, I have homework, of sorts; basically, to try a little bit more planning in my prayer life. Specifically in my case, she has suggested and I have found quite useful two things: waking up slightly earlier and praying prior to showering (which for me wakes me all the way up and disallows me to easily clear my mind); and making use of a candle to focus on when meditating and praying. These have both been quite useful to me; as a strongly Type-A personality sort of person, I am benefiting a lot from prayer which is planned to help counteract my overactive analytical mind that can make the true centering of one’s self quite difficult.
I am also participating in the Annand Program, which is put on by the Episcopalians here at the Divinity School. Quite different from my experiences with Julie, this is a process which revolves around small-group meetings 8 times during a semester, all led by a person (clergy or not, which I found intriguing) who has agreed to run a group. In my case, our leader is a woman named Dawn, who is a somewhat recently-ordained Episcopalian priest, and she is very excited to be there. Although we have only had one section, the basic format is threefold: an initial aspect of the meeting where we share what is joyful and disappointing in our lives at that given moment; then we hear aloud a piece of writing of some sort to consider; and finally close with a guided mediation and silent prayer combination. It was a delightfully peaceful aspect to my otherwise crazy Monday schedule, so I look forward to these over the course of this semester.