Why Spiritual Formation is Important in Seminary [Part Two]
Faith sharing, according to Dr. Rebecca Letterman, associate professor of spiritual formation, serves as a counterbalance to our culture of hurry, efficiency, and the “fix it now” and “do it yourself” syndromes—a balance that enables us to live at the “pace of grace.” Suzanne Pearson (’09) found faith-sharing groups profoundly counter-cultural in that, “it forces one to listen to another without the violence of interjecting one’s own personal experiences and prejudices on another’s experience.” Baiba Peelle (’07) concurs, “When each person is allowed to share without commentary from the others, the group becomes a safe, accepting, non-judgmental place where differences are not divisive but become part of the whole community.”
Developing this discipline helps the seminarian begin to cut through the clutter of voices competing for time and attention to learn to discern the voice of God. Darlene Mieney (‘09) notes that group facilitators are there to help students listen to God rather than ask for opinions from others. For Gloria Roorda (‘02) “the experience allows God to touch something deep in us that up to that point we were unaware needed touching.”
Central to faith sharing is profound respect for the individual, the power of listening to what is going on internally, and the power of God to work in silence. There is a constant climate of invitation to notice and respond to what God is doing or continuing to do in one’s life—paying attention to one’s ordinary experiences. This engenders the understanding that God is active and able to work in profound and life-changing ways.
Still, even with all the fruit that may be cultivated through faith sharing it remains a challenge for some. Letterman observes that because of its focus on listening, it constrains verbal responses to others, a distinct difficulty for people who base much of their learning and ministry on words. And when students expect that the group exists for support, problem solving, or conversation, facilitator Mary Ann Fackelman suggests a readjustment take place before they can actively and accurately engage in the process.
Read Part One here.