Why Spiritual Formation is Important in Seminary
The student was apprehensive, reluctant to fully engage. After all, those experiences and feelings he was asked to share were intimate—they belonged to him. The nervousness was palpable among the small group of students as they met for the first time. Thus, the faith-sharing process at Northeastern Seminary begins.
This process, a central element of the personal and spiritual formation program, is described by Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation Rebecca Letterman (‘08) as an intentional place and space in which students take time to reflect on moments of significance in their lives. It provides a way for students to slow down enough to perceive God at work in themselves and others. They experience the hospitality of interested listening and also have the opportunity to learn to listen deeply to others. In this setting students discover they are not alone; others struggle with similar things in their lives and ministries. And it provides experiential learning of the theological truth: "God is at work in the world—sometimes even without me!"
The intentional growth reflection sessions are led by a certified spiritual director, most often alumni of the program. Graduates recall that the faith-sharing experience, with its commitment to observing silence and creating spiritual and emotional space, has a counterbalancing effect as it allows for synthesizing data gathered in the classroom. As Suzanne Pearson (‘09) describes, “It offers space and time … for spiritual reflection on the massive volumes of academic material one is learning and to listen for the living word of God.” John Miller (‘04) agrees, “It moves the ‘information’ into the ‘formation’ of the person,” while Steve Dunmire (‘05) notes appreciation for the process: “Especially in hindsight, I think it’s one of the areas where Northeastern made my seminary years a time of spiritual growth, not just learning.”
Read Part Two.