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9780567190192

Quest for Spiritual Community Reclaiming Spiritual Guidance for Contemporary Congregations

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780567190192

  • ISBN10:

    0567190196

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-02-24
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury T&T Clark

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Summary

Many churches recognize the importance of the genuine spiritual hunger in our time and are attempting to bridge the gulf between traditional religious institutions and the contemporary spiritual quest by revitalizing and retooling ancient spiritual practices. This book suggests that it is possible to relish the spiritual quest while honoring tradition and theological inquiry through practices such as spiritual guidance. It presents a sociological analysis of contemporary spirituality, case studies of congregations with spiritual guidance ministries, and reflection on historical practices and Protestant theological roots to explore the strengths and pitfalls of nurturing the contemporary spiritual quest in the average congregation. The resulting vision for congregation-based spiritual guidance incorporates practices that attend to person, community, and mission.

Table of Contents

Introduction:The introduction will discuss the widening gulf between religion and spirituality in contemporary culture. Chapter 1: Understanding the Contemporary Spiritual Search: Spirituality for Communities in a Culture of IndividualsThe first chapter will provide a description of the contemporary spiritual quest for congregations and their leaders who are frequently ill-equipped to understand the spiritual environment in society around them. Seminaries generally provide students with many more tools to read Scripture, church history, and theology than to "read" contemporary culture. The sociological frameworks of Wade Clark Roof, Robert Wuthnow, and Christian Smith offer insights into the contemporary cultural milieu and provide direction for recovering ancient practices of spiritual guidance for the current context in a manner that is rooted in the communal formation of the congregation.  Chapter 2: Hearing their Stories: Spiritual Guidance Practices in CongregationsEvery chapter will contain the threads of a few stories woven throughout (see the introduction for an example of this.) However, the second chapter will explore the stories of the congregations and seminaries included in the empirical research more fully, highlighting specific dimensions of the impact of spiritual guidance training and practice on congregations and their leaders. Several significant findings will be discussed including: the shaping of pastoral identity, ongoing self-care and personal formation of pastors, parishoners developing a language for spirituality and experiencing God in new ways, personal and communal discernment, the movement from personal formation to missional conviction, etc. This chapter will begin to explore practical insights from those reclaiming spiritual guidance practices. Ultimately, the chapter will consider how spiritual guidance practices impact the congregation's ability to create meaningful responses to the quest culture.Chapter 3: Historical Models of Spiritual Guidance: Uncovering Practices of Soul Care for Persons and CommunitiesThe third chapter will provide a brief introduction to the development of spiritual guidance practices in recent history, especially with reference to the Protestant context. The chapter will then consider an historical exploration of spiritual guidance in a few specific contexts - snapshots of spiritual guidance at work in communities where it may be least expected. These snapshots will include the role of the anamchara (or soul friend) rooted in Celtic spirituality, the anchorite Julian of Norwich, the early Anabaptists who practiced the ban, and the secretive seminary community guided by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The result is a discussion of the possibilities of spiritual guidance which challenges the contemporary culture's emphasis on individualistic spirituality. The historical examples point to the possibilities of spiritual guidance practices which nurture both individuals and communities. Chapter 4: A Protestant Theology of Spiritual Guidance: Insights from Jürgen Moltmann and Miroslav Volf on the Trinity and Christian Community  The theological discussion in the fourth chapter lays the foundation for a Protestant theology of spiritual guidance. Moltmann is a pivotal figure in his development of the social doctrine of the Trinity. His discussion of God's presence in creation fits hand-to-glove with spiritual guidance practice. The description of human relationships which most fully reflects God as Trinity (persons-in-relation) sets the stage for spiritual formation in community. Volf (Moltmann's former student) explores voluntary association in the Christian congregation and works intentionally to counter individualistic tendencies in Protestant ecclesiology. The result is a vision for Christian practice that attends to the personal spiritual quest while remaining accountable to theological convictions about community and mission. A Word on Method: This chapter draws on traditional systematic theologians, however the focus on spirituality lends itself to approaching the ideas in a way that is creative and engages tools such as story and metaphor. At times it will also be important to point to practice (based upon earlier chapters) and then reflect on theological implications (a true practical theological method). Chapter 5: The Pastor as Spiritual Guide: Becoming a Spiritual Leader of a CongregationThe fifth chapter discusses the possibilities of the role of pastor as spiritual guide. In the empirical research, pastors were virtually unanimous in their opinion that spiritual guidance has become a lens for all that they do in ministry. For many, training in spiritual guidance has been one of the biggest influences in the way they go about the work of ministry. The bulk of the chapter will offer suggestions for providing spiritual guidance through various pastoral tasks including preaching, leading worship, teaching, pastoral care, administrative leadership, etc. Lay leaders will be addressed as well. Chapter 6: Toward a Congregation-Based Model for Spiritual Guidance: Pragmatic Suggestions for Churches Seeking to Address the Contemporary Spiritual Quest While the fifth chapter concentrates on congregational leadership, the sixth chapter gives attention to the congregation as a whole. A model for congregation-based spiritual guidance will be explored more fully. After reading this chapter, congregational leaders should have a sense of how they might start to develop a ministry of spiritual guidance in their contexts. Variations of the model will be considered and possible pitfalls when implementing spiritual guidance practices will be addressed. Practical issues such as approaches to spiritual guidance that attend to males and females, spiritual guidance for individuals and groups, and spiritual guidance for families will be included. These issues are based upon the understanding of the congregation as a primary home for spiritual formation amid a culture in which spiritual experiences are often fleeting.  Conclusion:In addition to providing a brief summary of key arguments, the conclusion will offer some reflections on key issues seminaries might consider in their attempts to give greater attention to spiritual formation and guidance in the curriculum and in community life. In my perspective, the spiritual formation of seminarians is critical for the ongoing health and growth of the church.

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