Jul. 18—Worship, doctrine, morality — it’s all important, of course.
But what about spirituality? Is that just as important in our lives and our churches?
This arguably more elusive element is at the heart of a two-year program beginning this fall at Monroe Street United Methodist Church. Sister Nancy Brousseau, a Dominican Sister of Grand Rapids, Mich., facilitates Spiritual Companioning: Called to the Ministry of Accompaniment.
“I understand spirituality as who we are in all aspects of our lives — like a container for all the ways in which we live as people of faith,” Sister Nancy wrote of the program, which is now enrolling; sessions begin in September. “For many of us, spirituality finds expression in religious practice and church life. Yet, Christian mysticism, the contemplative life and prayer seem to be at the bottom of the list of priorities for many mainstream churches.”
This program — in line with the sort of adult spirituality programs and one-on-one spiritual direction she has been offering for four decades — addresses what she has heard a number of individuals over the years express as a desire for more of the latter, she wrote.
“It came about because of the desire of so many for ongoing group support as well as growing in a deeper prayer life and friendship with God,” she continued. “Ongoing spiritual formation in Christ is essential for our adult development and maturing in prayer.”
Monroe Street UMC is the latest community to host such a program in Toledo, according to Sister Nancy, who has facilitated similar programs at Trinity Episcopal Church, Washington Church, and with the Sisters of Notre Dame stretching back the early 2000s.
The upcoming program, specifically, developed out of conversations between Sister Nancy and Barbara Coleman, of Monroe Street UMC, who had met at a spiritual formation program run out of Washington Church in 2013 and 2014.
Ms. Coleman said it sparked her interest in spiritual companioning. She’s among the nine or so participants who have already signed up for the two-year program.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity to develop and deepen my own spirituality as I become better able to listen and walk with others on our shared spiritual paths,” she wrote.
This program differs from past versions in offering an option to follow the first year with an 18-month program geared at developing spiritual directors, Sister Nancy said.
There’s a difference between the direction and companioning:
“Spiritual direction is the formal practice of spiritual guidance, whereas spiritual companioning is more informal,” Sister Nancy explained. “It’s what we all do. If you’re Christian — even if you’re not Christian — we companion one another on our journey, we share conversations.”
Spiritual Companioning: Called to the Ministry of Accompaniment is open to “anyone ready to explore what it means to be in the presence of a loving God so that you can see and hear the presence of God as you companion with others,” according to informational materials that organizers have begun sharing. It is a nondenominational program.
Sessions run 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. monthly at Monroe Street UMC, 3613 Monroe St., Toledo, and will incorporate required reading from authors like Richard Rohr, Albert Haase, and Pope Francis.
Some of the titles address mysticism, a theme that appears throughout the two-year study guide. While the term is used somewhat broadly today, Sister Nancy looked to the contemplative tradition to describe mysticism as “the direct experience of God.”
“It’s being wide open, wide awake to God in all things,” she said. “It’s seeing the deep mystery of God, living in the awareness of the presence of God.”
Organizers are hoping to enroll 15 to 20 participants in the program by September. Tuition is $530 per year.
For more information, including details on how to register, contact Barbara Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org.