Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” addressing some of our primary concerns as finite and divine-image-bearing creatures: where are we going, what is really real, and how do we get there? Spiritual formation is the invitation to journey those questions with Jesus, leading us into deeper relationship God, and greater dependence on the creative resourcing of the Holy Spirit. Abbey Year 1 and 2 will each be marked by these movements (with D.N.A. groups as a regular touchstone for application): following Jesus on “the Way” (discipleship), facing Jesus “the Truth” (accountability), and being fed by Jesus “the Life” (nurtured).
Following Jesus means growing in wisdom, and wisdom is not just about knowing what is true, but how it’s true and when it’s true, in our real lives. Ignatius’ Rules for Discernment gives us some tools for how to increasingly recognize what takes us to and away from God, and how to respond accordingly. This year we will focus on Ignatius’ idea of consolation, and next year on what we can learn from desolation.
One way to read the word “accountability” is as account-ability: are we able to give an account for the hope in us? During this Blitz we will devote time to crafting current and authentic testimonies that reflect where we have come from and where we are, including when we first encountered Jesus’ message and presence as good news, and how it is still good news for us today.
Our training relationship with Jesus and with each other extends to our communication: when to talk, when not to talk, and how to talk. Here we will look at the Church’s vocation as “ambassadors of reconciliation,” and what that means for speaking the truth in love, whether we are more naturally conflict- seekers or conflict-avoiders.
Jesus is famous for turning over (tables, and) people’s assumptions about right/ wrong, sacred/mundane, and who’s in/who’s out. Part of discipleship with Jesus means facing Jesus’ surprising demands, being held accountable by Jesus, and re-facing Jesus (repentance) over and over again. Here we will remember how the way into the Kingdom of God isn't as clear-cut as we might expect and how our blindspots are just that.
Henri Nouwen describes hospitality as “the creation of free space” where people can be themselves, and where the stranger can become a friend. “Hospitality is not to change people,” Nouwen goes on, “but to offer them space where change can take place.” We will look at how to apply this model of hospitality to various forms of leading, including how to facilitate a version of group spiritual direction to aid authentic and contemplative sharing.
One way God has chosen to sustain and nurture us is through the Church and the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us. Here we will look at our (sometimes) complicated relationship with church, and the possibility for transformation and discipleship through spiritual friendship.
An indispensable part of discipleship is learning how to receive, internalize, and externalize God’s nurture, direction and care for our lives. Here will look at our identity in light of Jesus’, our habits of self-care in light of Jesus’, and what it means to sustainably love our neighbors as ourselves.
It’s so easy to think of time as something we own, manage, run out of or need more of. But what if time revolves around God, not us, and is something we are swept up into, not chasing? Sabbath principles will help us reorient ourselves to God’s Time, and working on a Rule for Life will help us align our values, beliefs and desires with our calendars.
Looking back at Jesus in the Gospels and at our individual histories, we’ll identify ways that our small stories are connected to God’s Big Story, how that impacts our everyday lives, and the disciplines we need to remain faithful disciples of Jesus over the long haul.
Jesus is recorded 20 times in the New Testament as saying, “Follow me.” This command was the beginning of a small group training relationship with Jesus and with each other. The “followers” left their homes and moved in with Jesus, traveling where Jesus travelled, sleeping where Jesus slept, and doing what Jesus told them to do. We will start the year by looking at what this intentional training relationship could entail for us as we follow Jesus to life with God, for the sake of others.