Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Training key in drawing Community closer to God
As I sit chatting to guests at meals I often find myself responding to a question about how ministry at Lee Abbey Devon differs from ministry in the local church. Having come here from parish ministry it is not difficult to see significant similarities, but there are also some key differences. We tend to use the word ‘intentional’ a lot to try to describe the experience here. People usually join the Community with a deliberate desire to go deeper with God. That is something that the Leadership and Pastoral Teams try to take very seriously.
The principal means by which we do encourage this deepening is through our Spiritual Formation Groups. Each member of Community is a part of a Formation Group which have as their fundamental raison d’être a deliberate intention to encourage and challenge one another to go deeper with God. This is not just going deeper into the understandings of God and ways of approaching him with which we are each most familiar, but recognising the breadth of Christian experience reflected in this international Community and manifest in Jesus himself. We also seek to encourage the practice of being open to the Spirit’s work within us through Spiritual Exercises. Our Formation Groups can be challenging and exciting places.
Another distinctive aspect of life here is the time that Community members stay. Even in a city-centre church packed with students you would hope that the average stay was more than a year. Time here is intense, but it is short; as in Narnia, time seems to work differently here. This means that there are always people leaving, which can be emotionally tough. It means that the dynamic of Community can change very fast as key figures move on. It also means that, unlike in the local church, there are few history keepers who remember what we do and why we do it.
All of these lend particular significance to our annual Discipleship Training during the week when the house is closed at the beginning of November. It is a time when we explore how we apply our faith to the rest of life (be that life in Community or life beyond) and also try to help people to be inspired and equipped to serve God in their work here. For members of Community who spend their lives providing inspiring conferences for our guests it is a real opportunity for them to receive, learn and apply what God may be longing to say to us and do in us.
Rob Eastwood Dewing
PS Do please pray for our ongoing work with Spiritual Formation and for Discipleship Training which will take place 5–7 November 2013.