At St. Johns, Spirit Group is one of many small groups; book, gardening, in-reach, out-reach. There is a group to meet any interest, curiosity or passion. But my experience and the topic of my reflection is Spirit Group.
Lisa often says that the people who are at any given meeting or gathering are the ones who are meant to be there at that time, that place. At our Wednesday gatherings we have about a dozen people who meet on Zoom. We meet on Zoom, not only because of post-Covid but because we have church members who have moved to both the East and West Coasts and want to remain a part of the group. That is the kind of group it is. But what about the Spirit?
Joan Chittister commenting in The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, says:
“The spiritual life is not a set of exercises appended to our ordinary routine. It is a complete reordering of our values and our priorities and our lives. Spirituality is not just a matter of joining the closest religious community or parish committee or faith-sharing group. Spirituality is that depth of soul that changes our lives and focuses our efforts and leads us to see the world differently that we ever did before.”
Coming together at noon each Wednesday from fall until spring each year, I doubt that those in Spirit Group intend to completely reorder lives and priorities. However, telling and sharing our stories, relating our experiences, and reading the works of others (fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry) opens us up to new perspectives, seeing “the world differently.”
Of stories, Robin Wall Kimmerer says in one the group’s favorite books, Braiding Sweetgrass, “In winter, when the green earth lies resting beneath a blanket of snow, this is the time for storytelling. The storytellers begin by calling upon those who came before who passed the stories down to us, for we are only messengers.
For our group one of those messengers was/is the late Rachel Held Evans. As we read in Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, “If the biggest story we can imagine is about God’s loving and redemptive work in the world then our lives will be shaped by that epic. If the biggest story we can imagine is something else, like religious nationalism, or “follow your bliss,” or “he who dies with the most toys wins,” then our lives will be shaped by those narratives instead.”
In one of our more recent readings, Steven Charleston’s Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage offers, “Your spiritual journey is measured not by how many answers you have accumulated, but by how many questions you have confronted. We are not gods who must know everything, gatekeepers to truth—we are seekers who look for the truth where it may be most difficult to find. Our wisdom is not in what we know, but in what we wonder.”
As John O’Donohue in his classic, Anam Cara, points out, “Spirituality is the art of transfiguration. We should not force ourselves to change by hammering our lives into any pre-determined shape. We do not need to operate according to the idea of a predetermined program or plan for our lives. Rather, we need to practice a new art of attention to the inner rhythm our days and lives. The attention brings a new awareness of our own human and divine presence.”
So each week we come together with the Spirit’s guidance and our experiences and stories to imagine God’s loving and redemptive work in the world. We come to maybe change our lives and look at the world differently…to share and to wonder.