Fr. Thomas has asked the Centering Prayer community to take the next year and return to his basic teaching on the Christian spiritual journey. Here are three ways your Centering Prayer group may want to take-in these teachings together.
Starting January 2018, Contemplative Outreach is offering a yearlong online program called “The Spiritual Journey: Formation in the Christian Contemplative Life.” You may read more about details here on the CO website. This formation is a great way for your group to travel together through Fr. Thomas’ teachings as you experience your own growth in Christ through your Centering Prayer practice. One suggestion for using the materials during your prayer group gathering is this: after your prayer time, the group can view the weekly videos which are part of the online program. After some moments of quiet reflection, take time to share how the materials touch each of you where you are at this moment in your own journeys. This sharing can be very supportive, as often others in the group may be experiencing or have experienced something that is going on for you. Fr. Thomas says in Open Mind, Open Heart that “The group not only serves as a source of encouragement but also can normally solve problems that might arise regarding the method. The collective discernment of the group tends to be well balanced.” The online program will also include questions to ponder based upon the material of the week, or ideas and practices to support your deepening relationship with God. These practices can also be part of the group meeting. Each week, choose one or two for the group to ponder then share on your individual experiences.
Each member of your group can subscribe to the online course, which includes support from and connection to students around the globe and the retreat leaders. This viewing of the materials individually and in your group reinforces the teaching and allows you to drop deeply into how the materials are informing your life in God now. If the cost of the program is a barrier for some, please know that partial scholarships of up to 50 percent of the course price are available. Just simply email Pamela Begeman to inquire. In addition, since the course is a full year in length, Donna in the Contemplative Outreach office is able to set-up payment plans, if needed. You can contact Donna at 973.838.3384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second way for your group to go back to basics is to view Fr. Thomas’ Spiritual Journey materials together. They are available on DVD or as mp3 and mp4 downloads to your computer. Groups have been sharing these videos together for over 25 years. Transcripts for each video are available to read as reinforcement to watching the videos. Experiencing the materials in two different forms—watching then reading—is a form of contemplative learning, that is, taking in the same materials over and over at deeper levels while also learning to listen with your heart along with your mind. During your group time together, it is recommended you start with Centering Prayer, then view either part of or the entire one-hour topic. There are 28 topics to experience together (presented as five parts). Finally, each person in the group is invited to share what in the materials caught their attention and explore why the Spirit brought these insights at this time in their journey. You may also want to check in and share how your Centering Prayer practice is coming along.
A third way to review the Christian spiritual journey basics as a group is to read Fr. Thomas’ book Invitation to Love together. Segments of the book can be read at home in preparation for your weekly gathering. After your prayer time, a slow prayerful reading out loud of the same segment can be shared together. After the reading is complete, take time for a short silent inward reflection. Then, each person can share how the materials and stories touched them and why. These insights are gifts that inform where we are now in this moment on our journey to Love.
Whichever method of going back to basics is chosen, your prayer group may want to review and agree to Contemplative Outreach’s "Suggested Guidelines for Sharing in Small Prayer Groups" at your first meeting. Your group may want to add other guidelines that reflect your community. A monthly review of the guidelines is helpful. A way to listen deeply to the person sharing is by everyone facing the person while gazing lovingly and listening openly. This deep listening encourages and honors each person’s experience.
Contemplative Outreach Suggested Guidelines for Sharing in Small Prayer Groups.
We accept one another as we are.
We do not give advice.
We do not criticize what others share.
We listen attentively and without interruption when someone else is speaking.
We keep our sharing in the group absolutely confidential.
We share experiences from our own lives, not abstract ideas. (use "I" statements)
We gather in care, not to cure or remove the crisis or pain, God does the healing.
We decide among ourselves how much time we will devote to sharing, making sure that each person will have a chance to speak.
We are always free to remain silent if we wish.
During this Advent, as we collectively practice waiting and surrendering to God’s presence and action in our lives, please take time to discern with your Centering Prayer group which method of back-to-basics you will use in 2018 to practice together remembering God in each moment of our lives.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me here.