by Laura Messamore (MDiv, 2009), Minister of Spiritual Formation, Equippinglydia.org
As a Minister of Spiritual Formation with Equipping Lydia, I have the privilege of working alongside likeminded folks who have a yearning to create spaces of spiritual renewal for other Christians, especially those on the “front lines” of the Kingdom. Through retreats and spiritual direction, we carve out some breathing room for others to experience the love of God, and we do it together, in community.
One significant guiding principle for Equipping Lydia is that we never engage in “lone ranger ministry”, but rather always work together in teams. In our mission statement, we articulate our longing that “Christians who know and care for each other would be equipped to work in harmony as they resource and create spaces for others to find spiritual rest in Christ”. Which is to say: Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we didn’t have to muddle through the challenges of ministry alone, but got to do it with friends?
It is beautiful, but there are also challenges. Miscommunication happens and people get their feelings hurt. One important practice for us as a community is to spend time debriefing after every ministry session. We celebrate together the places we saw God move, and we process what was frustrating for us. Talking through our frustrations gives us an opportunity to ask for, and extend forgiveness, when it is needed. It also serves as a safe guard against the cancer of bitterness that would seek to eat away at our unity.
Not only is it important to be serving together in community, but we have also found that spiritual formation flourishes in community as well. For several years in the life of Equipping Lydia, we found we were constantly being inundated by a barrage of crisis phone calls. Spiritual Direction is intended to be a regular rhythm of attending to the invitations of the Spirit in the course of everyday life, and yet there were so many wounded sheep who, having found themselves maimed by the wolf, had nowhere else to turn. What developed in response to this need was an offering of formation groups. Similar perhaps to a small group ministry at a local church, folks would meet for a designated period of time (usually twice per month for 3-4 months) and enter into a time of quiet, reflection, sharing, and prayer. An amazing thing emerged after several months of meeting together: the irruptions of crisis were dramatically reduced. Regularly tending to our souls in the context of a loving and praying community had a powerful effect in calming the chaos in and around us.
We are a body, Scripture tells us, and we need each other. I know that, and so do you, and yet my tendency over and over again is to isolate. Why? I suppose because “community is messy”; people’s lives are a mess and when we engage with people we also engage with all their mess. Not only that, but most of us are running a mile a minute keeping up with impossible demands and frenetic schedules, when are we supposed to find time to be with one another to foster meaningful relationships and to be engaged in purposeful Kingdom work? It’s the same reason we all groaned when our seminary professors assigned the loathsome “group project”. It is so much easier just to do it myself!
What I have learned as I wrestle with both my need for, and aversion to, community in my own journey and as a minister with Equipping Lydia is this: I am people. Sometimes I am the messy one, the hemorrhaging one, the annoying one in need of grace. When I am honest and transparent with my need, I receive the care I need from others, and I also give others the gift of letting the love of Christ pour through them as they minister to me. Each of us stands in need of grace, and the only way to live in authentic community with one another is to be honest about our needs, compassionate to other’s needs, and constantly living out forgiveness as iron sharpens iron.
One response to “Equipping Lydia”