Introducing small groups to the concept and process of spiritual formation by utilizing the practice of lectio divina as a model.
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Richard, Matthew L.
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The impact of Christendom on American life and culture is evident in the vast numbers of churches religious institutions, and denominational entities whose influence is apparent in activities ranging from healthcare to education. Following the methods of the industrial revolution, Christianity established and promoted itself through the creation of organizations, systems, and programs. While invaluable in developing and growing the reach and influence of Christianity, this legacy has been criticized by those who raise questions about loyalty to institutions in today’s post-modern era. In addition, some practitioners within the church recognize an inherent emphasis on group uniformity over personal spiritual formation in it. Reactions against organizational Christendom range from disaffiliating with Christianity altogether, to reinventing the faith in a way that seems to be detached from its historical expressions. This project contended that these reactions may overlook important commitments to personal spiritual formation within historical Christianity, and that such an emphasis might provide a balance of ministerial focus in which communal Christian activity springs from the formation of Christlike character. Thus, the focus of this project was not a reinventing or abandoning of established forms, but rather a recovery and renewal of spiritual formation for individuals in Christian community. It emphasized spiritual formation due to its intrinsic connection in shaping Christian character and behavior, and community in recognition that God can be experienced physically and uniquely in such a setting. The project did this by providing participants of a small group with instruction on historic Christian spiritual practices, and interactive group engagement over the course of several sessions in the practice of lectio divina. Reflection on God’s presence and activity within the group was facilitated through guided journaling and group sharing. The research of this project sought to determine how providing exposure to Christian spiritual practices/disciplines affected a group’s individual and communal awareness of and response to God, as perceived by themselves and the researcher through such activities as reading the Bible, interpreting life-events, following Jesus’ example, and listening and responding to others.