Spiritual formation is one of those ephemeral, religious-y terms that seems to mean something so crucial and yet slips away from easy definition. What does it mean to pursue spiritual formation? Does it just mean reading the Bible all the time? Are we talking about praying a lot? What are we actually talking about when we say spiritual formation?
All Souls understands spiritual formation as the intentional and life-long process of being formed by God into the likeness of Christ through the Holy Spirit, for God’s glory and the blessing of our world. It is important to remember that our formation is entirely tied to God. God is the one inviting us to be formed, God enables us to be formed, and God’s image is the one into which we are being formed.
Christian tradition teaches that our whole beings matter to God. Necessarily then, spiritual formation involves our whole person. The way we think, how we understand the Bible, and how we perceive and interact with the wider world are all part of how we are spiritually formed. At All Souls this plays out as engaging with the weekly sermon, joining a community group, and taking part in thoughtful study, such as at Tuesday Conversation or one of our book studies.
However, we’re not merely thinking creatures. What we do in the world matters to our formation, too. Taking real, tangible action for the benefit of those around us is an important part of the journey of Christian formation. This can look like volunteering in our community or church, serving others or practicing simple acts of grace and mercy. Besides learning to be more gracious people in the regular course of life All Souls connects folks to serve with Boulder organizations like Mother House, Boulder County Cares and BoHo.
What is less often seen as part of our spiritual formation is simply being present to God. In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds us that simply to look at God is a transformative experience (2 Corinthians 3:18). In history this aspect of formation has been called contemplation. Through becoming increasingly present to God in our day-to-day lives, we find ourselves gentler, more compassionate, more gracious and loving. We find ourselves formed into someone more like Christ.
Learning to be present to God takes practice and will likely get more difficult before it gets easier. One of the initial challenges is quieting the constant chatter in our minds, putting down our cell phones, and being quiet for a little while. That can be hard work in our fast paced world of to-do lists and obligations! At All Souls, we encourage engaging in this type of presence via ancient practices like walking a labyrinth and contemplative prayers as well as learning from our own experiences by telling our stories. These are old practices that modern Christians are rediscovering. In them many are experiencing the gracious and merciful God they’ve longed for and are being animated to be gentle with themselves and others because of this encounter.
For a practical guided to a few specific practices that help us be more deeply present to God, ourselves, and each other check out our Contemplative Resource Guide. Additionally, please explore the resources below for different ways to pray or to learn more about contemplation and the inner life. If you are interested in learning more or want to try some practices with others please contact Adam Bailon.