Faith Formation Focus: Spiritual Practices

At our All Church Camp this year I got to offer a workshop with Kelly on spiritual practices.  This is the definition of spirituality from Parker Palmer and William Murray that Rev. Kelly shared. “Spirituality is the human yearning to connect to something larger than ourselves”.  I find that being part of something bigger than myself usually comes from three sources: being in church community, spending time in nature, and through close personal relationships.  Although we might not consider the efforts that we put into strengthening relationships a spiritual practice, good relationships do connect us to something larger than ourselves- and there is little in life that is more fulfilling.  The good thing is that small things can go a long way in making meaningful connection.

Here’s an example. Years ago in one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books, I read a story about a family that had a way to express their affection without using words.  When they squeezed another’s hand three times, they all understood that it meant,  ”I- LOVE –YOU”.  The lady that wrote the story was grateful for this non-verbal practice at one time in particular. Before her father died he couldn’t speak, but he was able to squeeze her hand three times.  To this day she treasures this last precious communication.  I was impressed and adopted this practice with my husband and kids.  Sometimes it is nice to have a way to express love without words.   

Another spiritual practice that my husband and I have enjoyed since moving to Colorado is one that I picked up from Reverends Howell and Nancy when Howell invited me to Colorado to interview.  I’m sure Rev. Howell wouldn’t mind my sharing that when he and his wife come home from work they get a drink (hot or cold depending on the weather) and sit together to share their day with each other.  When they have guests they include them in this ritual, so the night I stayed with them I got to be part of this practice and we had a heartwarming discussion over drinks. Later, in recounting my stay to my husband, he liked the idea so much that we adopted this practice ourselves.  We find pouring a drink and sitting to talk when our paths intersect in the evening is a great way to unwind and connect at the same time.  In the summer we sit in our sky chairs on the porch and in the winter we sit by the fire.   

And then there are meals! (This was included in my part of the workshop.) The evidence is huge that eating dinner together on a regular basis is one of the best ways to strengthen family ties and give kids a sense of belonging.  Research shows that benefits of eating together include, better communication among family members, better overall adjustment for children, better performance at school, and better nutrition for everyone.  Plus lighting a chalice and expressing gratitude for our food and our lives is a great way to live into our faith.  Schedules can be crazy, but I have learned that it only takes one person to hold the space for family dinners. At our house those who are around when dinner is ready come to dinner and before we leave the table we make up plates for the absentees and put them in the fridge.  By having rules at the dinner table for positive conversation only— the table talk can be as nourishing as the food.

It is an exciting time of year with new opportunities ahead.  Finding those spiritual practices that make us prioritize relationships and allow us to feel part of something bigger than ourselves is a delight and adds a lot to the quality of our lives.

Janen Wright, Director of Faith Formation