Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Doug Pagitt and the Solomon’s Porch Community, 2003, Reimagining Spiritual Formation: A Week in the Life of An Experimental Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)
This is the first book I have read that is written by a leader and the whole church! While the theme is about spiritual formation the book is actually about a community; the community of people who forms the Solomon’s Porch. The main emphasis is community.
Community as a means of spiritual formation serves to immerse people in the Christian way of living so that they learn how to be Christian in a life-long process of discovery and change. Christian community can and should be context for evangelism and discipleship, a place where faith is professed and lived (p.27)
Community is recognised to be the matrix in which Christian faith formation is nurtured and developed. This recognises the principle that Christians are formed in Christian by the matrix of relationships in community rather than ‘educated’ into being Christians. Earlier on, Pagitt commented:
The educational approach provides assurances of effectiveness through tests, catechisms, and statements of faith, which measure whether people have been “properly” formed. When we move beyond belief-based faith to life-lived, holistic faith, the only true test is lives lived over time. (p.25)
While the statement can be misinterpreted as saying that belief-based faith is not important, that is not what he meant. Pagitt is saying that we have been placing a lot of emphasis on belief-based faith which involves propositions and doctrines. Yet we cannot remain at that cognitive level. True faith is a life-lived faith. This means moving beyond the cognitive stage to the action stage. It means living out our faith in our daily lives in community.
The book was written as a journal in which spiritual formation occurs in the community through what they believe is important community practices. He uses the days of the week to bring the point across:
Spiritual formation through worship (Sunday)
Spiritual formation through physicality (Monday)
Spiritual formation through dialogue (Tuesday)
Spiritual formation through hospitality (Wednesday)
Spiritual formation through belief (Wednesday)
Spiritual formation through creativity (Friday)
Spiritual formation through service (Saturday)
Thus the community spiritual formation practices that Solomon’s Porch thinks are important are worship, physicality, dialogue, hospitality, belief, creativity and service. Physicality means recalling the body as part of human spirituality. Too often the body was neglected for the more “spiritual” pursuits. Yet posture during prayers, anointing with oil and even massage may be important formative practices (p.67-83).
In the concluding chapter, Pagitt made an interesting comment:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the task of both the new convert to Christianity and the experienced Christian was understood as not only believing the things of Christianity, but also as contextualizing, creating, articulating, and living the expressions of faith in their world? New Testament Christians lived it with the debate about how non-Jews would be called to a kind of spiritual formation that allowed Gentiles to fully follow Jesus in ways that were culturally appropriate to Gentiles. I am confident that we too will gradually move beyond the pre-industrialized approach of spiritual formation to one that better fits our own time (p.159).
I think it could not be better expressed. There is a need to contextualize, create, articulate and express our faith in each generation. In the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition, there is this expression that they are reformed and always reforming. John Calvin realized that while the basics of the faith remain the same, its expressions changes with times.
Soli deo gloria
|posted 5 February 2007|
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