Spiritual exercises

Weaving Earth and Sky: Small Group Spiritual Direction for Those in Transition from Loss and Caring for Loved Ones

Tina N. Shelton
This project explores the role spiritual disciplines play in the lives of those going through transitions that involve loss or caring for loved ones. This involves inviting God’s presence through spiritual disciplines, learning and relearning strong Biblical characters, and sharing our own narrative stories with one another. Participants at South Elgin Community United Methodist Church took four to six weeks respectively to embark on a healing journey with one another and with God. There was growth and/or healing gained through this project. This growth and/or healing was measured by the new perspectives expressed and the new changes that came forth.

Living with God in our culture : a manual for directors facilitating an Ignatian group retreat

Philip A Shangraw
Living with God in Our Culture: A Manual for Directors Facilitating an lgnatian Group Retreat is a practical and creative guide to directing an eight day, values clarifying retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The manual succinctly illustrates the interplay of values, culture, and spirituality for contemporary Americans using clear, pointed examples. This blend grounds the author' s basic assumption : values determine what people notice and influence their spirituality.

The principles of Ignatian spirituality-awareness, intelligence, reasonableness, responsibility, and love-as postulated by Bernard Lonergan, S.J., and five basic Lucan values-dependence on God, compassion , inclusiveness, right use of possessions and nonviolence-are highlighted in the manuscript and provide a manageble retreat framework for both director and retreatants.

The manual includes prayer exercises, guidelines for the discernment of spirits from a cultural context, practical suggestions for preparing and directing the retreat, and examples from the experience of retreatants.

Ignatian spirituality in a Presbyterian context : a suggested Presbyterian use of the Ignatian method of spiritual exercises

Gerard John Vanden Bylaard
This project is the product feelings of restlessness while Presbyterian Church in Canada.
of my response to deep ministering within the Something essential to my pastoral and theological work seemed to be missing. One day, while visiting the local library, I came upon John Sanford's helpful book entitled The Kingdom Within. In this volume, the author stresses the need to "journey inward", that is, to listen to· the "inner voice" of the unconscious. Here the work of the Holy Spirit may be experienced as a gentle· prodding toward growth and wholeness, a wholeness such as is perfectly seen in Jesus Christ. Here there may be found a whole realm often denied by the proponents of a more materialistic and scientific view of life.

Within modern times, Sanford points out, "the importance of humankind's inner world has been lost." But the early church always held that humankind's "conscious life was immersed in a sea of spiritual reality." The discovery of the unconscious, Sanford holds, has challenged the materialistic view of humankind and its negation of the New Testament.

From contemplation to compassion, from compassion to contemplation : epistles of a fellow traveler on the spiritual journey in post-Vatican II ministry

Michael A Danner
This project-thesis proposes that contemplation and compassion are essential qualities of the ministry and of the life of priests. The era of change in which we live demands a ministry based upon these essential qualities. These elements may well be nurtured by the ministry of a spiritual director. In fact, the responsibility of finding words to express the compassion of God is seen as an essential service to be rendered to priests by spiritual directors. Such service can be provided by the director and received by the directee only in the context of the process of contemplation. Part of the process of this project was the search for an effective method of thoughtfulness and careful, interested dialogue, that is, contemplation. Such in roads into the natures of God and humankind help find words for the right questions and find expression in the compassion modeled by Jesus. Taking the lead of St. Paul, the format of the epistle was chosen. This work consists of twelve letters with directions and questions for creative and resourceful study, application, and additional reading.

A Didactic Approach to Spiritual Formation:
Integrating Spiritual Practices to the Seminary Curriculum of the Diaspora of Chinese Students in Panama, Central America

Jacqueline Siu Yin Lam D.Min.
An awareness of God’s presence and a capacity to hear Him are two important elements to cultivate an intimate relationship with God for spiritual growth. This research portfolio seeks to answer the question: Will prayer encounters with God through the practice of praying with the Scriptures facilitate the participants’ capacities to hear God and increase awareness of His presence? The context for the research portfolio is seminary students and a small group of participants from the Iglesia Evangelica China De Panama from the Chinese diaspora in Panama, Central America.
This portfolio offers my spiritual autobiography (Chapter II), which traces the influences of three different Christian spiritual traditions (Foster 1998) and my professional training in various fields that have helped me hear God and experience God’s presence in my daily life. A four-year academic model and curriculum (Chapter III) is created from the experience of my spiritual formation and implemented for the Alliance Bible School of Central and South America. Finally, a field research project (Chapter IV) is offered to examine the effectiveness of Lectio Divina to facilitate prayer encounters in a small group of students from the Iglesia Evangelica China De Panama. The results show positive responses by the participants in their ability to hear God and experience his presence. However, practicing quietness remains a challenge for some Chinese Christians for their spiritual growth in the Panamian context.

The fourth human endowment : a spiritual autobiography

Sherwin Brantsen
Chapter One explains that this D.Min. program started out with a desire to study church growth methods, find one that works in a suburban RCA congregation and implement it.

Chapter Two describes the author's personal conflict with the decretal theism of his youth. It starts with childhood perceptions of God while growing up in a Reformed context. The chapter travels through a personal history with Dort and concludes with the discovery of the writings of Stephen Covey and John Sanders.

Chapter Three discusses the history of the Canons of Dort, questioning the doctrine of reprobation. It goes into a pastoral evaluation of decretal theism and concludes with a study of the contemporary influence of the teachings of Dort in the RCA.

Chapter Four compares the decretal theism of the Westminster Confession and the Canons of Dort with the teachings of modern business consultant and best-selling author, Stephen Covey. This chapter asserts that, especially in today's context, emphasis needs to placed more on human responsibility than on God's eternal decrees.

Chapter Five compares decretal theism to relational theism. It discusses the risk-free nature of Dort and compares it to the relational "risk" theism of John Sanders.

Chapter Six discusses various implications decretal theism may have for the RCA. The suggestion is made that we further examine our theology as perhaps one of the contributing causes of our decline.
Chapter Seven concludes the paper with statistics of decline in the RCA. The suggestion is again made that perhaps our lack of growth is due, at least in part, to our lack of motivation to evangelize. It may be that our lack of motivation is due to our theology that does not put enough emphasis on human responsibility.

This is our reconciliation : a dramatic memoir

Stanley Seagren
The theme of lament has been neglected and even shunned for too long in the life and ministry of most North American churches. Though it is a common Biblical theme in both the Old and New Testaments, congregations tend to ignore or even be embarrassed by the complaining and anger which run through Scripture. The purpose of my project has been to bring lament to the fore not only for individual believers, but also for the ministry of the Church as a whole -- in worship, small group ministry, youth ministry and ministry to the lost and broken.

The dramatic memoir presented here is the culmination of the research and analysis I have performed in the Scriptures, in the books I have read, and in my talks with people in the congregations I have served. The dramatic memoir traces a path toward reconciliation between one person and another, and also between a person and God. From the reactions of those who witnessed the dramatic memoir, I demonstrate that dramatic memoirs are one way to stimulate self-discovery and resolution of painful memories in the sacred times and places of our lives.

The food of God for the people of God : reconnecting food to the Eucharist

David Ryan Boes
There is an old saying that “you are what you eat.” But I think it goes further than that. We aren’t just defined by what we eat but who we eat with, where we eat, and how we eat. All of it says something about us. Food is cultural as well as biological—it’s spiritual as well as physical. Food is a ritual, communal, and relational act. All living things are part of what we call the food chain: all things are eating or being eaten. For Christians, the Table of the Lord, the Eucharist, should be the height of our eating. It is the apex of our interaction with food. At the Table, we enter the mystery of provision as we are fed by our good and gracious Father.

However, many of us have lost this connection of table to Table. The Western diet has stolen our diverse and bountiful diet and replaced it with the tepid slop of a fast food nation. Our theology of the Eucharist as been boiled down to individual memorialism of Jesus’ death, instead of a robust and hearty theology of remembrance, communion and hope.

So how might we go about reconnecting table to Table? I started with scripture where the Apostle Paul reminds the Church about its identity at the Table and how every table that we gather around forms us. Then I followed this thread through the theology of John Calvin to discover this connection within the Reformed tradition. Additionally, I use the voice of Jean-Jaques von Allmen to demonstrate how every meal that we eat is the prelude to and an echo of the meal that we eat at the Table of our Lord. Finally, I invite the gathered Church and households to engage in some practices of reconnection.

Contemplative leadership formation

Pam Bush

Global instability, national turmoil, and ecclesial ambivalence mark our current day. What is the church to do? This project emerges as more germane than I ever imagined, proposing the answer to that question as, “Contemplation.” The project begins broadly with the questions, “What is contemplation?” and “Why might contemplation be crucial for Christ-followers?” Contemplation is prayer, presence, and a carriage into loving connection with God, others, and self with whole heart, mind, soul, and body. Having assessed that contemplation is crucial, the project explores, “What does deliberate contemplation imply for the formation of ministry leaders?” a question particularly relevant to my seminary context. The work narrows to a proposed strategy for contemplative leadership development: a four day formation retreat for first year Master of Divinity students, with enneagram content and contemplative framing. Next, research addresses the question of the effectiveness of such a strategy in forming contemplative leaders. By all accounts, the formation retreat strategy turns out to be very effective. The project concludes with a personal accounting of my own prayer journey into contemplation; a journey which has shaped the quality of my relationship with God, the course of my vocation, and the characteristics of my leadership. I firmly believe that if the church becomes ever more present to Christ in every moment, then she will be a transformative presence of Christ in the world.

Mindfulness for healthcare staff with direct patient care

Sarah Samson
As a chaplain, I work in the context of healthcare with staff who provides direct patient care in the midst of burnout and compassion fatigue. I experience firsthand their stress and anxiousness which results in high staff turnover and highly emotional reactions. Reaching a place of engaged separation allows one to be involved compassionately and fully in the care and concern of another without being lost in the storyline of the other’s personal history. In an increasingly more anxious and violent society, we need healthcare staff practicing mindfulness to embody well-being and personal health. When the staff is stressed and anxious, so are those under their care -- an observation applicable to the home, church, and other areas of life outside the hospital walls.
In my particular context of Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, I examined the factors that lead to burnout and compassion fatigue as well as the history of contemplation as it translates into our current practices of mindfulness. I researched and articulated five mindful practices that seem to be the most effective for the least amount of effort. Ten of the CVICU staff at Memorial Hospital were asked to participate in mindfulness engagements to attempt to measure the effectiveness of mindfulness in mitigating the stress and burnout. The study results were sparse; however, they point to mindfulness requiring both time and energy to truly become a helpful practice for managing stress.
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