No matter how far we travel with Jesus, it will be as a community. Although deep people become more comfortable with themselves and with being alone with God, they are also more necessary as leaders, teachers, spiritual guides and gift givers.
What you need to swim in our circle
Opportunities to deepen your prayer, meditation, and contemplation
▧ Take contemplative retreats
You have already seen a list of retreats offered as our Gifts for Growing. You were also led to consider a personal retreat at centers listed in the FIRE section. This is a reminder that this ongoing, personal discipline is central to the lives of our pastors and a valued means to have an ongoing life of deep faith. We need solitude with God, maybe especially in a noisy society and city. Often our Pastors or gifted individuals offer these times to learn and practice the disciplines of the spiritual life.
▧ Participate in or lead times for prayer
The pastors or one of our teams may call us to prayer at particular times and for particular reasons. Groups meet for centering and intercessory prayer. Sometimes we ask people to make an overnite chain of prayer. Those in the WATER stage are the gravity of these efforts.
▧ Find spiritual direction
Spiritual direction involves a process through which one person helps another person understand what God is doing and saying. It is popular these days to see spiritual direction as a personal relationship with a “guru” of sorts, a spiritual “therapist,” or a spiritual guide. We have several people in the church who have done training to provide this gift. Sometimes a person may offer this service professionally and be paid. We have a guide for spiritual direction at the link below.
But spiritual direction is not confined to this one-on-one relationship. A “soul friend” could be any intimate with whom you make a relationship of spiritual care. This is the more typical way we receive spiritual direction; the opportunities are all around us. Many of us have discernment and some of us have the gift. Be patient, listen and search. Direction never means domination or control. It is good to talk over the choice you are making and to seek validation from other people for how you are being directed.
There is a lot more information on this ever-developing Guide to Spiritual Formation and Direction
▧ Do Theology
Circle of Hope is an ongoing project. We are creating and maintaining an alternative way of life for people caught in the destructive ways of the United States. We are one with every good thing God has developed for our life and work both in the present day and the past. But we are also a unique, new thing and we are trying to keep up with the needs of what is coming next. Our ambition requires deep thinkers who can agree on god’s direction for us.
- We do this thinking together in our cells and Sunday meetings.
- It is also important that we do it individually. The Pastors have supplied an extensive, growing list of book recommendations at Goodreads (a “top five” has been at the end of each section). You may go to school to make sure you read the bible and books by gifted Jesus followers.
- We also make special times for “doing theology.” Recently, we have formed a cohort of seminary students and grads to create the nucleus of a quarterly meeting in which we tackle theological issues that have bubbled up in the church.
These writings show our distinctive way of seeing life in Christ
▧ Discipline Your Year
Therefore prepare your minds for action;discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance (1 Peter 1:13-14).
One of the ways we connect with Christians around the world is by sharing in the traditional season of the year with their feasting and fasting days. If you are from another tradition of the faith, you will notice that we do these disciplines in our own way, but we are close enough to be connected.
The spiritual disciplines easily go off the track or become obligations done routinely. In that case, they have limited value. But the tried and true means of deepening our spiritual relationship with God are always available to be used with new insight and hope in new eras of our development.
A main spiritual discipline in which we all participate is the “liturgical” year, the schedule for how we focus our worship. The seasons of the Christian year have worked their way into cultural expression, so they sometimes lose their spiritual discipline. But we redeem them and use them for what they are worth. They follow the life of Jesus: birth, ministry, death and resurrection, life as the church in the Spirit, mission to the world. In the Catholic and Eastern orthodox churches, “liturgical” has come to mean the work of priests, but we are all those people, so we consider it the work of the people. You’ll notice that the liturgical seasons also resemble the Way of Jesus if you see the Advent in terms of the incarnational depth of WATER. The story of Lent and Easter plants the seeds of EARTH. Pentecost is all about the WIND of the Spirit. And the long stretch of nurturing a harvest in summer and fall is all about FIRE.
- The beginning of the liturgical year. It is the time of waiting and celebration for the coming of Jesus.
- The evening before Christmas day that celebrates Jesus’ birth.
- Marks the beginning of a 40-day liturgical period of prayer, fasting, abstinence.
- Focused discipline season leading up to Easter that may involve prayer and fasting, contemplation of sin, and new reliance on God.
- The last week of Lent that includes pondering Jesus’ death and burial ultimately in anticipation of His resurrection. We often have daily meetings so we can physically walk with Jesus through His last week together.
- Celebration of Christ’s resurrection. We usually gather the whole church to greet Him at sunrise.
- Commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as recorded in Acts 2, and a general celebration of the Spirit in us and working through us.
Opportunities to exercise your gifts and serve
▧ Lead in the Sunday Meetings — provide living water to your disciples and the public
▧ Lead a Cell — create a pool where everyone can learn to swim at their own depth
- Learn the Cell Plan.
▧ Start a compassion or mission team — offer cups of cold water as the Spirit leads
▧ Share in our Common Fund — keep the reservoir full in wet times and dry.
All our congregations and businesses share a common purse. If we combined the traditional tithe from our earnings we could do anything we wanted. We aspire to that capability. From our Common Fund we
- Pay our 6 pastors, 3 church staff, and the many employees of our businesses.
- We pay the mortgage payments on the 5 buildings we own and rents on the 3 buildings we lease. We use money to maintain and beautify them all.
- We allocate money to supply all our regular ministry for children and adults.
- We supply our Mutuality Fund which helps our family members with their needs and subsidizes psychotherapy.
- We subsidize the projects of our compassion and mission teams. We record music and distribute materials.
- We give away over $100,000 each year to the mission of our allies, notably the Mennonite Central Committee, a sister ministry of the Brethren in Christ, with workers all over the world supplying relief, development and advocacy.