Opening Spaces

Today I am musing about “offering spaces where Friends can encounter the Living Christ.” This phrase, spoken during the meeting of the School of the Spirit Board last weekend, was referring to the mission of the School of the Spirit Ministry.   I can understand how it applies to our programs, both the On Being a Spiritual Nurturer and the Contemplative Retreats, but the question I am pondering is how might it apply to my daily life. Do I live my life in a way that invites that encounter? Is it the same as answering that of God in others?

I grew up in a Christian church where witnessing to others (evangelism) was something you were always supposed to do. I remember as a young child sitting on the swings at the playground with my friend, who was Catholic, “witnessing” about what one had to do in order to be saved. I’m sure I did more talking than listening, but I think we were both just repeating the stock phrases we had learned in our religious confirmation classes.

More recently, I had a conversation with my sister, who is still firmly within the Baptist tradition, about evangelism. She had specifically asked me whether Quakers engaged in missionary activity. I answered that while it was important in some branches of Quakerism, liberal unprogrammed Friends for the most part were not into proselytizing. She asked, “How can you not warn people that unless they accept Jesus they will go to hell?”   I think my reply was to state the belief that there was “that of God” in everyone and that I saw my job, not to warn people but to nurture and affirm the goodness that we all have.

Today, in this written format, I am having a conversation with myself about whether I am allowing spaces where I encounter the Living Christ. I realize that transformation or spiritual conversion is not a one-time affair. It is more than what happens at an altar call, where the pastor gives an invitation to people who want to accept Jesus as their personal savior and be saved. When I was engaged in the 2-year residency of the Spiritual Nurturer Program, I was more frequently attuned to the voice of the Inward Teacher, the Seed, the Living Christ. I still experience it from time to time and know that it is possible, but I have not been as intentionally seeking those encounters.   I find that I get so caught up in my activities that I don’t take the time to fill the well, to drink the living water, to restore my soul.   If I am to offer space for others to encounter the Living Christ, I must open the space within myself.

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