Mission Exploration as a form of Spiritual Practice – Pr Tita Valeriano
by Kathye Hamm
The Christian Community around the world will begin its Lenten journey this week through Ash Wednesday. Many are discerning on spiritual practice/s that they may begin or amplify during this time individually and collectively. A practice or a discipline is a bold listening and regular performance of an action or activity towards clarity and growth in our relationship with God and others. I wonder what spiritual practices many of you would regularly do as our way to open up to God and grow in faith, love and mercy, especially during this new normal or these disruptive times. Spiritual practices or disciplines are both an inward and outward journey. They can be taken on by individuals, or by groups together. A contemplative practice may be a challenge for those who stay or work from home, but a gift to those frontliners confronting risks and chaos. Individual or group, contemplative or active, all practices share in their starting point: curiosity.
This spiritual discipline of curiosity is very much related to one of the new and renewing congregations initiatives of our synod, the Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (SAWC) Exploration. The curiosity of this practice starts with the presence and action of God in our lives, our neighbors and the world: What is God doing among and around us? In this exploration, the discernment question is: What is God inviting us to be and do as we participate in God’s action and intentions among and around us?
The SAWC Exploration is a short-term intentional and strategic probe or study to ascertain the probability of a new start or new church plant. Sometimes the exploration gives more questions than answers, but leads to a discernment grounded in prayers and our baptismal call, two foundations in a spiritual practice. Two of the biblical narratives that can guide this initiative are Numbers 13 And Acts 16. From these biblical sources, we see that like all spiritual practices, a SAWC Exploration is:
- Grounded in Prayer and Intentional Listening
- Deep trust on God’s power working within and around us through curiosity and awe.
- Openness to God’s invitation sometimes to more questions than answers
- Confronting our own limitations in a way that makes us more courageous
- Readiness towards spiritual growth and deeper relationships with God, one another and neighbors
- Anticipation of God’s disruption and interruption to take risks and embracing of paradox
- Preparedness for bold actions of faith through unexpected relationships
I am sure there are more. The Sierra Pacific Synod has currently two SAWC explorations: Greater Stockton Latinxs Ministry and San Francisco/St Paulus. Last year, a SAWC Exploration transitioned to a New Start – SAWC, now known as “Fuente de Gracia” in Sanger and even in the midst of the pandemic they cultivated awareness of who they are as disciples and deepened relationships with those in the neighborhood. The SAWC Exploration could be a spiritual discipline that helps us cultivate and shift awareness through deep listening to God, each other, our neighbors and the world and a risk- taking step to unchartered places where God is already active in the lives of those we will meet. I invite you to pray for our mission explorations, not only those labeled as SAWC but all of our congregations, for each of our congregations are invited to wonder at and witness to God’s work and action. As Moses said to those sent to explore the land of Canaan guided by Yahweh, “Do your best, and bring back some of the fruit of this land.” (Numbers 13:20b)
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