Conference Committee Prepping Spiritual Formation Resources for Local Congregations

1/28/2016

Under the impassioned leadership of Dr. Jim Reiter, the Faith-Forming Relationships and Spiritual Direction Committee is regrouping with new ideas and expertise to share in areas championed by the Center for Congregational Excellence.
 
Catalysts are change makers. Catalysts create sparks and often cause activities to accelerate. Being a catalyst for the Kingdom is the individual and collective goal of the members of the conference committee focused on Faith-Forming Relationships and Spiritual Direction and some are seeing sparks flying from Dr. Jim Reiter, First UMC, Jefferson, as he fires up other volunteers on behalf of local congregations across Texas. “I’m more than excited to facilitate a group that wants to offer new programming and ideas that foster spiritual formation,” he shares, as the interim chairman who has spent recent months in the phase of revising and reforming the focus of the group.
 
After a period of dormancy, the committee is re-energized about being available to local churches, providing materials and ideas and collectively imagining what might be on the horizon to help others have a richer spiritual life. “We held our first face-to-face meeting as a group last fall via Skype,” he adds, “and got to know each other and exchanged ideas to identify our core structure and vision.”
 
The “Big Three” of this Committee at present include:

Charis
Few may realize that this program was inaugurated almost a decade ago by the former Spiritual Formation group with a mission to recruit, train, and deploy Spiritual Directors within the bounds of the Conference. Spiritual direction is a one-with-one relationship between a trained director and a directee who seeks guidance in recognizing and responding to God’s presence in his or her life.  The three-year Charis program was expressly designed to combine the ancient Christian tradition of spiritual guidance with the Wesleyan spirituality that informs and inspires the United Methodist faith.  To date, 48 Spiritual Directors have received Completion of Training Certificates. Class 4, with 14 participants, will complete training in June 2017. 
 
Recruitment for Class 5 begins this fall for the class that starts in August 2017. Trained spiritual directors engage in and lead many ministries of spiritual formation throughout the conference. In order to build community, this group sponsors the Gathered Community of Spiritual Directors, welcoming all trained spiritual directors to join in days of renewal and continuing education. According to volunteer coordinator Becky Oates, this Gathered Community offers two contemplative retreats per year with support from Lakeview and the Center for Clergy Excellence, provides spiritual directors for TAC conferences and events, and refers covenant spiritual directors who follow ethical guidelines and our communal rule of life. 
 
The Charis website at www.charis-txcumc.org provides information about the program, includes a link to other Spiritual Direction schools of training, as well as opportunities to respond to seekers nationwide.  For information about training, contact Becky Oates, 979-690-9193 or havenofrest@earthlink.net.  For information about joining the Gathered Community of Spiritual Directors or if you are seeking a spiritual director to companion you on your spiritual journey, please contact Rev. Cindy Serio, 832-330-3973, cserio@m-sfm.org.


Spirit Journey
Under the direction of Kathy Reiter, this is a conference-sponsored program of the Upper Room. The next retreat takes place October 20-22, 2016 at Lakeview.  Dr. Elaine Heath, the McCreless Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, will be the featured presenter. Kathy shares that the 2015 Spirit Journey retreat “saw a significant increase in participants with Jerry Webber of Chapelwood United Methodist Church serving as faculty.” The event drew registrants from the TAC as well as the North Texas Annual Conference and included several different denominations. Adds Kathy, “The purpose of Spirit Journey is to provide a rich yet shorter retreat experience than the Upper Room’s Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation or the Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation.” This abbreviated event is offered in hopes that Spirit Journey will be a stepping stone experience to the more comprehensive Benedictine-modeled retreat opportunities. (For more information, go to the Facebook page, “TAC Spirit Journey” or contact Kathy Reiter, kathy.reiter@live.com.)


Christian Educator’s Fellowship
Often referred to as CEF, this group is dedicated on an international basis to fostering Christian fellowship and inspiration, the organization of prayer groups, learning more effective ways of working with and counseling students, deepening the spiritual life of every educator in the organization, learning more effective ways of witnessing to fellow educators, learning how to take positive stands on public and national problems, and the recruitment of outstanding evangelical Christian teachers to the profession. Rhonda Taylor is the contact for CEF: rhonda.taylor@chapelwoodumc.org.
 
Jim, an ordained elder for more than 25 years has held many appointments across the conference and is ready to lead this committee “down the court” with regard to being a resource to conference churches and leaders. “We are seeking others who are passionate about anything and everything that enriches our spiritual lives,” he adds, “including the refocused attention to the labrynth we have that anyone can borrow and use as a tool and fantastic allegory of the spiritual life.”
 
 
Visit the Resource Table
Committee members will host a joint resource table at Conference – in proximity to the Center for Congregational Excellence table as a way of highlighting the ministries, disseminating resources, and giving greater attention to this emerging effort. “This will be the first time this group has had a table at Conference in a long time!” notes Jim. “It is one signal that we are all about reinventing, reimagining and rebuilding this committee to be a resource for the Conference, and we welcome new ideas and new passions along our journey.”