Ken G Crawford, 2010

Ashes on my hands, in my eyes, on my tongue.
Ashes cover my clothes falling into a live volcano
Falling into death yet not dying
Burning yet not consumed
Wishing for nothingness that never comes

Ashes in my lungs, in my veins, in my dreams
Ashes cover my mind falling out from my heart-breaking past
Falling out yet not leaving behind
Broken yet not destroyed
Wishing for freedom seems impossible

Ashes on my hopes, on my prayers, on my soul
Ashes cover my spirit falling into God’s good embrace
Falling into grace yet not quite free
Believing hope will win
Willing to believe God’s amazing grace

Ashes on my hand, on my face, and in my heart
Ashes cover my flesh falling out of sin and into Spirit
Falling into God yet still flesh and blood
Becoming new creation
Trusting for mercy bigger than all my sin

Pastoral Care Training – Using Religious and Spiritual Experiences and Resources

How do we help individuals think about their religious experiences and spiritual resources that can help them toward wellness and wholeness?

Each of us as care givers, and each of the individuals we serve, have a personal view of the spiritual/religious aspect of our lives. Some people exclude the possibility of a spiritual life, which is itself a perspective on the spiritual life. Others self-identify as ‘spiritual but not religious’ which has a wide range of meanings, from vaguely aware of a spiritual component to live and being ‘in-touch’ with the world, to actively believing in a personal god and relating to that deity through prayer and other private practices – but simply not subscribing to any particular set of religious doctrines or faith community participation. Still others participate to varying degrees in a formal religious life with community, institutional, scriptural, and ritual expressions.

Throughout our lives, as we grow and mature, our experience of the outside world changes, as does our reflection on it. We are exposed to differing ideas and traditions. Joyful and trying moments open new opportunities for learning or challenge long-held beliefs. We discover and embrace different habits and practices that nourish our spirits. This field encompasses the diversity of our spiritual/religious experiences and resources.

Regardless of where we or others locate on this spectrum of belief and practice, these perspectives impact the way we experience crisis, how we cope, and how we recover.

The goal in this session is two-fold:
1. Help the participant understand their own experiences and resources.
2. Help the participant lead others to access, understand and appropriate their own spiritual/religious experiences and resources.

1. Understanding our own spiritual/religious experiences and resources
a. Experiences: Think back on your life to those times when you were most aware of spiritual questions and the spiritual dimensions of life. Often these coincide with significant transitional (also called ‘nodal’) events – birth, death, baptism, graduation, marriage. A crisis in our own life or that of a close friend may prompt us to consider the deeper things of life. Or, we may choose a transforming experience intentionally – such as a retreat. List some of these nodal events, and briefly describe why they were/are spiritually important.

b. Resources: During these nodal events, during the seasons around them, or at other times in life, what spiritual/religious practices help anchor your life? Do you have particular prayer habits? Are there texts which enlighten and inspire you – or comfort and encourage you – or challenge and convict you toward greater growth and health? Is a particular community of likeminded spirits important in your life – a church, synagogue, mosque, prayer center or other group? Are there rituals, solo or communal, which strengthen you spiritually?

c. NOW, think about how a health crisis or ongoing challenge impacts your ability to access these resources, and connect with these experiences? Do you become isolated, cut off from the religious community that is so important? Does physical impairment prevent certain prayer postures or other practices? Do you draw closer to God/Spirit during such times of crisis, or pull away?

2. Help the participant lead others to access, understand and appropriate their own spiritual/religious experiences and resources.
NOTE: Your experiences do not determine or necessarily coincide with those of others. What seems completely sensible and natural to you may be absurd to others. What you pursue and embrace may be repellent to others. Only when you understand your own experiences can you reflect upon them and how they impact you, and then set them aside so that you can be open to the experiences of others. That said, the questions you used above for self-reflection are also available for you to use when you invite others to reflect on their experiences. Generally you want to avoid referring to your own experiences which risks leading your conversation partner and possibly cutting them off from their own insights.

a. Experiences: How do you experience/express the spiritual/religious aspects of your life? Do you consider yourself in tune with the spiritual side of life, or not very interested in it? What’s going on with you right now, from a spiritual perspective? When have you been through something that was similar to your current experience?

b. Resources: If your spiritual life is important to you, what particular aspects are central to you – things you do that help you most? During past times of crisis, what spiritual practices were significant then? What can you learn from those reflections and bring forward into your present experience?

Pastor’s Continuing Education Report – TCU Ministers’ Week 2010 – Feb 8-11

Forest Grove will have MP3 audio recordings of all sermons and lectures available for listening at the church.

THE WELLS SERMONS: Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
Monday thru Wednesday evening worship

[Sharon E. Watkins serves as General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She is an inspirational preacher, teacher and facilitator who shares her considerable skills in a variety of religious and ecumenical settings.]

Ken’s reflection: Dr. Watkins has just returned from a Sabbatical, during which she traveled extensively and spent time in interfaith conversation in the Middle East, an area that is of particular interest for her in her hope of seeing reconciliation among Jewish, Christian and Muslim populations and a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian Dilema. Her preaching is passionate and inspiring, particularly for me as a preacher. I sat in the balcony and so had a unique perspective and was able to observe her use of a written manuscript during her sermon. She seemed to stay very close to her text, and yet was very free and conversational in her presentation style. She tells moving stories from her own encounters with wonderful people throughout the life of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Ecumenical Church, and the wider world in which all are God’s children whom God seeks to reclaim, redeem, and reconcile. She is passionate about our claiming our identity in the Christian Church as ‘a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.’


Tuesday morning lectures

[Ambiguous and complex contexts of empire pervade contemporary communities of faith: Roman empire, God’s empire, American empire. Often our spiritualized and individualized readings of the Gospels have helped us ignore our participation in these multiple locations, and the questions of societal vision and cultural interaction that they raise. These two presentations will engage the faces of empire in the Gospels, in ecclesial communities, and in daily life. 1) What a Difference an Empire Makes: the Empires of Rome/God are Among You 2) The Empire(s) Strike(s) Back.]

Ken’s reflection: Dr. Carter is very funny, which is disarming given the depth of his perception into the biblical text in light of his analysis of his own and other’s original research into the First Century world of the Roman Empire. His two lectures focused on giving the audience a better understanding and appreciation for the realities within the Roman Empire and how they may have impacted both the authors and audiences of the New Testament texts. He walked us around the city plan of ancient Pompeii and demonstrated how all of the major public structures mixed uses – Commerce, Local Government, Empirical Influence, Local Religion and Local Elite influences. He argues that this was true of most Greco/Roman Mediterranean cities, including Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and the cities of Galatia. He then observed how the themes of empire affect our own lives and perspectives, from the residual effects of European Conquest and Empire, to the spread of Western and most specifically US cultural ideas and icons throughout the world. One example of this interplay was the reality that no first century person in the Roman Empire of any background would have argued for a separation of church and state, or the idea that religion and politics don’t mix. There was absolutely no way to separate the two, nor did it occur to anyone to try.


Wednesday morning lectures. (The scheduled speaker, Dr. Diana Butler Bass, was absent due to weather induced travel complications. Her substitute was Suzanne Stabile)

[Suzanne Stabile is a long time teacher of spiritual growth and development. For over twenty years she has served as a teacher, Retreat Director and Enneagram Master, through Life in the Trinity Ministry. She is co-founder and animator of this ministry along with her husband Rev. Joseph Stabile.]

Ken’s reflections: Suzanne Stabile was a wonderful surprise. She spoke with passion and humor about the struggles and delights of church life, as a pastor’s wife, and as someone who works with laity and clergy to form intentional spiritual communities. She spoke at length about ‘liminal space’ and ‘liminality’ – terms which in this setting refer to the ‘in-between-ness’ that marks contemporary existence for the culture and world at large, and for the North American church in particular. We are in the process of becoming – we are not what we were, are in a culture that is not what it was. Yet what the culture will be, and what we will be, is yet to be. One author has written that the western church goes through 500 year cycles in which it remakes itself – the last one being the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. We have already begun moving into the transition, but no one can know what might be. While this is an unsettling time, she observed that these are the only times that we grow – the unsettling in-between times. So, let us have faith that God will see us forward and will not forsake his people.

All the Ministers’ Week Information is available here.

As I noted above, these and the remaining recordings will be available for you hear. You no doubt will learn other things from them as you bring your own attentiveness to these wonderful teachers. Similar learning opportunities happen every month through the Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity, described in our ne