As Christians, we often talk about the need for silence. The still, small voice of God is elusive, best found in quiet moments. Through Formation, I have come to realize that silence is not simply the absence of sound; instead, it is the presence of something far more profound. Silence begins when we tune out the noise of everyday life – cell phones, “to-do” lists, homework pressures, family obligations, church needs, and the like. However, to have true spiritual silence, we must also invite into our beings the peace and grace God offers in abundance. Silence is not just emptying our space of noise: it is filling our soul with God. This, to me, is the essence – and the gift – of Formation for Ministry.
When I enrolled for my first semester, I didn’t think too much about Formation for Ministry. It was simply another requirement to meet for MTS. I soon realized, though, that something quite unexpected was happening in this class. The long moments of silence coupled with the honest, and sometimes awkward, efforts of a group of people from all sorts of backgrounds getting to know each other centered me into the silence I so desperately needed. I realized, through the sacred community of my Formation group, how much stress and pressure I was under at seminary. On top of going back to school, I had recently quit my job, moved back to my hometown, and basically upended my entire life. I was so busy trying to regain control that I didn’t take time to focus on anything, most especially the spiritual truths of my decision to answer God’s call for my life. It’s ironic, really, that answering God’s spiritual call so often leads to what feels like an endless physical cycle of jumping through hoops. We lose our spiritual connection in the midst of meeting the obligations of school, work and family.
That’s why Formation is so sacred to me – it gives me permission to release the stress and tension of the “busy-ness” of life and just be. I can set aside everything to focus on this group and on my own connection to God for that wonderful hour and a half. I feel as if weight is rolling off my shoulders each time I am invited into those moments of communal silence. The covenant I entered into with this community and with God gently directs me to engage in holy practices of prayer, scripture reading and thoughtful silence. Through this Formation experience, I have reformed my life to focus first on those things which should have always been most important: to know God through Holy Scripture; to talk to God through prayer; and to listen to God through silence and meditation. In addition to these private practices, I have gained treasured friendships that nurture, support and challenge me to grow ever bolder in my faith. I have, of course, learned crucial knowledge in all my seminary classes. However, it is the personal wisdom and graceful acceptance I found in Formation that gives me the conviction, energy and passion to answer God’s call and continue on this remarkable journey of faith.