It may be helpful to begin this meeting with an abbreviated check-in with members. Maintaining this space (albeit brief) is critical to keeping the journeying and growth of the group moving forward.
Note that this meeting can be a community bonding experience but can also be challenging for the person that is sharing. Personal histories can be filled with both joys and sorrows. It is important to affirm the unique experience of each person regardless of how it might be different from other people’s journeys. There is no right or wrong spiritual path and it is essential to maintain the atmosphere of non-judgment. Reinforcing confidentiality and reminding the group that this is a sacred space can help cultivate greater trust.
An mp3 player for autobiography songs to be played. It may also be helpful to have Kleenex on hand.
Ask for the grace to recognize God’s loving presence in our lives through the various experiences and people that have shaped us on our spiritual journeys.
- What are one or two key moments or relationships that have given me life in the past week? How have I sensed God especially present in these encounters?
- What is one area that I am feeling particularly challenged in listening deeper to how God is inviting me at this time?
Invite members to communally prayer over, with, or for the person who is to share their spiritual autobiography. The first time a person shares a spiritual autobiography, the facilitator could pray over them. Thereafter, consider inviting the previous person who shared to lead the prayer for the next community member. This simple ritual communicates an “interweaving” of the journeys of each member.
In addition, it may be helpful to also pray for each of the members- in their openness of heart, ear, and mind.
After a member of the group has shared their spiritual biography, invite the members into a few moments of silence. Invite them to reflect upon the following questions:
- What struck you about the community member’s sharing? What is remaining with you?
- What stands out to you in regards to the manner in which they shared? Tone of voice, energy level, posture, facial expression, etc.
- Are there areas where you are left with further questions or clarifications?
- Are there particular themes or patterns that you noticed that may be helpful to share?
- Are there ideas questions that you could offer that might help deepen a community member’s reflection?
- Is there an image that helps depict the sharing we have just heard?
- How does your companion’s journey speak to your own?
- What is remaining with you?
Take five minutes this week to pray for the person who shared their story and listen for how their story may resonate with yours.
Different rituals may be helpful at the conclusion of each of the meetings where Spiritual Autobiographies are shared. Options include:
- A laying on of hands and offering gratitude for the person who shared.
- Invite members to each share a word that reflects how they are feeling or what remains with them after this meeting.
- Have a larger piece of paper that each member can add a symbol that represents their journey after they have shared. After everyone in the group has shared, reflect on the collective nature of the symbols and identify commonalities and shared themes.
- Decide on another creative option as a group that will affirm each person’s story.
“Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we respond with gratitude to God for this gift of Jesus in every circumstance of our lives.” (CLC USA General Principles #1)
“God creates me out of love and desires nothing more than a return of love on my part. So much does God love me that even though I turn away and make little response, this Giver of all good gifts continues to be my Savior and Redeemer.” (Spiritual Exercises )
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my daughter…Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” Hosea 11:1-4
“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.” Isaiah:43