There’s so much discernment happening in congregations right now: discernment about when and how to offer in-person worship; about how to balance the needs of an in-person and an online congregation; about how to meet the physical needs of our neighbors and congregants alike. Then, there’s the personal ongoing discernment about vocation and our other commitments.

In this Weekly, we look closely at the practice of discernment. Kelly Ryan begins by helping us connect our faithful discernment with the opportunities present in our fears. Elisabeth Koenig continues with that theme by exploring how we might harness our anxieties to make well-formed and well-informed decisions. Then, we hear about St. Louis-based Ascension Health that has made the Christian practice of discernment a corporate practice. Finally, for those in seasons of vocational discernment, I’ve included an article that I wrote years ago about aligning our souls and our roles

Welcome to the Weekly!


The opportunity of fruitful fear

The opportunity of fruitful fear

Kelly Ryan asks how we individually and collectively might benefit from honoring fear’s presence in our discernment practices instead of resisting it.


Resources for leaders during the pandemic


Dark nights & white knuckles

Discernment enables people to make well-considered decisions. It also helps harness anxiety’s energy, using it to expand both our sense of identity and our perception of options, writes a professor at General Theological Seminary.


Ascension Health models discernment practices

Ascension Health models discernment practices

The nation’s largest Catholic, nonprofit health care company uses the Christian practice of discernment to make major corporate decisions. The seven-step process helps ensure decisions are grounded in prayer and are in line with the company’s mission and values.


Discerning the alignment of our souls & roles

At this point in the pandemic, many congregational leaders and members are asking vocational questions. Life is prompting them to ask new questions about their future and the sustainability of their vocation. They are seeking ground that feels both firmer and more faithful. How can they discern well?


From the Alban Library

Spiritual Discovery: A Method for Discernment in Small Groups and Congregations

by Catherine C. Tran and Sandra Hughes Boyd

Spiritual Discovery: A Method for Discernment in Small Groups and Congregations

Spiritual Discovery facilitates thoughtful discernment, encouraging groups and individuals to attend to how they make decisions. This book offers step-by-step guidance for practicing the Spiritual Discovery Method, addressing essentials and challenges, while also providing concrete examples illustrating how groups have successfully used this process to enact spiritual growth and change. Authors Tran and Boyd show how the skills that participants develop as they practice the Spiritual Discovery Method can be put to use in the everyday world, ready to be called upon for decision-making in any arena.


Before you go…

At this moment, the questions consuming the attention of congregational leaders are legion. Employing a faithful discernment practice can help us imagine a future for our congregations (and ourselves) that is hopeful, joyful and compelling. 

And, of course, when congregations model such practices, we are inviting our members to use those same kinds of practices in the rest of their lives. It’s true — faithful discernment invites faithful discipleship. 

We’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, peace to you! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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