The wonderful thing about Benedictine spirituality is that it encompasses many of the practices that are already familiar to your congregation—worship, study, prayer, work, shared meals, and so forth. Therefore, it is not necessary to treat Benedictine practices as a new program to be developed.
Rather the challenge is to educate yourself and the congregation about the Rule of St. Benedict so that together you can turn normally disjointed congregational activities into an integrated whole. Here are some suggestions for how a congregational leader might bring the mindful practice of Benedictine spirituality into a congregation.
- If at all possible, go on an “immersion experience”—the best way, I believe, for a nonmonastic type to be oriented to the Rule of St. Benedict.
- Form a cell group or study group to explore the writings of various Benedictines and to practice lectio divina. Take time at the end of each session to reflect on what you’ve learned.
- Begin publishing short articles in the parish bulletin and newsletter, and on the Web site. Focus on the themes underlying the Benedictine vows of “stability, conversion of life, and obedience.” Write about a Benedictine theology of work, prayer, and rest.
- Add to your own Web site some links to Benedictine sites, so that people can “discover” them at their leisure. Add links to books about Benedictine spirituality. Acquire some of these books for the parish library, or have your book ministry order some to add to its inventory.
- Start with a parish retreat day on a Saturday to introduce the Rule of St. Benedict to the congregation. Make arrangements for a children’s program or child care for the parts of the program that would not be developmentally appropriate for young children.
- Design a children’s program to parallel the adult study time. Benedictine spirituality is a natural for incorporating people of all ages, from very youngest to the oldest. In our group, parishioners from age 6 to 80-plus worked and worshiped side by side.
- Ask your buildings-and-grounds chairperson to suggest work projects that need to be done around that church. Look at volunteer activities already in place, and see whether you can bring these folk together for worship, table fellowship, and study as a natural extension of their volunteer work time.
- Use a Benedictine model for staff meeting days. Begin with worship, follow with study of the Rule, hold the administrative meeting, continue with lunch together, and then send all staff members out to do their work. This format might change the dynamics of the day!
- Gradually begin to add greater stretches of silence to your worship service. Explain to worshipers the importance of spending time reflecting before the service, after hearing God’s word proclaimed, at the time of corporate confession, or during communion.
- Pray for discernment and guidance. Decisions will need to be made about leadership, resources, and outreach. Plan to start small and build gradually.
- Make sure time is built in for reflection—the most integrative aspect of Benedictine spirituality. Don’t be afraid of the silence. Let the Spirit move participants to seek quiet contemplation and to share their wisdom and experiences.