SPIRITUAL FORMATION is a lifelong process of growing closer to God. While students are enrolled in courses at COSSO, they are encouraged to explore their spiritual journey. During the time frame of weekend courses and the summer intensive session, opportunities are provided to experience God's presence and love and to notice God's action in their daily lives, by allotting time in the midst of life's busyness. Whenever we come together, we are reminded that God wants a closer relationship with us. We tell our congregations this, but who tells the pastor? Who reminds us to stop and breathe, to feel the Spirit blowing near us or holding us up as we say prayers with the dying and stand in awe of the new born? Within each of us lies the desire to find meaning, to remember our calling, to grow closer to God and to find community. Spiritual Formation can point the way and help open the door for us to hear God's voice, and it helps satisfy our inner yearning for meaning and reconnection to God and others.
As pastors with families and other responsibilities, it is often difficult to meet all the demands of our churches and congregations, and to balance that with our personal and family needs. In the midst of our hectic schedules and constant demands pulling us in different directions, our spiritual lives usually suffer. We have no time for retreat, and daily prayer can be quickly put on hold. We have good intentions and our spirits yearn for quiet space to just “be” with God. That is when Spiritual Formation serves as a life-line – reminding us that God is always calling us. Like any relationship, we must spend time with the One with whom we want to grow closer. We show up for meetings; we show up for coffee; we show up for lunch; God just wants us to show up. Spiritual Formations reminds us to show up and take time for prayer. It is part of our job description, and there is time for prayer even when there is no time. God does not put a time length on prayer. We will not always have an hour a day to devote to prayer, although it is always good to work toward that. We can pray where we are, because God is in all that we do, wherever we go. God is everywhere. We know this, we tell others this, but we forget. And so, when we gather at COSSO, Spiritual Formation helps us recall why we are doing what we are doing. Who would work one or two other jobs and also pastor a church? Who would give up a good-paying position to take a 2 or 3 or 4 point charge? Who would travel from another state to attend COSSO courses for 5 or 6 or 7 years? Local pastors would, not because someone told them or simply because it is a requirement, they do it because God called them into a holy vocation. Spiritual Formation is here to remind you of this.
Please include Spiritual Formation in your COSSO schedule and attend the various worship opportunities during weekend courses and the summer intensive. You will get ideas for your own worship services, and liturgies and prayers throughout the church year. You will get worship resources, and you will be spiritually fed, and you may always participate as much or as little as you wish. You can sing in the Choir or serve communion or do readings. Most of all this is time for you to worship. Please come and be fed by these worship experiences; they are just for you.
Spiritual Direction is also available during your time at COSSO. Many pastors are starting to realize the need for spending time with a trained spiritual director, so more opportunities are provided at retreat centers and worship settings. Spiritual direction is time (usually no more than one hour) of reflecting on where God is at work in your life. It is not counseling or therapy, rather it is a time of listening. The director of spiritual formation is available for you to learn more about your spiritual journey.
Rebeka Maples, is Director of Spiritual Formation for COSSO. She is an ordained elder in the UMC and serves Thurston UMC in the West Ohio Conference. She has a M.Div. from MTSO and a Ph.D. from OSU, and received certification in spiritual direction from Wellstreams at Spirituality Network in Columbus, Ohio. You may contact her at 614-203-6752 or firstname.lastname@example.org and arrange for a brief experience with spiritual direction.