Every Christian congregation has some practices that foster spiritual formation. Core practices in worship are reading, preaching, and singing the Word, baptism, and Eucharist. Ministry with the ill and grieving and care for the needy also express and nurture faith. The weakest area for most congregations is prayer. The Spiritual Formation Program of Grace Institute seeks to deepen the whole range of Christian spiritual practice through experiences of prayer that foster greater mindfulness of God's grace in every realm of life and religious practice. One graduate, Bonnie Vize, Associate in Ministry at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mayville, WI tells how this has happened in her congregation.
"My time at Grace Institute gave me many tools to deepen my faith. Halfway through the program I felt deeply called to share what I was learning and feeling with the congregation around me. We started Lectio divina groups which are now in their third year. We formed a sacred space at church where there was 'no room.' We began regular Spiritual Formation evenings several times a year. A small group worked slowly through the book Soul Feast with me, and each participant was in a noticeably deeper spiritual place by the end of our studies. Deeper prayer lives and the vision of praying without ceasing has shifted some deeply set negative patterns of behavior at annual meetings. I am grateful for the impact and blessing of Grace Institute. I signed up because I was personally searching. The impact on the congregation is deep and living."
Her pastor, Geoffrey Hoy, agrees, "This has truly been a gift to our ministry and spiritual growth! Through the sharing of our Grace Institute trained leader, a growing number of our members now have a deeper experience of the Christian faith and are becoming more mature leaders in our congregation."
As a Grace Institute staff member, Bonnie Vize will not promote a one-size-fits-all program, but will assist participants discern where the Spirit may be leading their congregation into a deeper experience of prayer and grace.