If your calling centers on encouraging those around you to ‘seek first the King and his kingdom’, how do you ensure that you yourself will faithfully do the same?
That question has haunted my soul for the past thirty-five years of ordained ministry.
Having tried a variety of approaches to address the question over the years, I can categorically state that the simplest, yet most profoundly effective one has been the last: namely, my participation in the Clergy Care Group movement, created and directed by Fr. Geoff Chapman of the American Anglican Council.
The soul of this movement is unique. The goal is not clergy wellness nor mutual support. The goal of the movement is growth in Christlikeness! The heart of the movement is to ‘first seek the King and his kingdom’! Clergy wellness and mutual support flow from this heart, as I can personally attest.
What began as an attempt to bring the vision, teaching, and methodology of Dallas Willard into Fr. Geoff’s parish has morphed into this simple approach for doing the same for clergy in the ACNA. It begins with an initial six-month commitment, both to the process and to a group of fellow clergy. It embraces of a common Rule of Life (personally adapted, mutually supported); a commitment to a shared approach of daily, personal reflection (‘what really is going on with my soul?’); and a commitment to a weekly gathering that is helpfully structured and mutually shared: 20 minutes to ‘Check-in’; 20 minutes for Morning Prayer; 20 minutes for discussion/study (2-3 pages to be read each week); 25 minutes for one member to ‘Log-in’- that is, do an in-depth reflection on what the Spirit is saying to him or her through the circumstances of their lives.
There are only two basic rules for the gatherings: no fixing and no gossiping!
We do not correct or counsel one another, but rather, we listen to and pray for one another, trusting in the Spirit’s convicting, directing, and healing work. We also seek to ‘be’ that safe place for one another, knowing that as mutual trust deepens, personal vulnerability and honesty will increase. We will find the courage to bring into Christ’s light the hidden and dark secrets of our souls; the very things that keep us from seeking first the King and the kingdom!
This Clergy Care Group Movement is starting to swell within the ACNA. The Diocese of Christ Our Hope will launch our first wave of Clergy Care Groups this week. Lord willing, a second wave will be initiated in the fall. bishop Steve and Canon Art Going have asked me to encourage the spread of these groups within the diocese. If you have any questions or comments about these groups, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
May the Lord awaken the desire within each of us to grow into Christlikeness.
May he also give us the wisdom to act on that desire: to seek ‘the king and the kingdom’ with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind!