A Gathering of Secretaries for Spiritual Life Development
19-27 September 2010
Centre for Spiritual Life Development
I hope you have come hungry. Hungry for the Lord, hungry for the Word, for prayer, for deep fellowship in Christ, and for equipping to go and feed others according to their - and our - truest hunger.
These words, written by the Secretary for Spiritual Life Development, Lieut-Colonel Janet Munn, set in context the theme of the Gathering of Secretaries for Spiritual Life Development held at the International College for Officers and Centre for Spiritual Life Development. Delegates were invited to ‘Come to the Table', to feast upon the word of God, to gain skills for ministry, to fast, pray and to join in fellowship, and to grow in holiness.
Twenty seven delegates from all around The Salvation Army world joined together in London for this historic event. Each one who attended has responsibility within their own territory for spiritual life development in some fashion. Each person came eager to learn more about this renewed emphasis on spiritual life in the international Salvation Army and to gain a sense of vision, clarity and strategy regarding the best way forward in their home contexts.
The feast included morning prayers, prepared each day by Major Leanne Ruthven and based upon Psalm 23 in which the hospitality of God who prepares a table for us was recognised and celebrated. Meaningful worship marked a week in which God's abundant giving was seen and claimed.
Described as ‘meat' - the basis of a good meal - an exploration of John 1:1-18 (Lieut-Colonel Karen Shakespeare) reminded us of the foundational place in our spiritual nourishment of both the Bible and the Word who became flesh.
Paradoxically, we also fasted, noting that this discipline allows us to sharpen our spiritual experience whilst disciplining our physical bodies. A fellowship meal provided a meaningful way of breaking the fast. Teaching on the importance of Christian community led by Commissioner Vibeke Kromennhoek reminded us that meals are most beneficial when they are eaten with others with whom we have unity and for whom we care deeply.
‘I'm hungry for...' was the theme of shared testimony throughout the week as each delegate named their spiritual hunger. People shared their longing for a deeper relationship with God, the salvation of close family members, friends and nations, resources for ministry and much more. The rich fellowship generated by sharing and listening added much to the days shared together.
Commissioner Robert Street visited to teach on personal holiness and spoke of the work of the International Spiritual Life Commission (1996-98) putting into context the events that have led to the establishment of the Centre for Spiritual Life Development and the emphasis upon the spiritual life that is seen across the Army world in these days.
Optional workshops offered more ‘food' as a resource for ministry. These included teaching concerning Spiritual Direction (Major David Ivany), Facilitating Prayer (Lieut-Colonel Janet Munn), Great Holiness Teachers and Essentials of The Salvation Army (Major Peter Farthing).
The week was marked by openness - to God and to new experiences and to each other - as the delegates were ‘filled' at God's table. Perhaps the response is most eloquently expressed by a delegate from Africa - ‘I'm blessed for coming'.