Sharing spiritual Journeys Group
The Sharing Spiritual Journeys Group (SSJ) was started in 2005. Elder John James and Rev. Scott Hill were having breakfast together and John noted that one topic he was never asked to discuss in church was his spiritual journey. Rev. Hill replied that we should provide that opportunity for members and we shortly thereafter started the group.
While the group is part of our education program, it is not a Sunday school class in the traditional sense. There is no teacher, no curriculum, no texts or organized Bible study—that kind of opportunity has always been available to members of the church. Instead, it is a group of people who gather to talk about the ups and downs of their spiritual journey through life. As followers of Jesus, we believe a basic characteristic of human life is that it is like a journey, starting in childhood, and as we grow, gain maturity, learn and experience new things, our beliefs about our world, faith and meaning of life grow and change also, including the perpetual see-saw between belief and doubt concerning the things we thought we knew about life.
The journey is a particularly apt metaphor for understanding the nature of a spiritual life:
- Journeys imply continuing change in the journeyer, in response to new experiences
- Journeys don’t always have a clear or fixed destination; these sometimes change enroute
- Journeys are often more pleasant and meaningful when shared with fellow travelers
- Most often it is the experience of the journey that is most significant, rather than where the journey ends up
- Often we confront unexpected roadblocks and other difficulties that challenge us to innovate, improvise, rethink our trip, or take another route.
- In those times we may question whether the journey was ever a good idea in the first place, or if we are on the right path.
- Fellow travelers may be on another path, but headed in the same direction, or having walked with us, may diverge onto another path
- Many different paths can lead to the same destination—each has its own unique set of challenges and potentials to learn and grow. “My way or the highway” is definitely not the case with people’s lives!
In the SSJ, we talk about what is on our hearts and minds—joys, concerns, doubts, questions, etc. In pursuing our journey, we sometimes watch videos and discuss them, or read and discuss books suggested by a member, or have a speaker on some topic we feel is relevant to our journeys. A question or concern of a member always takes precedence in each meeting, however.
There is no doctrine or theology that we are required to adhere to; we even have had (and still have) agnostics, atheists, questioners and skeptics as members. Members come from all kinds of religious backgrounds, including none at all. We feel this group is a place where it is safe to explore doubts about faith, for faith and doubt are inextricably tied to one another, like two sides of a coin. If there were no doubt, faith would make no sense as a concept; it would be “just the way it is.” Faith and doubt each are essential to the definition of the other. We believe that the best way to deal with doubts about faith is not to suppress them (which is often the unspoken rule in church congregations), but to explore them in a safe and supportive place, where we can wrestle honestly with them. Often a new perspective or synthesis emerges which gives a deeper meaning of faith to the doubter.
As mentioned earlier, there is no teacher for the group. We have a convener/facilitator, who keeps the group going and helps the discussion flow. The group meets on Sundays, at 11:30, after worship and coffee time fellowship. We welcome anyone from the community who believes their life is a spiritual journey (whether they are “religious” or a churchgoer or not) and have a notion that this kind of group of fellow journeyers would be helpful to them, and that this kind of experience would be a growing experience to help them in their journey.