We are doing a lot of work on our training at present – particularly in respect of what we call formation. It’s the process of forming or shaping a person – spiritually, professionally and personally – to enable them to minister creatively, effectively and safely. I’m looking forward to spending this coming weekend on Cumbrae with all of our ordinands and with Bishop Nigel exploring just what that means.
We’ve been very taken with these words of Pope Francis from his Address to the Bishops of Brazil:
It is important to devise and ensure a suitable formation
One which will provide persons able to step into the night
Without being overcome by the darkness and losing their bearings;
Able to listen to people’s dreams without being seduced
And to share their disappointments without losing hope and becoming bitter;
Able to sympathise with the brokenness of others without losing their own strength and vitality
I’ve seen a lot of clergy pain – the pain of people who set out on the journey of ministry with faith, hope, passion and idealism. Yet somehow their spiritual well-being was devoured by it.
As I think about this, I reflect of course on what Jesus said about losing and saving your life. And there are some spiritual paradoxes in there.
I often try to help people to practise what I call ‘appropriate assertiveness’ – the ability to say what needs to be said firmly and clearly yet without giving offence or engendering hostility. I suspect that there is also appropriate detachment. And appropriate spiritual focus for those who risk stepping into the dark with others.