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Resilience through prayer: Online course to explore spiritual formation

Different forms of prayer
Nina Nicholson

“This is a time for emotional, mental, spiritual resilience. We've got to have the resilience and flexibility to roll with the punches,” says the Rev. Bob Morris.

“Each of us has an irrevocable connection with God whether we know it or not – a taproot into the divine spirit. The purpose of spiritual practice is to keep that healthy and to let it grow deeper, so the source of our resilience is not just in our own psychological practices, but is open it to the flow of grace which is available to all of us.”

To that end, Morris and the Rev. Anthony Puca have organized an eight-week online course, Practicing Christ: The Way of Jesus as Transformative Practice. To be held via Zoom on eight consecutive Monday evenings, January 11-March 1, 2021, the series will start by exploring traditional prayer, and work up to contemplative and mystical prayer. Sessions will be led by Morris, Puca and others active in spiritual formation work, including Cheryl Notari and the Rev. Lynn Weber.

The course is limited to a maximum of 30 participants, who are expected to commit to all eight sessions. A $50 donation is suggested.

For those who wish to explore the course before committing, a free preview session will be held on Thursday evening, November 12. There is no limit on participants for the preview.

The course is an offshoot of the spiritual formation workshops offered at Church Leader University, which have attracted increasing numbers of participants.

“The hunger was definitely there,” says Morris. He also notes Bishop Hughes’ emphasis on spiritual formation as an inspiration for the course.

In explaining the philosophy that shapes the course, Morris says, “A lot of spiritual formation work begins, continues and ends with forms of prayer, and I think there's an indissoluble link between the forms of prayer and what I call the challenges of Jesus.”

He explains, “About 30 years ago I stopped thinking of love your neighbor as yourself, and love your enemy, and give to those who ask, as commandments to live up to, but as challenges to live into. Just beginning with how do I love my neighbor as myself, which is deceptively simple because as good and loving as I am, I’m going to run into some neighbor who's going to really push my buttons. It’s a challenge to be explored and a lifelong task. It's that combination of living into the challenges of Jesus and the prayer that helps transformation to happen.”

He adds, “The first part of spiritual formation traditionally is work on developing the virtues, and those are condensations of the challenges that Jesus is talking about. How do I become more patient? How do I become more self-controlled? How do I become more caring of the welfare of the other person? How do I become more courageous? The early part of the course will focus on that, as a part of the classical curriculum of spiritual formation in in the church.”

Morris says he’ll also include in the course work done in depth psychology and brain science.

“There's considerable work been done on what happens in the brain when we pray and meditate. This isn't just religious – other people are looking at this and saying, ‘Yeah, what's going on is real.’ Whether it's about God or not is a matter of faith, but that actual change happens in people is an empirical reality.”

The Zoom link for the November 12 preview will be sent to all subscribers to The VOICE Online on Monday, November 9. (Subscribe to The VOICE Online here.)

To sign up for the full course, please email the Rev. Robert Morris at