You may remember a few months back having filled out a Spiritual Life Inventory (SLI) online. This questionnaire asked questions about your spiritual walk, and about your experience at St. Paul’s. The SLI is part of a program St. Paul’s participated in called “RenewalWorks.” A Task Force made up of a cross section of congregation members spent several sessions looking through what the data said about people’s spiritual life at St. Paul’s. Out of those gatherings has come a set of recommendations that are only the first step in beginning some strategic planning that your Vestry will conduct in the Fall.
The big takeaway from the exercise is that our biggest opportunity for growth has to do with helping people engage more intentionally in spiritual practices. It showed that the largest single percentage of people at St. Paul’s are at a faith stage where they are growing in a life with God, and are searching for ways to go deeper into their faith. We have heard you, and are already working through our Christian Formation/Education programs to help people find ways to do this.
One recommendation that the Task Force made is, I believe, important in trying to help us frame our spiritual lives, certainly as individuals, but also as a parish. In their report, the Task Force points out,
[Our mission statement is] not just the St. Paul’s mission statement, but it’s our shared "rule of life" and the task force recommends that we state it as such. Not only is it an incredibly helpful prism in which we can view the world, but it’s a useful way for St. Paul’s to frame activities and programs. We should explicitly categorize events or programs as opportunities to "Grow in Relationships, Grow in Service, and/or Grow in Christ."
A rule of life is a set of guidelines or commitments by which individuals or communities direct their lives. The rule of life acts as set of principles that guide daily living. It’s true that the Church already has a mission statement—it’s in our Book of Common Prayer in the Catechism on p. 855. It says that the mission of the Church is “to restore people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” It goes on to explain that the Church does this “as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” By thinking of what we call our mission statement as a “rule of life” we are now focusing on the ways in which we live out the Church’s broader mission in our context.
From now on when you hear us talk about our rule of life, I hope you might find it helpful to think about it in this way. At St. Paul’s, we are a people who are living out God’s mission in the Church by “Growing in Relationships, Growing in Service, and Growing in Christ.” There are many different ways in which to live out this rule. I invite you to think about the things you’re involved in that help you live this rule of life in our community. If you need help in figuring out where you fit in, see one of the clergy—we’d be happy to help! I also encourage you to consider developing your own, personal “rule of life.” You can find a wonderful document that can lead you through the process through the Society of St. John the Evangelist here. You can also reflect more deeply on the St. Paul's Rule of Life here.