Philosophy and History of Group Spiritual Companioning
Vocation has many meanings. Among them the catholic definition of becoming a priest, nun, or deacon. Protestant or secular definitions include one's job, career, profession, work or trade. Companions on a Journey defines vocation more broadly and implicitly: "Who Am I and Who Am I Called To Become So I Can Love As God Loves."
Vocation is living out one's calling and using natural abilities. Vocation is what we do with the gifts and talents we are given by God while we do what we do. In another word vocation is how we use our gifts and talents in such a way to enhance our interests and service to others. Whether you are a musician, artist, doctor, nurse, engineer, carpenter, journalist, student, wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, son, daughter... you have talents and gifts that help your life experiences and the experiences of those around you to become fully alive.
Vocational awareness begins with understanding the foundation of self. Vocational awareness asks questions that challenge us or helps us celebrate our accomplishments. Questions brings us into a desire to explore further what it means to live life as a daughter or mother, a doctor or florist? What skills do I have? Am I a detail-oriented person? Do I thrive on structure or does adventure and change challenge me? What values are important to me? How do I want to express my values? What childhood traditions serve me now and which ones do I want to modify? Those are some of the varied questions many of us seek to answer.
Group Spiritual Companioning is one of many processes available to help one enhance or increase their Vocational Awareness. The practice of companioning as a process rests on the following philosophy:
- A genuine calling will be confirmed in community by those who know us best;
- We need others to help us identify our gifts and talents, interests and skills;
- We need others to listen to us evocatively so that we may better articulate our passions, the world’s needs, and where the two interconnect;
- We need others to help us “sift through” our interior and exterior experiences to determine their origin as many voices vie for our attention: socialization, culture, family influence, peer pressure, ego, work and professional life;
- We need others to support and encourage us as we respond in faith trusting that the power to enact our vocation may come, in some cases, only as we respond;
- We need others to hold us accountable, to challenge us to continue to grow, to live out our lives with zeal, balance, and moderation.
The practice of companioning offers untold potential as a process for increasing vocational awareness. Most of us are searching for meaning, purpose, and faith in our lives. We need more than a personal mentor who individually challenges us to recognize our full potential. Faith is forged in an ongoing dialogue that occurs both within the self and among an available network of belonging in interaction with the wider world.
By forming small mentoring groups (commonly referred to as Spiritual Companioning Groups or Journey Groups) with persons of like interests yet with varying degrees of faith beliefs and experiences, individuals begin to explore and assess his/her interior and exterior experiences. The companioning group serves to be an experience where one finds a safe and sacred place where one's story is heard and where attention is paid to asking intentional questions and making observations that help clarify one's experience.
Hospitality is equally important to the experience and process of spiritual companioning groups. Hospitality in a group means a willingness to engage and reflect on big questions. We have created a developmental framework (reflection guides) for sequencing and addressing the big questions. We believe that a thematic focus will increase continuity and coordination among groups, and enhance the assessment process.
Gathering in circles is a common motif. The circle is thought to hold all experiences, to signify connection among all with no ranking or hierarchy, without judgment or comparison. Storytelling is one of the central elements, as are prayer and ritual.
Although the process of companioning in small groups may be therapeutic, it differs from therapy in its content, process, and goal. Each participant is invited to share a story about a single incident in her/his life or a set of related events upon which she/he seeks to discover meaning. Participants learn to listen for the voice of God’s Spirit as it is being revealed both in the events of their own lives and in the lives of others, rather than seeking solutions or eradicating symptoms. Participants make a commitment to sitting in silence before God—prayerfully listening. The process bears fruit in the time shared among group members and cultivates a peaceful listening presence that participants potentially bring into their activities and relationships as their listening hearts go out with an ear attuned to God.