The Companioning Center has really begun to form and the mountain continues to get clearer. In the previous two posts, I shared my start on this journey in following the path toward this mountain and the companions who have joined me along the way. What guided us were the three areas we noticed while we walked alongside people in their spiritual formation journey.
- People are hungry for more in their relationship with God. This hunger is not always understood in their faith communities and the community connection they desire isn’t necessarily possible on a Sunday morning.
- Once people engage in an experiential relationship with God, going deeper in that relationship, they may begin to not feel at home in their faith communities. It doesn’t mean they need to leave those communities, but they do need people to walk alongside them on the journey.
- Those who can walk in a companioning role need a platform to connect with others and to support themselves as they live out a companioning vocation.
At the Companioning Center we provide spiritual formation courses to allow our students to go deeper in their relationship with God. We offer space to ask questions and to build community with those who have similar questions. The diversity of religious understandings helps shape the space for each of us to grow in and beyond our own understanding.
In addition, we connect those interested in having someone walk alongside them with a spiritual director who hosts them on their journey. We provide continuing education and training for spiritual directors to do this work in ways where they engage their own journey as they host others in theirs’.
The final noticing is met as we work together to create a community platform. We host a weekly blog on Mondays. Those who follow the weekly writer can connect with us and our audience can connect with the weekly writer’s community when they are interested. This way we also add to the diversity of perspectives presented.
Besides the blog, we bring in a growing list of teachers who are gifted in hosting group courses to engage the spiritual hunger we noticed. Our leadership team brings a variety of courses: Katie Skurja with the Enneagram and Integration Healing, Michael Simmons offers Companioning Our Shadow, and Jeff Savage, Lynn Holt, Jean Nevills, and I offer the Spiritual Direction Training. Terry Christenson joined us to help offer the SD Supervision Training.
In addition to leadership team, we have enjoyed a variety of instructors that have accompanied us along the way. To name a few, Lacy Finn Borgo hosts Spiritual Direction with Children and Spirituality and Children. Deborah Lloyd brought a Vocational Credo offering and we hope to have her return with it in the future. And Kaisa Stenberg-Lee hosted a course about hosting cultural conversations.
As we proceed this year, we hope to bring many other offerings. We recognize that sustaining oneself as a spiritual director can be difficult and being able to teach from a spiritual director's perspective is a gift for the students and the community built between the students. There is a community built between the people teaching as well. As we walk alongside others, together we are able to share resources and talk through difficult issues – it is a real joy to work collaboratively with others.
As an example, our spiritual direction training program has three instructors that meet regularly with our students. In addition, we create even smaller groups for supervision and bring in outside supervisors to do so. There is a gift in a diversity of voices as well as the small community offered for our students.
We noticed that what we were creating, met the needs we had recognized in the people we had accompanied. We are engaging with their longing and desire. This was another way of feeling the firm ground under each next step. We didn’t notice things first and then find solutions but noticed that what was forming also fit what we saw as a need. This felt like a confirmation that this way forward was true.
From the beginning, our way of doing this work together has been formed around three values – we want what we offer to be affordable, accessible, and sustainable. This is important for us as instructors and leaders as well as for our students. Another important value is to bring in voices who may be different than us – as we work together collaboratively, we are changed. That is a gift of doing the work together. We are still working on building these kinds of relationships with others and it continues to feel like the next true step forward.
The collaborative nature of our work together is foundational for the instructional space we host in our classes. Adult education is different from the way we teach kids. We don’t offer a space that has a sage from the stage approach. Part of the gift of the kind of spaces we host is trusting that each person in the virtual gathering has knowledge, experience, and wisdom to offer the group. We trust God to meet each person as we grow together. So, a key component in our cohorts and the other spaces we host is a collaborative nature of instruction. We learn together – both the instructors and the students – with each offering different from the last.
One of the things I love the most is witnessing the softening and gentleness of people as they start to show up together in open communication around deep topics such as spirituality, listening, and integration. As people begin to trust the instructor, their group, and themselves in the process, they begin to open up and learn that they aren’t as alone as they once thought. They experience community and belonging. It is the beauty of this work.
The mountain that I have been walking toward, while picking up a few companions along the way, isn’t quite what I expected. I have discovered that the current view of the mountain is truer to what I felt invited to do than how I thought it would be. This trueness feels like fullness and completeness for me.
We keep walking as the steps continue to land on firm ground. As we do so, we want what we offer to be sustainable, affordable, and accessible. These values continue to be true. Eventually, this gift of the Companioning Center may belong to another group of people but for now, this is the way forward. And we are enjoying each step, every companion, and the community created along the way.
Kathi Gatlin co-founded the Companioning Center and founded Boldly Loved to bring together her two greatest passions: spiritual formation and teaching. Walking alongside others in their spiritual journey, whether individually or in groups, brings her immense joy. She loves sharing the contemplative life and exploring ways of understanding God with others. Ultimately, seeing companions grow deeper in their own understanding of who God is and who they are in relationship with God is her faithfulness.
Kathi is a trained spiritual director, supervisor, writer, spiritual formation group facilitator, retreat speaker, leadership mentor, and adjunct professor with George Fox University and Portland Seminary.
Kathi has two grown daughters and five delightful grandchildren. She enjoys coffee, chocolate, deep conversations, reading the mystics, and walking in trees with her Covid puppy, Oliver. http://www.boldlyloved.org