Engaging in contemplative practices with others enhanced my life and ministry

By Deacon Mary Black

Contemplative practices in my life, I find, ebb and flow much like everything else on this journey of understanding. There have been times, I recall, setting my alarm before my house, my family, started their days, before the tasks of my day forced me away. A quiet place, a scripture or a book to center my prayer, offered calmness that my heart yearned for, a closeness to the Divine, a centering of sorts that changed my rhythm in profound ways, inviting God into it all. I am not a novice to these daily practices that have come and gone in my life. I can testify to the transformation they offer on a daily level. So, I wonder why I’m so unfaithful to them.

An invitation to gather around the word with a group of leaders like me from Thriving Leadership arrived as a gift in one of my spiritually low times recently and I truly had no idea the change is would make in my daily practices. Walking together through Scripture, prayer, conversation, into familiar contemplative practices and experimenting with new ones, sharing our hearts, our ministries, and our everyday lives, became the treasure of my weeks. Sacred, holy space carved out on a Zoom page, with a group of people who will remain in my life and part of my ministry, is so important today. Being encouraged to keep practicing what we learned, was important to becoming more God-centered leaders, to finding God in the middle of our work and life, no matter what we were doing, and keeping each other in our prayers and knowing we are being lifted up to God by others is essential for the ministries we are involved in.

Being more contemplative has offered balance that I have been missing, helping me to incorporate daily practices that feed me and prepare me each day, reminding me that God is with me. The comradery I found in this group, allowed me to be vulnerable in a safe and loving space. And encouraged me to be vulnerable (and brave) in my ministry and in other parts of my life as well. I think the balance of vulnerability and spiritual practice grounds us for the work ahead in our ministries and in our daily lives.

My hope is that the practices that have resonated with me remain a daily habit, that I remain close to the friends I’ve made through sharing so deeply, and that others get a chance to accept the invitation to go deeper, together.

Deacon Mary Black is a retired deacon currently residing in Bastrop, Texas in the Southwest Texas Synod.  She served as Deacon for Inter-generational Faith Formation for Risen Lord Lutheran Church in Conifer, Colorado, and her passions remain developing faith formation, inter and cross-generational ministries, encouraging communities to do ministry outside the walls of the church,  equipping, and supporting folks to keep growing throughout their lives on this spiritual journey.