Some Reflections on Faith Sharing
What is it?
Communicating to others how I have experienced the Lord's presence or absence in the persons, events, situations of my life...calling me to conversion...graced moments with others or in others...in silence...in ritual or explicit prayer...in serendipity (moments of surprise)...in reading...in surrender (moments of death).
It presupposes real faith...a personal prayer life...a continued attempt to get at my unfreedoms...genuine experience of God...habitual consciousness examen...trust in the group so I can enrich the sharing.
Why do it?
It is good for me to clarify my religious experience...attempt to validate it.
It is good for others to help them clarify their experiences.
It is good for us to discover and develop bonds of communion that come from sharing at a significant level.
Ultimately, it is the way the Gospel is effectively proclaimed.
How do I do it?
Not as problem solving...we are in the realm of mystery.
Not as discussion...it is a sharing of experience more than ideas.
Not as debate...there are no points to be scored. I am the world's best expert on my own experience.
Not on the level of abstractions...deal with concrete particulars, not theorizing or generalizing.
Not theological reflection primarily...that's more formulating the questions and issues arising from the experience.
Not sensitivity or psyching out...that's more how I feel about the situation or person.
Not romanticized experience...that's making too much of or not attempting to validate my experience by seeing what effect it has in my life.
The content of what is shared: how God has acted in my life. It is both cognitive and affective.
The way it is shared is by honest expression and reverent listening.
Some helps include establishing a Scriptural setting...sharing in small groups (6-8) ordinarily...realizing that lived experience is always greater than its present expression which should lead one to awe in the face of mystery...being non-evaluating yet reflecting together on the experience at some time in some way to find validation for it in life, in Scripture, in the community...respect and provision for silences during the sharing...respect for others' freedom in sharing...owing one's own experience by especially thanksgiving and praise.
The format should facilitate people telling what happened and how it was perceived as a faith event.
Specific suggestions for finding faith experiences include making a directed retreat...re-tracing one's religious history in a sort of spiritual autobiography to discover patterns of religious behavior...recapturing peak faith experiences of the past that have significantly affected one's life...sharing one's perception of a significant community event, i.e., energy crisis, war...reflecting on and sharing what gift I think I bring to the group and the gifts others in the group bring to me...sharing of specific things I believe in, hope for, love...the ordinary on-going matter shared is my prayer experience since the last meeting...
Perhaps these reflections will help prime the pump of your own...