How can I start a community of theological friendship?
You can gather a community of theological friendship. Here are some steps to consider:
Communities of theological friendship have told us that it’s helpful for the group to have an organizing purpose that everyone’s committed to – when we gather our group discusses a chapter from a book and we pray for each other; or, when we gather we will work on strengthening our creative abilities; or, when we gather together we will discuss upcoming Sunday lectionary passages; or, . . . Clear purpose helps the group sort out other matters that need to be settled.
Think through who you would like to be in a community of theological friendship with, and ask them. As you think about whom to invite, exercise your wisdom about folks who will play well with one another, and be sure to think carefully about folks whose differences from you and one another can be enriching.
Once you’ve got a group together, be sure to set a schedule for the group – when you will meet, how you will organize your meetings, who will organize your meetings. All of these housekeeping matters can seem like a bore, but settling on a plan can help you down the road. Plans can be changed along the way, but having no plan leads to problems. And, about actually getting time on the calendar: communities have told us – schedule the community’s meetings and let members schedule around that, rather than scheduling meetings around members’ schedules. If you have more than one person in your community, the latter is a problem.
Facilitator? No facilitator?:
How will your meetings be led? Some communities share leadership among the members. Others have one member provide leadership over several meetings. Still other groups find someone from outside
their group to facilitate meetings – maybe a person with skill in a spiritual practice you want to grow in, or someone who can bring wise counsel.
If you are starting a new group, consider making it a commitment with anend-point – say a year, or the span of a school/program year (September to May). Setting an end-point can allow a group not to worry about what the future may be, and to focus on who the group is at the present moment. Trust that if the group is meant to carry on further it will be clear to the group by the time you reach that agreed point.
Think through where your community of theological friendship can meet. The place will help to shape the group – meeting at a restaurant over a meal will shape you differently than meeting at a retreat center. You may find that your choices of place are limited, which is also great – think a bit about how that place will shape your community, and what you can do to help that shaping be positive.