We live in a world that struggles with accountability. The kind of accountability being addressed here can be defined as the sacred thread of mutual support that pierces through our individual self, others, and God. Our struggle with accountability though, really shouldn’t come as a surprise or shock us.
Whether through politics, friendships, romantic partners, or religion, we, at some point, will feel the frayed lines of discontinuity that move us further from one another as people of the world, friends, sisters, and partners.
But…in the midst of our struggles with accountability, there is a holy stirring of sorts. A kind of energy that eludes words, thought, or touch, yet captures every bit of our human existence. This is God’s grace, the sacred glue that seals our fears, anxiety, and, most importantly, the distance between us.
God’s grace is what sustains us and holds us mutually accountable for one another; through the darkest of nights and in the brightest of days.
In prayer, it is the presence of God’s grace that serves to hold us accountable - to one another, to ourselves, and to God. This mutual, accountable grace is our pathway to experiencing healing and hope with one another. And Lord knows we need some of that today more than ever.
Mutual accountability through prayer creates new spiritual life between strangers. Our accountability to one another and God is what will dramatically shape the direction and future of our faith communities. If we look in the past, we can see that the same awareness is true. Central to the rise and growth of the Methodist movement in the Eighteenth Century were small gatherings of persons who came together in need of sharing their pain, their struggles, their thoughts, and their hopes. These gatherings, known as ”band” and “class” meetings, at their core practiced mutual accountability. These were small groups where people persistently sought to grow in deeper relationship with God and others by asking a simple yet powerful question, “How is it with your soul?”
Who are the people in your life with whom you can openly and vulnerably answer that question? How is it with your soul? What fractures to your heart have you been carrying around lately? What signs of hope have you seen at work in your relationships and in the world? Where have you felt God’s presence lately? Where haven’t you felt God’s presence?
We all long to be heard, truly heard by others in this life. How are we creating space to enter into relationships with others to unpack the state of our souls? What if this coming year each of us took up the spiritual practice of regularly meeting with a group of friends with the sole purpose of sharing our souls with one another? What if we practiced mutual accountability? If we all could commit to such a practice, maybe those frayed lines of discontinuity that so often separate us--well, just maybe those lines would become a kind of sacred bond that could help us as we pull ourselves in closer and find God’s grace embodied in each other.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
From the Epworth Resource Guide, here is an outline to starting a Wesleyan band meeting with others:
Creating a Space to be Open with One Another:
Several houses over the years have adopted their own covenant or modern Wesleyan “band” time together that meets once a week. This type of spiritual group formation can take the place of one of your weekly prayer sessions. One of the houses currently starts their “band” meeting with having a short prayer together and then endeavoring to ask a simple but powerful question to each person, “How is the state of your soul?” Now you don’t have to be Wesleyan/Methodist, Catholic, Pentecostal, or whatever to realize the importance of that question. Most bands or “covenant groups” are made up of four important things.
First, there is the intention to take turns journaling what each person is expressing about the state of her or his soul. This is not in order to keep tabs on a housemate, but a way in which we can reference what the person said the previous week as a means to help support them in their spiritual growth. When one person is giving an account, another person is journaling. If there are more than two people participating, then the role of the rest of those present is to be active, listening participants. Then, once the person who is giving their account is done, the group rotates the role of journaling, the role of account giving, and of actively listening.
Second, when people are sharing, what is being expressed is intentionally in relationship to their spiritual lives and how they experienced God in the midst of their daily interactions. The band/covenant space does not serve in a vacuum to only emotionally or physically express feelings, but brings along the spiritual aspect of what occurred as they share with one another.
Third, after each person is finished giving an account there is room left to offer each person present space to establish a “fast” for the coming week. When the word “fast” is mentioned, this is not only suggesting giving up food but anything that a person can “attain” or “abstain” from as a means to grow closer in the relationship that exists between God, neighbor, and self. Whatever practices a person gives up or takes on; they should serve to be rooted in connecting to growing deeper personally and communally with God.
Finally, the last thing that is offered in a band/covenant time together is a blessing in the name of Christ where each person will look at one another and offer a phrase like, “_________ (person’s name), in the name of Jesus Christ know you are a beloved daughter (or son) of God.” This allows each person in the house to share in compassionately offering room to acknowledge the sacred worth of each resident. Also, don’t hesitate to be creative and come up with your own house blessings that you can give to each other.
Example Questions to ask during your Band/Covenant Meeting:
We seek to allow our lives to be patterned around loving God, loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, and loving creation. The following questions offer a way to reflect on our attitude and practice of loving.
1. In what ways did you experience or observe the presence of God over the last week?
2. In what ways did you miss responding positively or miss seeing “good” in others this past week?
3. How have you tended to your personal and spiritual life over the past week?
4. In what ways did I honor and care for creation this past week?
The Missional Wisdom Foundation Rule of Life
We hope you are enjoying our study of the Missional Wisdom Foundation Rule of Life. This is our last week to focus on The Rule. This way of life continually blesses us in many ways and we hope that you, our Dispersed Community, have been able to share in that blessing. If you would like a very nice, framable copy of the MWF Rule of Life, you can find several options in our Merchandise Store.