Earlier this month, I led an Advent retreat day at St. Philip’s in the Hills Church, which is my home parish. Thirty of us gathered to explore and engage with the process of writing or refining a rule of life, which might seem like an unusual choice of topic for Advent. Nevertheless, it proved to be a fruitful day which generated a lot of conversation and connections—including with the Advent season and our familiar Christmas stories. In today’s post, I thought I’d share a few excerpts from the retreat.
First, in response to connecting a rule of life with Advent: We are starting a new liturgical year, and new year’s resolutions can be a helpful way to encourage us into establishing new and different patterns in our lives. Also, it’s appropriate now because Advent is a time of reflection upon the state of our spiritual lives (as is Lent), and this is one helpful way to approach that process.
Over the course of our day together, we explored eleven elements of a rule of life, seven from Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Way of Love and four from the Society of St. John the Evangelist’s rule of life for their Fellowship of St. John (for affiliate members). I connected each element with my personal journey and/or our communal experience. For example, in regard to worship, I invited us all to ponder the experience of transitioning to online worship during the pandemic and how that impacted our understanding of and commitment to communal worship.
My connections with the Advent season were varied. I noted that my prayer has sometimes taken outward, physical form, as when I made the Advent wreath pictured above, back when I belonged to a pottery studio called Feet of Clay. When I talked about the Rite of Reconciliation and repentance, I suggested that this is something Mary and Joseph could have used in repairing the breach that occurred when Joseph didn’t believe Mary’s story about her pregnancy having divine origins. I also talked about how the three wise men didn’t come to visit Jesus empty-handed and connected that with how we bless others with our gifts of time, talent, and treasure.
At the end of our day together, I swapped out the Advent wreath with a nativity scene and invited everyone to place their draft rule of life on the table before the baby Jesus as an offering. Then together we blessed the rules with these words:
God of love, bless these draft rules which our community has crafted today. Inspire us to honor them, reflect upon them, use them, and revise them as needed. May these rules encourage and inspire us in our desire to draw closer to you, this day and always. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
If you’re inspired by this process, I hope you’ll explore one or both of the rules linked above and draft your own rule of life for 2022 (and beyond!). I’d also be happy to lead a similar retreat day for your own community next Advent. If you would like to explore that idea with me further, just let me know.
Thank you, Shirin, for this wonderful summary of the Advent retreat. The retreat was a valuable time to reflect on our use of the Advent prayers. Like Lent, I find that the pause to pray in anticipation of the approaching major event in our liturgical calendar — here the birth of Christ — focusses my thoughts on where I want this time to lead me.
Doing this in a group, with a trained leader, is a true gift, and I thank you so much for developing such a good agenda for us and the prayers to focus our hearts.
Oh, Ann, thank you for this generous response. I’m so glad you were able to be on the retreat with us, and I’m grateful for your support of this summary post, and of my leadership. I’m glad it led you to good focus in this Advent season.