The first time I was in a Renovaré spiritual formation group someone cried. It wasn’t that they revealed or heard anything shocking, but just by their sense of relief at joining a group where they could relax. They felt they had come home. In fact, revealing much about yourself is not really the point of these groups. You can do so if you want and there is much to be said for being real with each other. But this isn’t a therapy session and one of the people who gained most from this first course said the least about themselves.
We learned a lot during those ten weeks. We carefully covered the material in the Life Streams book by James Bryan Smith and Lynda Graybeal and I came to understand that a few things are worth repeating to keep the group focused on the balanced approach and practical strategy that sits at the heart of Renovaré. Here’s what I found:
It’s About Grace Not Law
The human heart seems to have a bias towards making things law when they are really grace. The six streams or traditions of Renovaré are more like means of grace rather than the law of the prophets. We step into them by choice, not under duress. Because we have this bias in us it helps to remind people that we’re not talking about putting money in a slot machine to get the goodies out – or favours from God.
Instead, we’re interested in stepping into the streams that God has given us by placing ourselves in a place where he can change us.
It’s About Sharing Not Eating
At our group, we always started with sandwiches and soft drinks. At first, people offered to get the sandwiches from the local shop and bring along simple refreshments. Then things began to change. The sandwiches became more elaborate and the drinks became more exotic, and eventually, bottles of something stronger were offered. This wasn’t a case of turning water into wine but an example of how difficult people found it to keep it simple. Of course, nobody is against enjoying food and drink, but it began to get a bit like going one better than the person before, all in the name of generosity.
It’s About Doing Not Just Talking
It is great to meet, talk and share and in our busy lives, we need to give quality time to each other more than ever. But if this is where it stops then we’ve just turned a Renovaré group into another talking shop and debating club. That’s where other gatherings can fail and we found in our group that we needed to gently encourage each other that the main work of transformation happens outside the meeting. God seems to work most deeply in our lives when we take up the disciplines that people have used over many centuries and can often be found in Scripture. In short, it’s about walking the talk rather than talking the walk.
Best experience: One exercise in the Charismatic stream says spend an hour with God. ‘Make no demands; have no expectations’. It blew some of us away.
Worst experience: Breaking up is very hard to do at the end of the course.
– James Catford