After the trials of the pandemic, many were seeking recovery and renewal in all parts of life. Earlier this past summer, a group at St. Mary Magdalene’s church piloted a six-week program from Living Compass, a non-profit organization rooted in Anglicanism and clinical counselling, called The Faith and Wellness Circle. The program offered members a chance to explore their current state of being, learn theories about making change, and set simple goals to grow in body, mind, heart, and strength. Whether they were adapting to physical changes, employment, wondering where God was calling them next, or just wanting greater clarity about faith and life, the group was a chance to go deeper with fellow travellers.
I was privileged to lead the small group through six sessions as they explored greater connection between their Christian faith and different aspects of life, including emotions, relationships, spirituality, rest & play, care of the body, stress resilience, vocation and organization/stewardship. Each week members chose a spiritual practice to accompany them in their journey – from meditation to Taizé chants to prayerful walking – it was a time to grow and reflect on how different forms of prayer and the nurturing of that prayer integrated with all other parts of life.
The Reverend Tasha Carrothers, vicar at St. Mary Magdalene’s and co-facilitator, said this at the conclusion of the program: “I loved the gentleness of the process. There was forward momentum without feeling rushed.”
And Kim Seary, a parishioner who participated said,
“At the end of the six weeks, I noticed that I was able, not only to cope with change that previously had been detrimentally stressful for me, but to embrace changes joyfully. The Living Compass workshop was a transforming experience, opening me to more life-giving activities, and strengthening my faith.”
The concepts of whole person wellness and wholeness are deeply rooted in the Christian tradition and especially wellness and wholeness known at the communal level. God desires ‘shalom’, a Hebrew word meaning well-being, for us and the world. While our society might emphasize the personal and physical dimensions of wellness; our wellness integrates the physical, the social, and the spiritual; and it is meant for all. Not only that, but our faith doesn’t put limits on what wellness or wholeness can look like. The presence of illness, disability, loss, or unplanned change doesn’t determine whether one knows and has a sense of deeper wellbeing. In the words of one participant, the circle helped her “befriend change.”
Our society has often commercialized wellness as well, making it a product to be bought or an expensive service. The Faith and Wellness circle incarnates the belief that God is freely active in our lives drawing us into more deeply integrated ways of living for the sake of world. The Living Compass Faith and Wellness circle is free for participants and for parishes to use in whatever way they see best. It can even be a resource for outreach or service. A version of the faith and wellness circle is available for secular settings, and they are currently used in schools, parent groups, and community centres. As the Program Director from Living Compass, Carolyn Karl, puts it, these wellness circles can be a way “to extend Jesus’ ministry of healing beyond the walls of our churches.”
To find out more about the resources from Living Compass, including for Advent and Lent, parents, teens, and seniors see: www.livingcompass.org
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