Shaping YOUR Way of Life
Whether or not you have taken part in one of the 6-session introductions to the Way of Life, this page is designed to help you create a 'rule of life' which is positive, sustainable, accountable, and realistic in your circumstances. Following a Way of Life is something which we can do individually or collectively as part of a group, knowing that we travel with fellow Christians across the diocese of Ely.
Individual Christians and church groups have often adopted particular patterns for living their faith more deeply. These have often been known as 'Rules' of life, however we prefer the term 'Way', for two reasons. First, the Bible tells us that people who committed themselves to Jesus were originally known as followers of the way (e.g. Acts 22.4).
Secondly, the word rule can sound a bit negative, so a 'Rule of Life' might suggest a one-size-fits-all 'spiritual straightjacket', which is not what we intend. The diocesan Way of Life invites us to think about how we can open every part of our lives to the transforming power of God's grace, but leaves it up to each person or group to decide how they will make the journey.
A Way of Life can help us to be more intentional about our spiritual growth: we really want it to happen and will take steps to ensure that it does. It can also help us to be more accountable in living out our faith: it reminds us not to forget what is important and helps us to stay committed.
If a Way of Life is to make a difference to our lives, then it needs to be:
- Specific - How? When? Where? With whom?
- Practical - What help or resources will I need?
- Realistic - Don't take on too much or set impossible goals. Develop a pattern that is achievable.
To help you shape YOUR Way of Life, here are some tools you might wish to explore.
- A good way to start is to do a stocktake of how you live your life now. This will help you to see where any gaps are, and any areas which might benefit from more attention. Click here to see a simple questionnaire created by Alan Hargrave (formerly Canon Missioner of Ely Cathedral).
- Examen. Many people find it helpful to do a review of the day, week, month or even year. One method of doing this is the Examen, an exercise developed by the Jesuit order. For a straightforward explanation of how to use this tool, click here.
- Some people feel the need to face up to the ways in which they have fallen short of what God wishes for them, and to be assured of God's forgiveness. As well as the general confession and absolution in the service of Holy Communion (the Eucharist), the Church of England also provides for its priests to offer private confession and absolution (also called the ministry of reconciliation) for those who seek it. If you feel you would like this, please speak to your parish clergy, or to a duty chaplain at the Cathedral (10-4, summer months only).
- Spiritual direction/accompaniment/prayer partners as part of accountability see here for details of support available within the diocese.
- Take part in Growing as a Disciple. This 10-week course is an introduction to the bible and is run in various venues across the diocese throughout the year. See here for more details.
- Think about planned giving maybe even tithing your disposable income giving to church and to charity. See here and here for more details.
- How, where and when do you pray? Here are some suggestions. What works best for you? Can you commit to making time to pray regularly? The diocesan website has resources to help you. Think of prayer in different ways: alone, with others, in church services, in silence, on prayer walks, imaginative contemplation, quiet days and retreats, arrow prayers, practising the presence of God (the text of Brother Lawrence's book is available here), Dwelling in the Word. Daily prayer apps include those from the Church of England, the Northumbria Community, JustPray, Sacred Space, etc.
- Bible study. If your church has a bible study group, think about joining it (or if it doesn't, think about starting one!). There are lots of resources available for bible study groups. Or if you are not able to get to a group, you could use one of the range of apps now available, such as those from the Bible Reading Fellowship.
There are a number of books which you may find helpful in shaping YOUR Way of Life. These include:
- Alan Hargrave, Living Well: finding a "Rule of Life" to revitalize and sustain us. SPCK, 2010
- David F Ford, The shape of living. Fount, 1997