Thursday, August 7, 2008

Types of Spirituality--Sunstone Workshop

As I've said before, Susan Skoor, Apostle and member of the Council of the Twelve in the Community of Christ church (RLDS) is an exceptional individual.  She has a presence about her that is almost tangible.  She engages with each person she meets, and has the knack of making them feel heard.  My first day at the Sunstone Symposium was spent in her 3 1/2 hour workshop--it flew by like 30 minutes.

Susan (In my reports of Sunstone, I'm going to use the first names of all the presenters, just to be consistent, and because there is a great feeling of comeraderie here) began her workshop with a short devotional.  She played a recording of a song with words by St. Francis of Assisi, lit some candles, had a prayer, gave a short sermonette on Jesus and social change, and ended with a rousing hymn complete with clapping and swaying.  Little did we know as she was leading us in the devotional, that she was modeling four types of spirituality about which she would instruct us.  There are

  • Thinkers--who approach religion by study and research.  They love scriptures, sermons, being on time, order, planning, and worship services based around a theme.
  • Feelers--are inspired by emotion, passion, testimony.  They emphasize conversion and transformation, and fellowship and relationships are important to them.
  • Mystic--experience God in silence, contemplation, and meditation.  They have great sensitivity, are intuitive and experience leaps of faith.  To them, God is a mystery.
  • Advocates--Theirs is a lived religion.  They feed the poor, do their home teaching, and focus on living the gospel. They tend to be critics, and their goal often becomes transforming systems.
In the workshop, we answered a series of questions to see what our predominant style of spirituality was.  We had a little fun with it, guessing the styles of some of the Community of Christ and LDS Apostles.  But then Susan cautioned us that the goal of this exercise was not to label people but to explore the good and dangers in all of them.  My first impulse as we were discussing the four types was to identify the LDS Church with one of these, but her point was that all 4 were found in Jesus' ministry.  This exercise could help to identify where we need to expand our faith journey.  It helps to recognize others' styles as legitimate and meaningful in the Church community, and to allow for all of them in our worship.

I especially liked Susan's speculations about the younger generation.  She said that the thinkers were leaving organized religion for science, the feelers were meeting their need for fellowship on the internet, the mystics were becoming detached and forming "the Church of the Bookshelf"--grabbing pieces of different systems of thought to embrace a spirituality that is uniquely their own, and that the advocates were leaving for politics and non-profits.  We spent some time developing plans for churches who have an interest in drawing these seekers back into organized religion and discussed ways to meet their needs in our congregations. 

This was an enlightening experience and I enjoyed working with the other workshop participants and hearing their ideas.  Soooo...what type of approach appeals to you out of these four types of spirituality.  What do you think I am?  (I'll let you know in the comments--it might surprise you.)


Keri Brooks said...

Thanks for this interesting post. I hadn't heard of the 4 types of spirituality before. From your descriptions, I think I'm part thinker, part mystic. There's a little advocate in me yearning to break free, but mostly I find myself just too tired to do anything about it.

adam said...

I see some of myself in all of those categories, although some are stronger than others... I used to be more of a feeler (though still am), and have become more of a mystic and advocate in the last few years. I love being a thinker once in a while, but only when something really interests me. This reminds me of my experiences with the temple, which appeal to being a thinker and mystic (to me).

Maraiya said...

This is hard - I see aspects of each in me. I think I lean more toward feeler/mystic. It's funny that this was a topic though as I have, during the last two years, fully enjoyed going to other church services. I love the formality of a Catholic service. I love singing with hands held high. I love sitting quietly as the sacrament is passed. There are so many ways to worship and I think we need to be open to ways other than our own.

S.Faux said...

Thanks for the vivid description of this workshop. You make me wish I was there. I love the CofC people. I have gotten to know them better as I have lived in the midwest. I fall into the "thinker" category, and I need a lot of work in the others. I am tempted to guess your "category," but the "thinker" in me says such a guess would be highly presumptuous.

Th. said...


Holy smokes---you've changed your blog so much, I barely recognized it.