There aren’t that many settings in which we can just speak from our hearts about how the Spirit is at work in our lives. Faithfulness groups are meant to provide such a space—an ongoing forum for people who, in Aiham Korbage’s words, “want to practice listening [and] paying attention to the micro-movements of the Spirit and…have a thirst for what God is calling them to.”
In this week’s episode, Aiham and Marcelle Martin discuss how faithfulness groups have helped them gain clarity as they strive to follow their leadings.
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Marcelle Martin: I had a big spiritual opening when I in my 20s and a graduate student, and I just– it came at a time when I was really seeking to understand the nature of reality and whether there’s a God or not, and I had a spiritual experience that was so powerful it convinced me that there is a spiritual reality, and it sent me on a search to understand that more. So, that really began my life of really seeking to know God and the Spirit and to be faithful to that.
How Faithfulness Groups Help Quakers Follow Divine Leadings
When I recognized that I had a calling to support people in their spiritual journeys I became a participant in the Shalem Institute Program in Spiritual Guidance, and in that program we learned a process for what’s called a peer group for spiritual directors or spiritual nurtures. I helped to form a group of Quaker spiritual nurtures and we met on a regular basis. One year another Quaker who was in the group, Laura Melly, said, “This process could really be expanded to support anybody who’s trying to be faithful to how God calls them or following a leading or seeking to follow the guidance of the Spirit in their daily lives.” So with the permission of the then-director of Shalem Institute, we expanded the guidelines and we began to share this with Quakers and then with others. We were just seeking faithfulness, and we’ve been doing that for 15 years now.
What is a Faithfulness Group?
Aihim Korbage: Faithfulness groups are groups of about four to six people. They don’t have to be Quakers; they don’t have to be close friends; they don’t even have to be in the same geographical area or from the same Quaker meeting. They are a way for us to keep each other accountable to the workings of the Spirit in our lives.
The difference between faithfulness groups and clearness committees is that a clearness committee tends to be for a specific problem, for a specific individual, where folks come together and there’s an expiration date, if you will; whereas faithfulness groups, it’s not just about one individual – it’s actually about all the individuals, and they’re ongoing, and so one day I might be the focus person and I might be sharing and the next month I might be the person who is facilitating, but we’re all listeners and supporting each other and working with each other. So, it’s about the individual and the group, as well.
Participating in a Faithfulness Group
Marcelle Martin: I can think of a couple of times when I brought a difficult relationship issue to my faithfulness group. These were relationships that were involved in carrying out my ministry, following my leadings, and there were things– I knew that there wasn’t something quite right but I didn’t know what it was. So a couple of times in my faithfulness group I had the opportunity to just explain what I was feeling, what I was sensing, what I had questions about, and the members of the group having a different perspective than I did and also not having the same judgments about me that I sometimes have about myself, were able to ask me questions and invite me to speak about what was happening in a way that enabled me to see it in a new way, to see my part in the difficulties, and to see what step I could take to make things better.
The faithfulness group gives me an opportunity to talk about these spiritual matters. There aren’t that many settings in which you can just speak from your heart about how the Spirit is at work in you and with you. So it gives me the opening to do that. It allows me to be myself, in a certain way. I’ve grown to trust the members of my faithfulness group so I can speak about my faults and my flaws more openly and easily and they can help me look at things that might be difficult to talk about in another setting. They help me get clear about the nature of problems or obstacles and help me discern what’s my next step.
How to Start a Faithfulness Group
There are basically two ways to start a faithfulness group. One is to offer a general invitation to your meeting or your church community and say, “I’ve heard about these groups; I think they’re really interesting. I’d like to start one.” You provide people with information: there are videos about it, there’s written material, there’s a website. You invite them to look at that and then you hold the meeting and talk about it, maybe try some spiritual sharing, so that people get a sense of what it would be like, and at the end of that introductory meeting you can say, “Who would like to commit maybe for six meetings?” and then after that see if you want to keep going. That’s one way and lots of groups have started that way. Another way is that if you’re feeling like you want a faithfulness group, you want to be part of one, is you can think about or pray about who you would like to invite, and then invite particular people. Both of those ways have worked well and it depends upon your situation which one would work best for you.
Aihim Korbage: You don’t have to be perfect at it. You can even be really bad at it, and that’s the whole point. So, you can find friends or members of your faith community or even colleagues who want to practice listening or want to practice paying attention to the micro-movements of the Spirit and are really– have a thirst for what God is calling them to.
- 1) Could you, or other members of your community, benefit from starting a faithfulness group?
- 2) If you are interested in starting a faithfulness group, take the time to strategize now: how will you gather members? How often will you meet? What materials might you need?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.