The Inward Journey
At Church of the Saviour, the inward journey is not simply a solitary devotional path. Instead, it is a combination of practices designed to hold one’s center in the midst of conflict and competing demands for our time and attention. The inward journey is not only centering prayer and listening for God, it is also a journey of self-knowledge and restraint, of surrender and courage for non-violent action.
In 1953, the church purchased a farm in Germantown, Maryland, and in 1956 built a retreat lodge there, inviting people into periods of silence on the land. “The one journey that ultimately matters,” Gordon wrote, “is the journey into the place of stillness deep within one’s self. To reach that place is to be at home; to fail to reach it is to be forever restless. In contemplation we catch a vision of not only what is, but what can be. Contrary to what we have thought, contemplatives are the great doers.”
Individually, we expect people to practice daily study and prayer. We encourage journaling which may include attention to dreams, places of resistance and dislikes, intuitions and signs of call. In each mission group, there is a spiritual guide who receives a weekly written report which often includes gratitude, confession and prayers for others. That report is prayed over and returned at the mission group’s weekly meeting with one or two questions which might guide each individual’s spiritual growth.
We also expect people to go on silent retreat at Dayspring or other locations, where they can step away from the incessant demands of our culture and listen more deeply to the still small voice of God. In her book, Journey Inward and Journey Outward, Elizabeth O’Connor writes:
To stand in the silence within oneself, while at the same time relating to external events, is not an easy concept to grasp. It will also be understood differently at different stages of one’s life. At twenty, the course of life flows more easily outward. Forty might be the year of balance, and sixty an age when the movement is more inward. Such generalizations can be dangerous, however, since the tides of every life are different, and sometimes at twenty we have been prepared to receive words another cannot hear at forty, and may never hear These are helpful categories only if they teach us reticence, so that we do not burden the young with what they do not hunger for and therefore cannot receive – nor should we burden the old who do not want confrontation with an inner world.
In addition, we understand communal worship to “hold” the inward journey of all participants in a way we can barely understand. We take the sacraments seriously and understand core membership to be an ordination, so any core member may serve at the communion table. Many people understand their mission group participation to be the primary place for confession and struggle in written reports or aloud during sharing time, so communal worship tends to be a joyful and somewhat informal celebration of our life together.
Each community within Church of the Saviour reserves Dayspring Retreat for two communal retreats a year and we have found the experience of shared silence to be deeply nourishing for the community as well as for the individuals who are there.