Niagara clergy share spiritual growth findings

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 on November 7, 2018

Dawn Davis

How many doctorates does it take to grow spiritually?

In Niagara Diocese the answer is seven!

Seven Niagara clergy have recently pursued doctoral studies in spiritual formation.

These seven, called the Niagara Inklings, are meeting to share findings and insights which they hope to offer to the wider church.

In his book, Invitation to a Spiritual Journey, Robert Mulholland called spiritual formation “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”

Until the 1990s, spiritual formation was considered a private aspect of one’s life. Churches and seminaries assumed people were spiritually growing by simply attending Sunday services.

“Spiritual practices … act as catalysts for fostering a deeper relationship with God.”


However, in 2004, a study examining over 1,000 churches by Willow Creek Community Church disproved this assumption. The survey showed that spiritual growth happens when people enter a relationship with God.

Spiritual practices like daily prayer, scripture reading, outreach service, church attendance, journaling, contemplation and sabbath act as catalysts for fostering a deeper relationship with God.

Here are a few of the findings from four of our Niagara Inklings:

1. If the clergy are growing spiritually, the people will grow spiritually. This has significant implications for seminary training where clergy are trained for parish ministry. Seminaries need to be schools of transformation that create a culture and expectation of spiritual formation in ordained ministry. (Dan Tatarnic)

2. Lay leaders must be spiritual leaders. Instead of simply giving lay people church jobs, they need to understand their ministry as a vocation. To fulfill this, our lay people should have the opportunity to become confident spiritual leaders. A supportive small group focused on training lay people in spiritual practices can build confidence and foster renewal with lay people. (Dawn Davis)

3. Mission is a spiritual practice. The prevailing assumption has been “if we build it, they will come.” Instead, being missional assumes our congregations need to orient outward and connect with God’s activity in the community around them. A sense of neighbourliness can be an intentional response to God’s love and serve as a spiritual practice for parishioners as they locally connect and serve. (David Anderson)

4. Liturgy needs to speak to the heart. Liturgy can be a significant place where people experience God. Biblical storytelling can play an important role in the liturgy as it transforms the teller as well as the listeners by making sacred text come alive. (Susan Wilson)

As we meet there will be more to share. If you are interested in learning more about spiritual formation check out the Mission Learning Opportunities in the Resources section of the diocesan website. (

The Reverend Canon Dawn Davis is Niagara’s Faith Formation Coordinator.

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