By Ruth DuCharme

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 21, 2016

Once a month, I gather with five other ministers at Vineville Methodist Church for the single purpose of encouragement. We call our gathering a Spiritual Peer Group, and we are bound together because we are each busy, middle-aged ministers who find contemplative prayer meaningful, silence rewarding, and companionship necessary.

I am the only Baptist in this group, but I have to admit that I feel very much at home and welcomed among this group of Wesley pilgrims. Our time together begins with typical gathering chatter of how our families are doing and what’s going on in our churches. Then we often take a deep breath and rest into the silence for a moment.

For this group, silence is s a friend. It causes us to stop, to listen to the movement of God’s Spirit, and to rest. The silence is comfortable – not an embarrassing awkward pause. No one searches for empty words to break the rhythm. It is only when it feels natural will someone say, “How are you doing?” or “What do you need to share?”

Once the conversation door opens, there is real listening that takes place and shared truths are spoken. This group feeds my soul in so many ways. There is something sacred about those relational times – times when groups gather for the single purpose of encouraging each other along the road of faith. It’s not that we offer solutions or answers for each other, but the emphasis is on sharing in the process of searching and discovering God.

Out of my experience I have learned how a group of spiritual peers that come together on a regular basis can enhance and nourish my individual faith. It affirms for me the importance of joining with fellow believers for the study of scripture, for worship, and for fellowship. I believe that these gathered moments help us to live up to who we are as the beloved children of God.

My hope is that you identify with a group of spiritual peers in some form or another. It is my prayer that when we gather as God’s family at Highland Hills that you are encouraged and affirmed as a fellow traveler on the journey. May we continue to search for and discover God together, and may we continue to nurture vital relationships of love with each other and with the risen Christ.