What Are the C.A.R.E. Practices?
A common engagement of VocationCARE moves through a series of centering practices, one of which is an evocative or centering reflection which inspires two iterations of exploration of personal stories (intentionally creating space to explore Christian vocation) and looking at our stories through the lens of self-awakening or “open and honest” questions, questions that are at the service of the story-teller, questions that further invite story-tellers to view God’s activity in their lives.
This is followed by a third practice of reflecting together theologically which is accompanied by a growing cognizance of the connection between stories and lives and their connection to God’s greater story.
Reflecting Together also includes kinetic engagement. Our capacity for vision needs to be connected to the movement of our bodies and the passionate energy of the heart, which is the seat of devotion in Christian spiritual practice, the place from which we are moved by the Spirit to embrace the world. We are moved by a force that awakens emotion and conviction but also is characterized by a kind of knowing, born of an encounter with our deepest selves – that place in us where the Spirit is actually released. Our reflecting together is also the space where we begin to know ourselves, more consciously, as the body of Christ.
To deepen our presence to what is emerging from that Body, we engage a practice that releases participants from attachments to preconceived ideas, prejudices or biases that might narrow or obscure God’s future seeking to emerge through them. This is called letting go, a preparatory stage for engaging another kinetic visioning move that imaginatively walks participants into a new future. These two visioning moves are preparatory for the design studio in which teams construct their blueprints for new ministries, or re-visitation of existing ones.
The culmination of practice in action, or enacting the next faithful step, is action that is inspired by what Simone Weil referred to “an impulse of an essentially and manifestly different order,” the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Once we’ve made the deep dives, displaying to each other in a contemplative and conversational space what we’ve seen and heard, it becomes clearer what we are being led to do and even how we are going to engage it.
The acronym CARE stands for:
C - Create space to explore Christian vocation together;
A - Ask self-awakening questions;
R - Reflect theologically on self and community; and
E - Enact the next faithful step.
Creating Space to Explore Vocation…
This practice encompasses creating sacred physical and relational space – space that enables us to slow down and encounter the Sacred in ourselves and each other. It is intentionally bounded space that prepares each of us to enter mindfully into the practice of Testimony and Holy Listening – the sharing of stories from our lives that define us and define our quest to respond to God’s calling.
Asking Self-Awakening Questions…
Our stories provoke and invite questions but these are questions that serve the story-teller, to take her or him to heart of their story’s meaning. The content of these stories already have much to teach us about the ways in which God has made an imprint on our lives, even provoked us to new visions and places of daring. Self-awakening questions build on this potential. Questions that are open and honest, not asked in an interrogative vein, are what facilitate the deeper meaning and the teaching potential of our stories. We listen to these stories and inquire of them in the same way we would listen to Scripture and ask our “wonder questions” of those stories and passages.
Reflect Together Theologically on Self and Community…
In this practice we prepare to move deeper into our shared stories and their messages to us by engaging a harvest of key words and phrases – those that stick in our minds like lectio divina words and phrases – by a post-it harvest on walls and windows so we can see the collective vision that is emerging. We walk this gallery and engage a conversation about what we see, about where the “story of us” intersects with the story of God.
We then engage a couple of visioning exercises to move more mindfully together into a place of readiness to hear where God is calling each of us and calling us together to co-imagine and co-create that Church that wants to be born.
Enact the Next Faithful Step
This is the design phase of the practices. This culminating practice asks us to put flesh and bones on the imagination of what is possible for our lives as individuals and our lives together. How can we accomplish “something astonishing for Jesus” in our churches and communities, something that we and others near us for which we have been longing for some time but have not been able to voice – until now!
This is a very practical phase of VocationCARE, one visited by a professional design model by IDEO, the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial design firm – where we build on each others ideas, settle on a main idea with the most dynamic potential, and move toward a prototype of the next faithful step for our lives and ministries over the coming 60 – 90 days.
A very practical phase – but one that is tethered to the practice spaces of C.A.R.E. These are the practices that have brought us to this point and they invite us to continue listening carefully to one another and to the Great Voice that echoes through each of our lives and invites us to embody the Kingdom of God.