SP2527 Spiritual Life and Leadership


Group

Students and facilitators in the Contemplative Listening class gather on the final day - Dec. 2010

Fall 2008
Topic: Introduction to Group Spiritual Companionship (Contemplative Listening)
Place: Geneva 100, plus Feminist Reading Room, G317, G320, G115
Time: Wednesday, 8:30-10:10.
Staff: Elizabeth Liebert, Joo-Hyung Lee, Daeseop Yi

Description:
The primary act of ministry is listening: to God, to oneself, to others. This class will introduce basic listening skills, but from a grounding in the contemplative tradition, rather than from psychology or communication theory. The semester will open with several weeks in which we investigate and practice contemplative prayer, understanding that contemplation invites us to a whole contemplative life-style. We will then learn a simple model for contemplative listening (one week) that we will practice for six subsequent weeks. Participants will take turns relating a meaningful experience from the summer, an experience from childhood and an experience in the immediately past week. We will also introduce other conversation skills (questions, summaries). and conclude with pastoral applications and connections to other semesters of Spiritual Life and Leadership. Complements but does not replace the basic Pastoral Care and Counseling course. Limited to SFTS ministry students (MDiv, DMin and MATS students), including those electing the Spirituality Concentration. Spouses admitted on a space available basis.

Required Reading:
Burghardt, Walter. “Contemplation,” Church (Winter 1989): 14-18 (photocopy).

Callahan, William. Noisy Contemplation; Deep Prayer for Busy People. Revised Edition. Washington DC. Center of Concern, 2008

Johnson, Jan. “Being Present to Others,” Weavings 12 (Sept/Oct 1997): 27-34 (photocopy)

Park, Andrew Sung, “Dialectic Emptying: Self and the Other Within” Religious Studies News, American Academy of Religion, October,2007, vii.

Stairs, Jean. Listening for the Soul. Minneapolis, Fortress, 2000, Intro, Ch.1, 2 , 4
.
Recommended Reading:
Nichols, Michael. The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships. New York: Guilford Press, 1995.

Wheatley, Margaret. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2002.

Course Objectives and Means of Assessment. Participants will:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of contemplation as self-emptying attention to the other for the other’s sake, and be able to ground this understanding in the Christian theological and spiritual tradition. (reflection papers)
  2. Articulate an understanding of the connection between the Christian tradition of contemplation and the pastoral skill of empathic listening. (discussion, debriefing in small groups, reflection papers)
  3. Learn a process called “contemplative listening,” a simple but rigorous method for listening/responding in the early moments of a conversation. (participating as a responder in 10-15 practice sessions, with debriefing)
  4. Attend more deeply to one’s own experience (reflecting on/writing about three different experiences as the basis for telling these experiences to a small group; debriefing the effectiveness of the contemplative listening process in helping to deepen one’s experience)
  5. Participate as a member of a spiritual formation group that practices contemplative listening. (participating as a full member of the small group process with skilled facilitation, course-evaluation).

Expectations of Learners:

  1. Attend regularly; participate in small group process as both narrator and responder.
  2. Maintain confidentiality of contents of small group sharing.
  3. Read assigned reading (according to the practice called “spiritual reading”). Underline places that strike you, and jot your own comment or response in the margin. Choose and mark one or two of these places to offer in class
  4. Write three 2-3 paragraph narrations of experience (something meaningful that happened to you over the summer, an event from your childhood, an experience of the past week).These narratives will not be handed in but serve as the basis of your telling these experiences in the small group context
  5. Write a 3 pp (double space) response to the reading. Using the notes from #3, comment on contemplation and the contemplative life as you understand it from Burghardt, Johnson, Park and Callahan. Due on October 15. Please hand in 2 copies.
  6. Write a 4-5 pp. (double space) reflection paper summarizing the learnings from the remainder of the reading and the practice of contemplative listening. Due on Nov. 26. Please hand in 2 copies.

Relation to SFTS Habits and Skills: see overview of Spirituality Concentration

Special Learning Needs:
Participants who need special consideration for reasons of documented disability should speak with the instructor early in the semester so that appropriate accommodations can be made.

Grading:
Pass/fail only. To receive credit, no more than two excused (and no unexcused) absences. This requirement exists for two reasons: skills cannot be learned without practice—the content is the process—and groups cannot reach their necessary depth without stable membership. If it is necessary to seek an excused absence, please contact either Beth Liebert or your small group leader before the session which you will have to miss.

Process for Reflective (Spiritual) Reading: (for use with all assigned reading)

Allot separate ½ hour sittings per week, if possible at a time and place in which you will not be disturbed. You might choose a place that you associate with prayer, rather than with study.

Begin each session by consciously centering yourself and letting go of the events of the day. Notice that the reading that you are about to do will engage different aspects of your person than the way you usually read assignments. In other words, prepare yourself for prayer.

Pick up and read slowly, ruminating as you go. When you reach a place that captures your attention, stop and explore it. Write down significant movements and insights (whether they feel “positive” or “negative.” If something seems strange or off-putting, try to “get under” the literal meaning of the words to the spirit behind them. Proceed through the material assigned, reading slowly, pondering and possibly writing. It is ideal to take no more than one chapter at each sitting. You may not even finish a chapter in a single sitting; if this be the case, simply begin where you left off at your next sitting. At the conclusion of the allotted time, write down one or two sentences that you take from the reading that you could share with others. Repeat this process at your next time designated for spiritual reading. (You can use the jottings to help prepare your response paper later in the semester.)

Content Outline: (some adjustments will probably be made, especially later in the semester)

[Note: all assignments due the day on which they are written.]

September 3: Introduction of participants, the Spirituality Concentration and this seminar topic; syllabus and reading; comments on service/leadership, process for reflecting on the reading (spiritual reading), introduction to and practice of Centering Prayer (a form of contemplative prayer, Yi)

September 10:
Contemplation: a simple definition; introduction to Contemplative Listening, overview of steps leading to contemplative listening (Liebert). Practice together Centering Prayer (Lee), followed by debrief and discusssion. Small group: introductions, covenanting, discuss readings.
Assignment: Read: Burghardt, “Contemplation;” Johnson, “Being Present to Others;” Park, “Dialectic Emptying.”

September 17: Another kind of Contemplation: “Noisy Contemplation.” Introduction to Contemplative Listening; practice together in plenary using published story, debrief, discuss. (Liebert)
Assignment: Read: Callahan, Foreword, Introduction, Ch. 1-3 (pp. 1-38)

September 21: Review steps of Contemplative Listening, fish-bowl of real time contemplative listening, noticings, question and answer. Small group: discuss reading, assign “story slots.”
Assignment: Read: Callahan, Ch. 4-7 (pp. 39-71)

Heads up:
This week you will write a 2-3 paragraph description of a meaningful experience that occurred last summer. In your memory, try to recreate the experience as close as possible to the original experience. Be sure to do the recall and writing in a contemplative spirit (a “long, loving look at the real”). Bring to the small group next week.

October 1: Contemplative listening in small groups: Reflection #1: An meaningful experience from this summer

Narrators: 1.______________; 2.______________; 3.______________
Assignment: Read Callahan, Ch. 8-11 (pp. 73-109). Write 2-3 paragraphs describing a meaningful experience from summer.

October 8: Contemplative listening in small groups: Reflection #1 Cont.

Narrators: 4.______________; 5.______________; 6.______________
Assignment: Read Callahan, Ch. 12-15 (pp. 111-155)

Heads up:
This week you will write a 2-3 paragraph description of an event from your childhood. Be sure to do the recall and writing in a contemplative spirit (a “long, loving look at the real”). Bring to the small group next week.

October 15: Contemplative listening in small groups: Reflection #2: A Significant event from your childhood.

Narrators: 1.______________; 2.______________; 3.______________
Assignment: Read, Callahan, Ch. 16-17 (pp.157-166) Write 2-3 paragraphs on an event from childhood.
Write 3 pp paper: What is contemplation and the contemplative life according to the authors you have so far read, particularly Callahan. How can contemplation influence listening? Due today. Please hand in 2 copies.

October 22: Reading Week: No Class

October 29: Contemplative listening in small groups: Reflection #2, Cont.

Narrators: 4.______________; 5.______________; 6.______________
Assignment: Read Stairs, Intro.

November 5: Deepening the conversation: other conversation techniques to advance the goal of the conversation (clarifying the conversation’s goal; use of questions, summaries, etc, Liebert). Practice these skills, as time allows. Introduction to Stairs in the context of contemplative listening in ministry.

Assignment: Read Stairs, Ch. 1.

Finally, the last story: Write a 2-3 paragraph description of an experience from this past week. Be sure to do the recall and writing in a contemplative spirit (a “long, loving look at the real”). Bring to the small group next week.

November 12: Contemplative listening, adding “advanced” responses, in small groups: Reflection #3: An experience from this past week.

Narrators: 1.______________; 2.______________; 3.______________
Assignment: Read Stairs, Ch 2. Write 2-3 paragraphs describing an experience from the last week.

November 19: Contemplative listening in small groups: Reflection #3, Cont.

Narrators: 4.______________; 5.______________; 6.______________
Assignment: Read Stairs, Ch. 4

November 26: Plenary session: Pastoral self-care. Small group closure.

Assignment: Write 4-5 pp reflection paper synthesizing the learning you have made in this class and commenting on the reading from Stairs. Due today. Please hand in two copies.

December 3: Plenary session: Contemplative Listening in Pastoral Ministry settings, bookkeeping, preview of next semester, large group closure.