In the Retreats
We have learned that for many of today’s Friends the idea of Eldering presents a challenge. We have also learned that it is very important that the eldering function is consciously and intentionally present in Spiritual Formation work. So, we have tried to invite folks to be open and learn about this, and how we can develop skills and recognize and affirm gifts in this area.
We have found that in offering programs and workshops it is helpful to have someone paying attention to the eldering function. Helping create a vessel that includes everyone and God, love and trust. This sometimes is simply sitting, worshipping and praying, holding the body in the Light, being a spiritual presence. Paying attention to the deeper stuff. Sometimes we call this the “person of Presence,” and s/he also takes care of the mundane hospitality issues of the leaders and participants. Sometimes this elder is invited to reflect formally on what s/he saw of the movement of the Spirit throughout the session. This has been called “a minute of exercise” in other times.
Sometimes when one Friend travels to offer the workshop, a companion travels with her/him to serve in the eldering function. When we have had three facilitators at weekend retreats, we usually designate one or two who are the leaders of particular segments, and one who attends to the eldering function. It is easy not to be as intentional about this as we would like to be, especially when the leaders trade functions from segment to segment. And sometimes it is not as clear to participants who is doing what… We are considering adding a fourth trainer to the team who will carry the eldering function exclusively for the whole event. It will be an interesting experiment.
In Reading Groups
It is a good practice to invite folks who do not see themselves as steward of the eldering function to try it out and report on what they learned and experienced.
In our Reading Groups we invite folks to volunteer in two roles as leaders of each month’s session. One role is the facilitator/planner, and the other sees to the support/eldering function.
The elder of the reading group:
Gives a reminder a week ahead of time, learns who is coming and who needs assistance in getting there.
Assistance could be practical or encouragement. This could be accomplished by email request or other ways.
Communicates with the leader to learn his/her spiritual condition with respect to the reading and the task ahead, their intentions for the session, what challenges are present, what kind of support is needed, and how they want to be prayed for.
Holds the group and the leader in the Light, before and during (and after?) the gathering.
Reads the assignment but probably foregoes their own participation in favor of listening deeply and paying attention to the whole (…more than the sum of the parts).
After, the elder and the leader might share their reflections on the experience.