Gord Alton has served as a pastor, spiritual director, pastoral counsellor, church planter, and regional minister. Through his Inner Journey Ministry, Gord does one-on-one and group spiritual direction and begins a new pastoral assignment at Mannheim Mennonite Church on April 1, 2013. He lives in Baden, Ontario. Thank you, Gord, for your ministry and for this interview,
1. On your Inner Journey blog, you offer a resource to help people develop a personal rhythm of life that includes time for sacred pauses like prayer and contemplation. Why do you see value in this?
We all know that regular well-balanced eating each day is essential to a strong healthy physical body. The same is true for our human soul. My soul desires a sacred rhythm of life where I drink regularly from what Christians sometimes call God’s living water. This living water includes truth, compassion, love, strength, inner support, joy, playfulness, power, determination, grace, and all the spiritual elements that lead to the fruits of the Spirit. But how do I drink regularly these spiritual foods that God supplies from the sacred well within my soul?
This is the gift I have found in contemplation, a prayer practice that every person can learn and become proficient at. Prayerful contemplation is the ability to be with my moment-by-moment life experience with a posture of prayerful awareness. Through this awareness of my life experience, I allow God’s spirit to guide me and provide me with the spiritual qualities I need to join in with God’s reconciling ministry both within my soul, but also in the outside world.
2. What are you still learning?
Many people have lots of teachings and ideas around God, Jesus, and Spirit, but when it comes to intimate knowledge of the workings of God’s spirit within their body, soul, and life, they are really lost. And to be honest, twenty years ago I too was lost. As a pastor, I had little training in this area when I graduated from seminary.
Thankfully, in recent years, certain schools of spiritual direction and psychology are finally developing psycho-spiritual frameworks and spiritual practices that are helping people work intentionally at their spiritual formation/transformation. When I use the words “spiritual work,” I do not mean that we can be saved by “human works.” Only God’s gracious and transforming spirit can save us. However, it takes spiritual work to get ourselves to the place of vulnerability and surrender so that we can truly feast at God’s spiritual table.
3. What word of encouragement would you have for others?
I believe it is hard to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2: 12) alone. There is a need for churches to form special spiritual formation groups that minister to people who have a strong desire to go deeper with their Christian faith. This is the reason why I started the Inner Journey community last fall in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in Ontario. I saw a huge need for a safe, compassionate, and gracious setting for people who wished to work intentionally at their spiritual formation.
Many people have also found one-on-one spiritual direction valuable. As coordinator of the Mennonite Spiritual Directors of Eastern Canada, we have over twenty trained spiritual directors in our network. Mennonite Church Canada also has a list of trained spiritual directors located across Canada that people can explore and discern who would be a helpful spiritual guide for them.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What is the role of sacred pause in your own rhythm of life?
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