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Order of All Saints

(of Christian Education and Formation)

The Order of All Saints (OAS) program promotes spiritual growth through small-group conversations. If you are seeking a community in which to deepen your spiritual life, an OAS Group may be right for you - please contact our staff clergy to form or connect with a group.


The Order of All Saints Manual

A Community of Discipleship

The heart of the Christian faith has to do with being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus shows us the way to God, and if we are seeking God we can do no better than to apprentice ourselves to Jesus. We "meet Jesus" in prayer, in the scriptures, and in the "Body of Christ": the Christian community. The particular benefits of an intentional Christian community include the insight we gain from other people's perspectives, and the ongoing support we receive by walking our journey alongside others who are on similar journeys of their own.

Often we will discover spiritual community with fellow church members in an informal way, as we work together on outreach projects or other ministries. However church ministries by their nature are task-oriented, and can be limited in their ability to promote spiritual growth directly. An Order of All Saints group is a way to build spiritual community intentionally and directly.

Please note that an OAS group is not designed to be a complete spiritual practice in and of itself. This design takes for granted the involvement of OAS group members in a church congregation, which among other benefits provides a crucial link to the broader Christian tradition, sacramental ministry, structures of support and accountability, and resources for conflict resolution and spiritual direction.

What does a Home Group Look Like?

An OAS group normally meets weekly, biweekly, or monthly, for about two hours at a time. It can meet in a home, at the church, or in any location that is quiet and private.

The structure of each meeting is as follows:

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Check-In (30-60 minutes)
    1. Where has God been for you?
    2. Rule of Life report: celebrations and/or challenges
  3. Study (30-60 minutes)
  4. Prayer (5-10 minutes)
  5. Closing Prayer

Elements of a Group Meeting

1. Opening Prayer

The opening prayer is very short, and is simply intended to draw the group into God's presence for the purpose of the meeting.

Option 1: Standard Form

The easiest type of opening prayer is a standard prayer that does not change from meeting to meeting. Some good examples:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Eternal God, you create us by your power and redeem us by your love. Guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves today in love and service to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, in our baptism you adopted us for your own. Quicken, we pray, your Spirit within us, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Eternal God, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Option 2: Extempore Prayer

If group members are comfortable, the opening prayer may be improvised. This responsibility should not be assigned to any particular group member but should rotate between members.

Option 3: Liturgical Prayer

The liturgically-minded can use the collect of the previous Sunday as the opening prayer, or a collect from a daily prayer resource.

2. Check-In

The purpose of the personal check-in is not simply to keep the group up-to-date on everyone's personal news but to promote a spiritually reflective attitude toward life. While this part of the meeting is focused on members' personal lives, it is important that the focus of the conversation remain on the two questions: (a) where have you encountered God? and (b) how is your Rule of Life going?

Where has God been for you?

This question is all about the relationship between yourself and God. Theologically we know that "there is nowhere that God is not", but spiritually we need to train ourselves to perceive where God might be active. The purpose of this exercise is to reflect on our actual lived experience and ask where God has been.

Each member takes a turn with this exercise. For each member's turn, the rest of the group's primary responsibility is to listen without interrupting. Only if the member requests feedback may it be offered.

Feedback must be given with sensitivity! First and most importantly, no member of an OAS group has the authority to say "you should" to any other member. Appropriate feedback is humble, simple, personal, and from the heart: it is a statement of the feedback-giver's perceptions and nothing more. It uses phrases like, "For me", "I found", "I believe", and so on.

Rule of Life Report

The principle of a Rule of Life is based on the recognition that real discipleship requires commitment and discipline. Not just "where is God for you?" but also "how are you striving to grow into God's image?"

We all know that certain habits and behaviours are unhelpful for us and other habits and behaviours are more helpful. A personal "Rule of Life" simply a way of articulating what those commitments are. A Rule of Life is unique to each person, develops over time, and changes according to life's circumstances. For example, a prayer discipline for a busy parent may be as simple as a commitment to bedtime prayers with one's children; conversely, for the contemplatively inclined, the commitment to prayer may mean saying "no" to family, work or other obligations in order to care for one's own soul.

Your Rule of Life report will initially be about the development of your personal rule. This can take time - the point is not to produce a Rule by the second meeting but rather to discern and commit to the habits and practices that you need for your spiritual journey. Don't be overly hard on yourself: this is not an iron-clad or inflexible responsibility, it is what you commit to do "as a rule". The point is not to make you miserable but to craft your life so it can be fully lived as a child of God.

A full Rule of Life typically includes commitments in the following categories:

  1. Prayer (any or all of the following)
    • Attendance at worship
    • Personal prayer time
    • Meditation
    • Daily office
    • Prayers for others
  2. Health
    • Diet
    • Exercise
    • Sleep
    • Medication/Therapy
  3. Ministry & Service
    • Volunteering
    • Financial Support
    • Compassion & Mindfulness
  4. Personal Growth (the OAS group itself goes here!)
    • Continued study of scripture, history, & theology
    • Spiritual direction
    • Retreat
  5. Balance
    • Work / Life
    • Community / Family / Self

You will find that certain areas come more easily than others, such that certain categories may not "need" a Rule. In other areas, however, you may set out a Rule and continually fail to achieve it. This is part of the purpose of the regular reporting: it may be that you have set a target that was unrealistic or overly ambitious. Group feedback can be helpful in discerning the answer to this question in the case of a particular trouble area. In general your Rule must be achievable. If you keep failing in a certain area to meet your own goals, adjust the goals until you achieve success. Then set incremental goals for yourself between where you are and where you would like to be.

3. Study

Option 1: Systematic Bible Study

Due to our lectionary-based worship pattern we Anglicans (a) tend to hear the Bible in isolated fragments and (b) tend to be ignorant of those scriptures that are not represented in the lectionary. For that reason a systematic bible study is the first option recommended for any OAS group. Ambitious groups might want begin on page 1 and work their way sequentially through the Bible; alternatively the group can select a book within the Bible of particular interest and work their way sequentially through that book before deciding on the next book.

In this approach the group needs to agree on how much reading is appropriate between meetings, and commit to having read the assigned chapters prior to each meeting. At each meeting the questions for group discussion would be:

  1. Does the story connect to issues or concerns in contemporary life?
  2. What is God doing in the story?
  3. What is the good news?

Option 2: Lectio Divina

A less studious bible study option is that of lectio divina - a spiritual reading of a short biblical text. The text should be selected with care: the easiest way to ensure a good quality text is simply to select one of the lectionary readings from the previous or upcoming Sunday.

The principle of lectio divina is to listen to the Scriptures from a place of deep openness to the Holy Spirit. It is not concerned so much with scholarly analysis as it is with the question, "what is God saying to me right now in this text?"

The method is as follows:

  1. The group calls itself to prayer and observes a moment of silence.
  2. The reader reads the scripture passage. Don't rush the reading, let it take as much time as it needs.
  3. There is a minute of silent reflection on the passage.
  4. The reader reads the scripture passage again in the same way.
  5. Each member in turn is given the opportunity to share with the group what they think God might be saying to them in the passage.
  6. The scripture passage is read a third time.

Option 3: Book Study

There are many wonderful books written on various aspects of Christian theology and spirituality. As with a systematic bible study, a set number of chapters would be agreed upon as homework for each meeting. The conversation at the meetings would simply have to do with the material in the book: what points of agreement or disagreement each group member has with the author, what was particularly helpful or confusing, and so forth.

Option 4: Educational Video

A final option for the group's educational component would be a discussion of an educational video or series of videos. This should not be the normative pattern for any group, but it is a nice diversion if, for example, the group wants to do ALPHA or a similar course together, or if there is an online lecture on a topic of interest to the group. Longer videos should be watched prior to the meeting, but shorter videos (30 minutes or less) can be played at the meeting, which will allow 15-30 minutes for discussion.

4. Prayer

After the study component of the meeting, the group moves into a few minutes of intercessory prayer. The focus of these prayers will depend on the group, with each member contributing a few concerns.

The prayers may be led by one member, in which case the concerns can be solicited by the leader just before the prayers begin, or the prayers can occur in a "circle" style, with each member offering their own concerns in until everyone in the group has had a turn.

Intercessory prayers normally are "opened" and "closed" by the prayer leader in a formal way. The opening is an invitation to prayer: "Let us pray" is the simplest form, but more extended forms are also possible, including a formal Collect. For a closing form, the simplest option is something like "We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord", but again a longer summary can be extemporized or a set prayer utilized such as the Prayer of St. Chrysostom.

That said, for the prayers in general it is best to remember St. Benedict's admonition: "in public, prayers should be very short."

5. Closing Prayer

As the meeting was opened with prayer, so it is closed with prayer. This prayer should be short, said by all, and should not normally change from meeting to meeting. Some examples:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union, where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. [Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next.] Amen.