Practices From the Inside Out: When We Ponder Together

Practices From the Inside Out: When We Ponder Together July 8, 2021

Practices From the Inside Out: When We Ponder Together

When We Ponder Together

Have you ever wondered about what your own spiritual tradition means in everyday life? What do we really believe and how does it shape how we live and interact with people? I believe we begin to understand more when we ponder together.

What can we really do to respond to significant questions?

Some of us wish we could do more to help other people. We appreciate the ways serving other people feeds our own souls, but we get overwhelmed by all the choices.

We work out what we believe and how it shapes us on our own and together. Each of us needs to find our own balance between reading and reflecting within ourselves and how we ponder together in conversation with other people.

Some of us believe only certain people are qualified to help us. It can be a challenge for us to see ourselves as potential helpers.

EfM(Education for Ministry) is a conversation group organization which has been online since 2001. EfM can give us practical help sorting out our own core beliefs and how they fit into the world around us.

We do not need to be part of a church to benefit from this opportunity to take time for reading and reflection each week. Its is part of the Beecken Center at the University of the South’s School of Theology.

I have facilitated groups in person for six years and began an online group a couple of years ago. I now facilitate two online EfM groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00 to 6:45 PM Pacific time which will start again in September.

Each group includes 6 –12 people. There is a registration fee and process. We will meet beginning in September through June.

Would you like to explore this opportunity to ponder together?

We Ponder Together to Gain Understanding

Some of us seem to assume pondering spiritual life is like being at church all the time. This is not a prospect they find particularly attractive.

Their experience of being at church is often about other people telling them what to believe or how to live. Churches have not been places where their questions are welcome.

They experience churches as being like foreign countries where people speak a different language. They are not countries known for their openness to strangers. Many people find churches to be like countries which restrict how often people can visit with special rules and expectations.

Some of them even have rules about what people can wear.

These are not aspects of spiritual life which we find attractive.

There are two things which draw me to spiritual life. One is the significance of stillness. I appreciate sitting in an empty church praying and listening to how people have prayed there throughout their history.

Another is how spiritual life encourages us to ponder together. While I could live without making small talk for the rest of my life, pondering together sparks a fire in my heart.

The churches and monasteries which have shaped me are places which invite us to ponder together. Their focus is not on making sure everyone has the same right answers. They do not believe they have a monopoly on the truth.

Many of these reflective communities get started and keep growing as they ask questions and ponder together. They do not exist to defend the truths they hold dear, but to explore together and discover deeper truths.

We need places which help us discover what we believe for ourselves, not whether we have learned what someone else wants to teach us.

When We Ponder Together Without a Building

Each of us learns to discern for ourselves and we find ways to ponder together. We need people and places in our lives which encourage us to reflect. Some of us have regular conversations about spiritual life with people we trust.

The idea of pondering together probably makes us feel a little uncomfortable. Extroverts are nervous about the concept of reflecting while introverts feel anxious about the idea of doing it with other people.

We need a way to learn how to understand what pondering is and how we can ponder together.

Our search for the pondering we need is not limited by physical geography.

We can now build places to ponder together which do not require buildings or transportation.

Many of us have learned to appreciate how the Internet lets us connect with people with whom we share values even though we have never met in person.

Our lives online can help us build communities to tap into resources which enhance our everyday lives.

How can we live our lives both in person and online to become more open to spiritual life? Can an online reflective community help us experience the reflection for which we thirst?

Building Places to Ponder Together

I invite you to join the place I am building to ponder together.

Education for Ministry(EfM) is overseen by the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. It consists of four sessions, each of which lasts for a nine-month academic year.

Together in a small group of other people online, we will discover and explore our story and how we practice it in our everyday lives. Through reading, prayer, reflection, and pondering together we help each other move toward new understanding.

Each week builds on the last just as each annual session leads into the next one. Our conversation draws meaning from each week’s events and reading. Part of our process is to notice questions and insights which guide our application of what we see.

The program provides a framework to include reading, reflection, and conversation in our schedules. It helps me bring together contemplative reflection and analytical inquiry in my own life.

Pondering together has become central to my understanding of spiritual life.

Please join me in building this place to ponder together.

Where will we begin building a place to ponder together today?

How will we take a step into pondering together this month?

[Image by zimpenfish]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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