Starting a Group
Starting a Reading Group by Jeff Imbach
Jeff Imbach, past president of the Henri Nouwen Society Board (Canada), animated a Nouwen reading group that focused on Nouwen's book, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. He writes about his experience and encourages others to begin a group in their local area.
Together with another couple, Joy and I invited ten people to gather for seven weeks to reflect on Nouwen's book, Reaching Out. During the first meeting I introduced the basic format of a reading group, clarified the ground rules and showed the wonderful documentary about Henri produced by Karen Pascal called, Journey of the Heart: the life of Henri Nouwen.
We then spent two weeks on each of the book's three movements. The first week was devoted to discussing the message of the section, purposely focusing on Henri's intent, not on everyone's opinions. In the second week we spoke honestly about our heart-felt response to the material. Each week we gave generous time for quiet prayer.
As the group's facilitator, I was deeply touched by the group process. They had taken time to read and reflect on the section and were ready to share specific joys and struggles in growing toward solitude, hospitality and prayer.
We experimented with what was helpful as the weeks passed. One night we had a votive candle for each member on the coffee table, which they lit when it was their turn to speak. This made the time a very sacred and prayerful experience. I was delighted at how easy it was to organize the group and yet how meaningful it was for each person. I encourage you to discover the gift of a reading group experience.
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