The Covenant groups at Gettysburg Seminary serve the purpose of preparing students and families for the vocation of public ministry, and serve to encourage all students, spouses, faculty and staff in the apprenticing of one another in faith to live out their baptismal calling. These groups provide the means for enriching the well-being of each member of the community in a multitude of ways, particularly by offering the opportunity to inculcate habits and practices of faithful community life and personal spiritual growth. In these ways, the Covenant groups will strengthen the bonds of the Gettysburg Seminary community as a whole, and deepen the rhythm of its life together.
The Covenant groups are strongly encouraged because your well being and wholeness are strongly encouraged. There are no attendance requirements, no final evaluations, no papers to write. Therefore, there is a great deal of freedom for each group to design an agenda that most suits the needs and objectives of its own members. There are bi-monthly themes based on spiritual disciplines which will guide the groups: Prayer, Service, Reading, Fasting and Worship, even while there is no one template each group must follow. Instead, the members of each group will make decisions collaboratively, from year to year, about how to spend their time. The hope is that this will afford the possibility of more active participation in the groups, and also richer rewards for each group member. Having said that, however, the Covenant groups were founded with certain goals in mind, and there are specific aspects of our life together that the group should consider as it thinks about how it wants to structure time together. These are described below as the “building blocks” of the Covenant groups.
Basic Building Blocks
The basic building blocks which shape the Covenant groups are derived from the ELCA wholeness wheel. This wheel has at its center the new life in Jesus Christ we begin at baptism, and it has as its circumference our spiritual well-being. Thus, the wheel includes all those aspects of our lives that impact the exercise of our baptismal vocation, and highlights the fact that all of who we are is nurtured by, and in turn nurtures, our spiritual life. Attention to each facet of life is important to overall wholeness and health, and energizes our ability to become the people God is calling us to be. Part of the seminary experience includes learning the discipline of care: care of self, care of family, care of neighbor. The Covenant groups provide a structured and communal means through which this discipline can be practiced and developed. Listed below are the various components of human wellness; underneath each category is suggested a sampling of ways these essential aspects of Christian life may be lifted up and attended to by each group.
The following are meant to be illustrative of some things to which your group may choose to give attention. If nothing else happens, our hope is that prayer with and for each one in your group and the ministry setting in which they live can be part of your daily discipline.
- Sharing prayer concerns, and praying daily for each other
- Presence in daily chapel
- Daylong or weekend spiritual retreats
- Support for Leadership in chapel services
- The practice of Lectio Divina
- Common reading of a spiritual text
- Conversation with a spiritual director or spiritual companion
- Walking the new cloth Labyrinth with your group
- Sharing wisdom from different experiences [CPE, Internship, Candidacy, etc.]
- Sharing ongoing call stories
- Processing Candidacy meetings
- Intentional conversation around Endorsement and Approval preparation, First Call, etc.
- Intentional conversation with role models in ministry
- Meeting at specific times for walks, bike rides, tennis, etc.
- Group participation in activities at the YWCA
- Encouragement/shared conversation about nutrition and diet
- Trips to local parks/nature areas
- Listening and support during life changes and transitions
- Mutual conversation and consolation
- Intentional opportunities to express pastoral care
- Referral source for community and pastoral services
- Shared conversation/information about stress management
- Support for managing coursework
- Opportunity for deeper discussion of a specific topic
- Shared reading of texts and/or study groups for more vibrant personal engagement of course content.
- Encouragement of one another to be diligent in study
- Community service projects: Habitat for Humanity, Food Pantry, Soup Kitchen, etc.
- Shared wisdom on balancing personal and professional life
- Support in nurturing family life
- Recreational field trips
- Shared conversation/information to promote financial literacy
- Encouragement of personal/family financial discipline (setting budget, living within means, etc..)
- Conversation about the economic realities of ministry
- Mutual support in times of financial stress