Formation at St Hilda’s
Life at St Hilda’s is directed towards meeting needs present in the here and now. It is also, however, orientated towards the future, as we aim to provide corps members with the means to discern their calling in the best way they can. This means different things to different people: for some it means figuring out what they wish to do next, for others it means figuring how to grow as a person before setting out on an already settled path, and for some it is something else entirely.
The program at St Hilda’s works to achieve this by helping corps members form and grow through their emotions, through their intellect, and through their service. We ensure that every aspect of personhood is nurtured and developed throughout the year.
Each facet of life at St Hilda’s is set up with this in mind, so one way to learn about formation at St Hilda’s is to read through our pages on community life, service, and worship. That said, here are some of the general practise general practices we hope these concrete activities will nurture, practises which will allow corps members to better know themselves and the path they are being called along.
Learning to listen lies right at the heart of formation at St. Hilda’s. We are constantly asking the questions; if, when we pray, we are only speaking, then how are we to hear what God has to say for us? If, when we live in community, we only speak, then how are we to hear the needs of our neighbors in particular and our community in general? If, when we serve, we spend our whole time saying what needs to be done, how are we to hear what those we are trying to serve are actually saying?
Listening at St. Hilda's is more than simply hearing words: it is allowing those words to speak by not forcing them to cohere with our pre-existing assumptions; it is learning to respond as God asks us to, over and above how we think we should. Above all, it is learning to love and respect others (whether God or neighbor) enough to see and hear them as they are, rather than trying to force them into being what we think they should be. This skill of listening can be developed each day, whether around the table for a community meal, at house meetings, at a placement, or at prayer.
To honestly hear something can be to know how to respond to it. By learning to listen to others, Hildans learn how to respond to others as we are called to by Jesus Christ. This means finding the words to support one another after an emotionally draining day; it means knowing what small gesture can light up a neighbor’s day; it means knowing when to share in joy and when to share in difficulty. It also means taking what we hear in prayer and communion (with God and each other) out into the world, so that we can serve as best we can in our community placements and wider lives.
Listening and responding are also important because they can help us to discern our calling. St Hilda’s tries to aid corps members’ discernment by helping each individual to better understand and love themselves and each other. We do this by providing them with opportunities to serve others (after all: one of the best ways of learning whether or not we are called to do something is by doing it) and by deliberately providing space for prayer and reflection, both corporate and individual.
Perhaps the most important aspects of discernment is community itself: by living in community Hildans can help each other discern their call through conversation and by supporting each other day to day, month to month. As such, a lot of the formation at St. Hilda’s is effected by the Hildans themselves, as they learn to listen to each other and then respond in love to what is said. By learning how to both listen and respond, Hildans can learn how to aid each other in their spiritual discernment.
It’s common knowledge that Jesus Christ commanded us to love God and neighbor. What’s not so well publicized is just how hard it can be to follow these commandments. As such, strong emphasis is placed throughout the Hildan year on the need to learn how to love as Christ loved us. A part of this is learning to forgive not just others, but also ourselves. Living a Christian life is difficult, but through learning how to listen, through learning how respond, and through learning how to discern and help others in their discernment, it is hoped that Hildans will learn to live their lives as Christ is calling them to.
There is, of course, no set way of living a Christian life, so this will mean different things to different individuals. For some, it will cause them to change their chosen path entirely. For others it will mean walking the same path in a different way. The only universal hope we have is that, however they are formed and whatever paths they choose, Hildans will find themselves at peace with God and feel confident as they step forward into the years ahead.