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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Shaping spirits

How ELCA seminaries approach spiritual formation

Some things we all know and practice defy neat description. We may call them by a variety of names or no name at all. Spiritual formation falls into that category.

Lutheran Southern Seminary students
Lutheran Southern Seminary students walk a prayer labyrinth on the school's Columbia, S.C., campus. Spiritual disciplines are taught as part of seminary life and life in ministry.


Paul Westermeyer, professor of church music at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., calls spiritual formation "a thicket in which there are no simple descriptions." It's both deeply personal and nearly universal. It predates Christianity yet carries us through the 24/7 days of this 21st century. It is both teaching and practice. It evokes a variety of ancient disciplines to encounter and collaborate with the Spirit. It is living in community and in the spirit.

Luther's website says spiritual formation "describes a whole host of practices or disciplines that enable us to grow in our relationship with God. Some of the traditional practices include prayer, spiritual reading, Sabbath-keeping and spiritual direction."


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