Has your faith plateaued? Many of us want to experience the full depth of our faith journey but often get stuck on head knowledge rather than listening to our hearts. In our spiritual journey, sometimes we need someone to walk alongside us, to provide guidance and support and help us in our search to become who God intends us to be.
The Tyndale Spiritual Formation Centre exists specifically for that reason – to help students (free of charge), ministers and the wider community become more Christ-like by providing resources, training, academic learning, networking opportunities and spiritual direction. Tyndale staff writer Melissa Wallace interviewed the Centre’s new director Joseph Wong to find out what we can expect from the Centre this year.
Why is focusing on spiritual formation important?
It helps us move our knowing of God from the mind to the heart. A lot of us have knowledge and information about God, but it doesn’t necessarily change the way we connect with or build a relationship with God. Through the COVID-19 pandemic experience, people see that limitation of having knowledge and wanting to live out their faith. Even caregivers, pastors, ministers and church leaders may not have people to talk to about their own struggles, so this is one way we can help and offer more resources to those who care for others.
How has the pandemic affected your work at the Spiritual Formation Centre?
Since everything moved online, people have “Zoom fatigue,” and it can be difficult to engage when we cover deep topics that may stir emotions, for example, when we discuss death and dying. What we see is just a small part of the communication; we can’t see body language, but we do what we can to engage.
On the other hand, the sense of community we offer through the modules is something many are searching for. In the current COVID-19 situation, people are looking to get away from negative news and are searching for resources online to be anchored in spirituality. Our faculty, special speakers and facilitators have great knowledge and background in theology. A lot of resources online don’t have the same caliber.
"... people are looking to get away from negative news and are searching for resources online to be anchored in spirituality.'
— Joseph Wong
I should also mention what a great opportunity it has provided to expand our community. Before, we would have an average of 20 students attending our courses in person, but last Saturday, our online module had 30 students from all over the world. We’ve had a group from Nigeria attend, as well as those from The Netherlands, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, and so on. We are happy to meet people’s needs in this way and enjoy learning about different perspectives.
What modules does the Centre currently offer? Will I be behind if I start in the middle of one?
Not at all. Every course teaches something different, and we always welcome new faces. Our facilitators also offer plenty of time for questions and comments throughout the study. There are modules on spiritual discernment; our Enneagram module helps people become more self-aware and happens until May; and we have a module on practising community compassion, prayer, and so on. You can see the full listing at www.tyndale.ca/tsfc/events. We are also regularly updating our Facebook page with resources, meditations, and prayers, so please follow us to keep yourself updated.
How would I request a Spiritual Director if I was struggling, and what could I expect?
We have on our website a list of spiritual directors, who are available by phone or online. When you connect with a spiritual director, you will be given space to listen. The true spiritual director is the Holy Spirit, so we listen to what God is saying through spiritual exercises, prayer, contemplation and silence. I’ve had people attend a session that includes 40 minutes of silence, and they tell me that it was one of the impactful moments of their lives. There is so much noise and information coming at us all the time, so to have a safe, non-judgemental space where they can come and just rest in God is meaningful.
"The true spiritual director is the Holy Spirit, so we listen to what God is saying through spiritual exercises, prayer, contemplation and silence."
— Joseph Wong
You became the Director of the Tyndale Spiritual Formation Centre at the end of September 2020. Describe the journey that led you to this role.
It began in 2015 when I was going through a tough time. My father passed away due to cancer and I couldn’t pray to God because I didn’t know how to make sense of the loss. It was one of the darkest periods in my journey. I grew up in a non-denominational church, and it had really focused on the mind and on Bible study, but I hadn’t learned to care for my emotions and feelings.
I went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago, where God showed me His providence. I met people who shared the same experiences – some who had learned to grieve and others who were lost and disconnected from God. I realized there were many who might not fit in the institutional church system but were looking to go deeper in their spiritual walk.
After that, I responded to God’s calling to journey with those people who feel lost, broken and disconnected from Him. I went to Tyndale to study and equip myself as a Spiritual Director. My professors taught me how to connect with God better and not just see God with my mind, but through daily living, spiritual practices and contemplation. I graduated with an MDiv in 2019 and continued to stay involved in the Tyndale community, including meeting with students seeking spiritual direction. I applied for the Director position because I wanted more people to value spiritual formation and wanted to give back to the community that equipped me.