All of life is a journey. We are always traveling to Christ even as we travel with Christ. To be a disciple, therefore, is to shape one’s life for the journey. A disciple is one who forms his or her life around certain disciplines, which, in turn, allows him or her to grow into the likeness of Christ.
During this time in the Church, we have had more than enough conversation about what constitutes right belief. It is time for us to focus instead on right behavior. How is a Christian to behave? Could someone, looking at our lives, know that we were indeed Christians?
For centuries, Moral Theology focused on the development of character. The teaching was that each person ought to aspire to incarnate the Christian virtues in his or her life. Quite simply, one should think of the person God wishes for that person to be and then ask what is a behavior that will move me closer to that goal. How can I make that behavior a habit, that habit a disposition, so that this disposition will form my character and bring me closer to holiness? We have lost this way of speaking of ethics, but in so doing, we have also lost the language of disciplines and virtues.
I think this a great loss. Our world desperately needs more love and faith and hope. Our world needs beacons of light and examples of goodness.
The role of the Church is to teach its members how to lead a virtuous life so that individuals will be changed into disciples and those disciples will be instruments through which God will transform the world into the Kingdom. To discipline oneself is to change one’s behavior by changing one’s habits. To become a disciple is to offer one’s life to serve Christ every moment of every day.
This program is a tool for discipleship. It is a means by which pilgrims on their way to the Celestial City can be intentional about their journey. We all may want to be more hospitable or more forgiving or prayerful or better at practicing soulful spending, but do we know how to do that on Monday? This program will help to teach us a way to live out the Christian virtues in our lives.
The virtues are organized in a trinity: the Journey Inward, the Journey Outward, the Journey Together. Each person and each parish will naturally gravitate toward one or two of these, but a whole life comes from embracing all of them.
The Journey Inward is our personal relationship with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is the cultivation of our connection with God and includes many of the virtues we associate with spirituality. The Journey Outward is our service to our brothers and sisters in the world. This is our outreach to all of God’s children. The Journey Together is the life of community. These virtues are what enable a community to flourish.
Many blessings to you on your journey,
The Right Reverend G. Porter Taylor, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina