Our Spiritual Evolution
Spiritual well-being influences our mental-emotional and physical wellness. As clergy and spiritual leaders, there needs to be an emphasis on what makes a spiritual being on a human evolutionary journey happy, whole and, over a lifespan, well. When asked to collect some thoughts on managing self while responding to the call of Christ to be a pastor and priest, I reflected on the influences that shaped and sustain my 24 years in ordained ministry. That self-assessment revealed three essential bandwidths, or capacities, that need our interest and attention on the way of learning to love like God. They are community, spiritual discipline and biblical literacy.
Community – begin with your family of origin and beyond
My dad was an athletic trainer for the Kansas City Royals. He was the first in his family of south Georgia sharecroppers to be educated past the eighth grade. My mom was a nurse. Her father had owned a nursery business in Monticello, Florida, and she was reared by ‘the help.’ As the first born son in a deep South home, I was always at my dad’s side, though my mom was my confidant. Every day was a new adventure for me, going along with my dad to the Royals Baseball Academy, Rosenblatt Stadium, Royals Stadium – ‘the yard,’ as we affectionately referred to the friendly confines of that pastoral setting, America’s pastime. Baseball, was my first religion, and religious community.
Spiritual Discipline – consider how you are lovable, loved and loving
I learned about well-being from two mastery level practitioners, my parents, Linda Rose Abbott and Marvin Mickey Cobb, so my soul spirit is quite privileged by landing in their loving and spiritually intelligent arms. Their hugs surround me to this day. They are at least 90 percent of how I know the Way of Love and will always be on the long haul to build up the Beloved Community. My parents taught me that physical, mental-emotional and spiritual well-being are only realized when everyone is considered to be an integral part of life itself.
The Good Life, as it is, will always be interconnected, interdependent and interrelated. But this life is also impermanent and cannot for one moment be taken for granted. It is a pure gift of God.
Biblical Literacy – start with your first loves and move on from there
Reading and learning to interpret the Bible in the Cobb household was equal to imbibing the greatest stories. Whenever a Sunday matinee baseball game conflicted with church attendance, my dad made me attend the chapel service with Bible study in the back of the Royals clubhouse, where extra Louisville Slugger bats made from northern ash trees were stored and tarred up with plenty of pine tar from south Georgia trees.
Later, when I was in graduate school and seminary, my dad pointed out that Bible stories are designed to lead us to more questions and ultimately, to trust in Christ Jesus. He applied those great stories and questions from the Bible and approached everyone, whether a professional athlete, night watchman or ticket-taker, as the most valuable person (i.e. MVP). I’ve inherited his approach and know it to be an outlook that is uplifting, a gospel witness that doesn’t use fear to proselytize. Moreover, the way of love from which we are never separated, as Christ assures us, allows every life to be as God intended, both precious and unique.
Take heart and take care of body, mind and spirit
When clergy are ordained as transitional deacons and later as priests, they are asked: “Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And the ordinands respond, “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.”
The Christ follower is not afraid and takes heart by taking care of body, mind and spirit, just like the Church takes care of doctrine (body), mind (discipline) and spirit (worship). The disciple is not afraid to be seen and to speak truth through the power that comes from Christ’s presence within. Conscience or spiritual intelligence is this anonymous presence of Christ among us all.
The Rev’d Dr. Matthew Mickey Cobb, Vicar of three parishes in north central Minnesota, two half time cures are on Leech Lake Nation at St. John’s Indian Mission Onigum and St. Peter’s Indian Mission Cass Lake, plus a part-time cure at St. Bartholomew’s Bemidji. Fr. Cobb is co-founder of First Nations Kitchen North and Good News Garden True North, which focuses on Food Justice & Sovereignty and Restoration of indigenous species and protected pollinators respectively. He is founder of Walks Back, LLC offering cross cultural and leadership development design for communities and corporations seeking change via wisdom and inclusion. He is a graduate of Rockhurst University, B.A. ’93, Seminary of the Southwest, M Div ’96, Creighton University, M.A. ‘01, and the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley, D Min ‘08. Certified ‘Daring Way’ Facilitator, Teacher Trainer in Adaptive Leadership, and Integral Transformative Practice practitioner.
- Self-Care for the Sake of Others (in the Age of COVID-19), an ECF webinar presented by Chanta Bhan, April 6, 2020
- A Holy Quarantine: Spiritual Practices Amid Pandemic by Nicole Foster, an ECF Vital Practices blog, September 1, 2020
- Transform Your Congregation: Read the Bible by Scott Gunn, Vestry Papers, November 2012
- The Best Way to be Blocked by Jamie Coats, Vestry Papers, September 2011