Elizabeth Neep, commissioning editor at SPCK, explains the idea behind new spiritual formation imprint, Form
If I mention ‘spiritual formation’ what’s the first thought that comes to mind?
For some it will conjure images of quiet times, of scripture, of rest, of retreat. For others, it might spark confusion and uncertainty – they may have heard the term but not really know what it means in practice. There will be others who know exactly what the term means but feel a niggle of guilt when they hear it, as it reminds them that they should be spending more time with God, that they see the value in the spiritual disciplines but aren’t disciplined enough to really create a rhythm of them in their day-to-day lives.
I’ve spent time thinking through all these responses. And, as I’ve listened to many others seeking to follow Jesus as part of my research process in helping to develop new spiritual formation imprint Form, I’ve discovered that I’m not alone.
“There’s a real balance needed when it comes to mental health and formation,” Rachael Newham, Mentally Healthy Friendly Church project manager at Kintsugi Hope and author of And Yet – Finding joy in lament (Form, November 2021) tells me. “The idea that you aren’t a ‘proper’ Christian unless you have a half an hour quiet time every day, can make formation feel like just another thing to tick off a to-do list and increase anxiety. But when we’re able to view it as an opportunity to refuel, to have the discipline of Sabbath without our work or side hustle it can be incredibly freeing.”
It is this freedom that Form is seeking to call people into through a list of refreshingly accessible and immensely practical books that celebrate spiritual formation not as a worn-out obligation but as a life-giving invitation to become more like Jesus.
Being formed in the everyday
The reality is that we’re all being formed – whether we like it or not – by what we read, listen to and watch, as well as by who we spend our time with. There are many things forming who we are. Form helps adult readers engage intentionally in their spiritual formation not simply on retreat or when escaping the busyness of everyday life, but right where they are.
As missionary Frank C Laubach reflects in his spiritual classic, Letters by A Modern Mystic: “[Dwelling with God] has always been easier for the shepherds and the monks and anchorites than for people surrounded by crowds… Yet if this experiment is to have any value for busy people it must be worked under exactly these conditions of high pressure and throngs of people.” Form is not professing to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when it comes to cultivating spiritual rhythms that help us become more like Jesus, but we do hope that we are publishing content for the times we are living in.
“I definitely think there is an appetite for the exploration of spiritual formation,” Rachael continues. “Life can feel so fast paced and lonely that there is a hunger to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. The reconnection to practices that might once have felt old fashioned, such as liturgy, gives space for people to connect with God in established rhythms that connect us with the people of God across time.”
As well as publishing brand new books from Sarah Yardley (More Change), Leah McFall (More Trust), Gemma Simmonds (Dancing at the Still Point), Amy Boucher Pye (7 Ways to Pray) and many others, Form will also launch several new editions of spiritual formation classics such as Letters by a Modern Mystic with a new foreword from Pete Greig and Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard featuring new contributions by John Mark Comer and Natasha Robinson. These will help readers reconnect with the age-old wisdom of followers of Jesus who have gone before us.
Our need for deeper connection
This hunger to reconnect – to God, ourselves and to others both now and throughout history – is perhaps felt more acutely than ever in the wake of the global pandemic. And, in addition to titles such as Live No Lies – Recognise and resist the three enemies that sabotage your peace (September 2021) by John Mark Comer and Be Still –A simple guide to quiet times by Brian Heasley (October 2021), Rachael’s And Yet speaks perfectly into this cultural moment, helping readers to process individual and global grief.
“I want the book to bring people hope if they’re struggling,” Rachael explains. “That if their prayer life feels dry or they’re struggling with their mental health they can find a rhythm to reconnect to God and the wider community through allowing themselves to rejoice and grieve together. I hope that after the year we’ve had, it will help people to find a rhythm to weep and lament, rejoice and hope in the story of scripture.”
“God gives us space to feel our emotions and bring them before him,” Rachael concludes. “He presents opportunities to come together as a community to grieve and hope.”
At Form we hope that you know that wherever you are right now – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – you are invited to journey with us in becoming more like Jesus today.
To find out more about Form, please visit spckpublishing.co.uk/form-faith