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I spent an evening recently with some old friends who I had not seen for a few years. We have a lot of shared history together, a memory full of shared meals, holidays and important life moments. The pictures of these events are in my mind rather than on my phone, because our friendship pre-dates Apple.
As you may have experienced when spending time with such familiar friends, we spent a long and happy time re-telling old tales and laughing at mishaps and close scrapes form the past. We caught up on news and wondered what had happened to other former members of the gang who had flown under the radar for a long while.

It was good time. Relaxed time. Familiar time.

But, as I was enjoying this reunion, another thought struck me.

“I’m not the same person as I was back then.”

I’ve changed. Which, to be honest is a good thing. I was a right wally back then.

Of course the truth is that we are all changing as time flows under the bridge. But that alteration is not neutral. While some of it is just the affect of nature and the appearance of grey hair, the rest of those changes are caused. Caused by culture, stress, friends, family, phones and global zeitgeists.

For centuries, the language which spiritual teachers have placed on this process of alteration is ‘formation’.

We are constantly being formed. The forces which act upon us and influences which shape us are many and varied. Some good, some bad, some noticed and named, others anonymous and invisible.

Our series of conversations this term aims to focus on some of the things which form us. Noticing them, appraising them and questioning their value.

If we notice something which actively forms us for the better, well then we would be wise to take note and seek out that influence more proactively. Equally, if we spot a forming force which morphs us into a person we don’t ultimately respect or like, then again we would be wise to take heed and alter course.

While considering these formational influences we might also wonder in what ways the words and practices of Jesus might shape us.

AND. While all this is going on, we are waking to the invitation to in turn accept our role as formational forces upon the world around us. We are shaped by others, and we shape others. Our environment shapes us, and we shape our environment.

We are involved in being formed, and we are simultaneously forming the world in which we live.

This is the foundation for our conversations this term. To accompany this there are YouTube conversation starters designed to introduce various influences, and equip you with the excuse to explore your own formation around the table with others close to you. This is were learning happens, in community, as we form each other into an ever increasing likeness of Jesus.