“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”― Ernest Hemingway
Growing up I remember being told to listen. It was a thing we had to learn to do in school, at home and at church. Sometimes the lesson was about how to quiet down so that you could hear someone speaking, or an invitation to focus on instructions. At other times listen was a command to pay attention and “do as I say!” But listening was always a method of teaching.
As I got older the teachers spent less time teaching me to listen and more time using my attention to teach me about other subjects. All in all, I think they expected the lesson about listening to have been completed. Now I knew how to listen and the assumption was that I wouldn’t forget how to listen. But I am wondering now, if over time, we don’t start to forget some of the basics of listening. Because as we age we are filled with more and more things to say and share. So the discipline of listening to learn or understand often falls behind–listening to respond.
On February 3-4, a group of 13 of us met with Rev. Rick Beck to work on learning to listen. In his work with spiritual direction Rick has put together a process that can help people develop their listening skills, especially around how to spiritually listen to one another. (If you are interested in the whole process talk with Pastor Rebecca)
He asked us to listen with three questions in mind:
- What do I notice about what is being said?
- What do I appreciate about what is being said?
- What do I wonder about that i could offer to the person speaking that might help them deepen their thoughts about what they are saying?
These three questions are meant to help us focus on what we are hearing and on the person who is speaking. They are not meant to begin a conversation–a back and forth of ideas but a focused time of attending to the person who is sharing.
As we move through the process of discernment for the future life of our congregation I would encourage you to seek out opportunities to listen to one another, not to change someone else’s mind but to listen to understand each other. As we get closer to discerning a direction and making a decision it will be important that we can hear one another well, in order to best care for each other in the midst of the process.
2 Timothy 1:5-7
I often think of that genuine faith of yours—a faith that first appeared in your grandmother Lois, then in Eunice your mother, and is now, I am convinced, in you as well. Because you have this faith, I now remind you to stir up that inner fire which God gave you at your ordination. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.
It’s a new time in life for this young leader in the early church. What did he need to hear, to understand and to believe about himself in order to go out in the world with this new work in mind? Notice that Paul didn’t lecture him about the things to avoid but encouraged Timothy to trust his call and move ahead. He instructed Timothy to focus on the drive to follow Christ and the rest would follow. Paul acknowledged Timothy’s call from God and encouraged him to hold on tight as he joined in with God at work in the world.
Edmonton Moravian Church is also called to be at work with God. We may or may not see many similarities between us and Timothy but the message that Paul conveys still makes sense for us in this new year.
- Focus on the call to follow Jesus, with all of who you are–who God made you to be
- Stir up your inner fire–read, listen, study, sing, reflect, pray–be filled with the Spirit
- Embrace the Spirit you have been given, of power and love and a sound mind
2020 brings with it the promise of new direction, which will not be without difficult decisions, for our congregation. I believe that this may be the best time for us to be reminded that God has called us and is still calling us. We have been given what we need to answer this call. We can walk boldly into the future, even if all is not yet clear, because we walk together with God towards God’s future.
May the blessings of this new year come filled with hope and encouragement for all of us!
is an ever-increasing capacity to “see” the work of God in the midst of the
human situation, that we can align ourselves with whatever God is doing. Discernment is a quality of attentiveness to
God that, over time, develops our sense of God’s heart and purpose in the
moment. (“How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going” by Susan
Beaumont, p 68)
the last number of years, we have been experiencing decline in our
congregation, like many other mainline protestant churches. Over those years the boards and congregation
have explored ideas and dabbled in possibilities. (“Reimagining Church” series at Good News,
Congregational retreats, “Food, Faith and Future”, etc.) In 2018, at the direction of church council
the Unified Board set up a Future Visioning Study Committee to help our
congregation move through a process to understand the challenges in our future
and to begin the work of meeting those challenges together.
In two events, one in May and the other in July, the congregation gathered for conversation and reflection on the current state of our congregation. There were a variety of ideas for how we might meet the challenges from merging with another congregation, closing our doors, redevelopment of our property, becoming a Moravian fellowship, etc. Then in September, we met with Rev. Susan Nienaber, who shared that our congregation is in the good company of many other communities of faith who are working to discern what God wants them to be about in a changing world. She told us that many congregations in our situation either chose to Re-innovate which requires a large shift in the way we do things to enter into a new growth cycle or they move to considering the Legacy they want to leave to their community. These conversations have now been marinating in our minds for the month of October. You may have an idea of what you think would be best for the congregation or what your personal preference would be, which is important information. However, before we delve into more decisions, let’s take some time to listen for God in the midst of this. In her book, “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going”, Susan Beaumont writes about the differences between decision making and discernment. Both processes are vital to one another but they are not the same. In discernment she encourages us to enter into listening without our own predetermined opinions, as much as we can, so that we can listen freely to the Holy Spirit’s guiding among us. In the next 8 weeks, we are all invited to this practice of discernment. This is difficult work and we all need to lean into compassion and patience with one another because we each come to this time holding different expectations, hopes and fears. It is my hope that this time of discernment will help us to find some common ideas to explore and that we will find doors opening for us.
Getting back into the routine of work brings with it an opportunity to get reorganized, to reset priorities and to start new rhythms. While sometimes we are met with the challenge of reorganization by transitions in life, health or work, we can also choose to reset ourselves. How often do you reflect on your routine of prayer, worship, and community? When you take a step back to consider your rhythms are there things that you would like to tweak? Maybe you have been taking time to do devotions in the kitchen, might it give you a boost if you simply changed to the living room. I think it is a valuable practice and one that has been a part of the Christian tradition from the beginning. Jesus was never one to follow the status quo…he kept changing things up, stepping back to reflect and pray and came in to readjust again. After that the Apostles and churches that were established followed Jesus’ example. They spent time out in the communities around them and responding to the needs they saw. I believe this work was made possible by the time they spent in prayer together. Prayer has the ability to open us to God’s will in different ways and sometimes all we need is to switch it up to see a new perspective.
I would like to set up a time to pray together outside of Sunday morning worship. What might we discover if we came together during the week to pray with and for one another? What might God begin to say to us about how God is at work in us for the future? I will be working in October to set up a time for a drop-in prayer time at EMC. I would love for you to join me! If you also feel like you want to be a part of making space for a prayer group, please let me know.
If you want to touch the past TOUCH A ROCK. If you want to touch the present TOUCH A FLOWER. If you want to touch the future TOUCH A LIFE.
If you’ve been at church for the
last month you have seen this on the bulletin board. We have been spending time
in worship thinking about the past and the present and will spend time with the
future as well.
This is a time of listening for God
to speak. As we peek into different parts and times of our life, as we allow
the curtain to be drawn back (revelation) we listen for God’s voice. Sometimes
we feel like God is silent and that may be true, but sometimes it is because we
are not hearing what we want to hear or not trusting what we hear.
I know someone who for part of
their college course had to go and teach in a foreign country. They were a
youth leader and hoped to fulfill that season before having to go on the trip.
Two opportunities presented themselves. One meant leaving youth early and one
was exactly what was prayed for. Easy decision? Sometimes we make the answer
harder than it needs to be.
Someone else I knew said they never
prayed for life path or job because they were scared that God might ask them to
do something they didn’t want to do. Sometimes I think if we do pray for
direction we won’t hear God until our direction is chosen (subconsciously of
Here we are looking at how God has
blessed Edmonton Moravian in the past and how the church has blessed God and
those around us. It feels good to remember the good. But there have been many
ups and downs and difficult decisions to make. Some changed the course of the
church (location) and some affirmed the current way. Today we see that families
are smaller, children grow and leave home and church. Numbers fall and our
elders begin to step into the nearer presence of God. Much has changed (size)
and much has remained (a deep sense of community and belonging).
The focus for most of the time I
have been here is discerning the future God has for Edmonton Moravian. We are
listening, the question is are we hearing? There is a gathering sense of God’s
future vision. May you continue your journey together making the best decisions
you can, knowing that God IS in your midst and IS leading your hearts and
minds. “Well done, good and faithful servant[s]! You have been faithful with a
few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your
master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
Go boldly and trust God to direct.
Love to all my sisters and brothers, Pastor Trina
P.S. September 8 will be my final Sunday worshiping with you. On the 9th Ken and I fly off to Nepal for our fifth trip together (we return the end of November). It has been two years and we have greatly missed our friends and the work that is going on there. Thank you for welcoming us into your community: it has been a pleasure walking with you during these months. Please keep us in your prayers and we will keep you in ours. Thank you for all the financial support you have given for us and for the ministry in Nepal. We will let you know all about our time and work there. We go with joy feeling blessed by you and by God.