Speaking, listening, silence, reflection

2/15/2006

“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” — Lamentations 3:26

It was good to practice the pattern of holy community: honest storytelling, attentive listening, silence and theological reflection. At the Clergy Leadership Conference Feb. 6-8, more than 200 clergy were well led into a time of healing and re-creation.

At the center of our time together were the simple, central practices of God’s people: engaging God’s word through preaching and teaching, praying, singing, eating together, gathering at the Lord’s Table.

There was space opened in the conference for storytelling. We were invited to listen to the stories of several sisters and brothers who had experienced the death-dealing fury of Katrina. A brief period of silence was created for receiving and honoring the stories. Two questions were then posed:

 Where did you hear God’s presence in the story?

Where did you hear God’s absence in the story?

Responses were offered from the community in short phrases and sentences. This pattern of being present with one another is a rich gift. I commend this pattern for use in district gatherings, in local church gatherings, in Sunday school classes, in circles of United Methodist women, in gatherings of United Methodist men, in reflection groups of United Methodist youth. As the pattern was experienced, there emerged a gentle, powerful calmness in our community before God.

We give thanks for Bishop Kenneth Carder who returned to Mississippi with a team of leaders from Duke Divinity School. The leaders — Bishop Carder, Dr. Bill Turner, Dr. Keith Meador, Dr. Pam Hawkins and Rev. Connie Shelton — came to lead us without honorarium, offering freely their wisdom, their concern and their partnership in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was Bishop Carder’s vision that this gift come to us from Duke Divinity School. Bishop Carder continues to be our wise, strong, gentle friend and shepherd. In Christ, we love one another and need one another. In these days we have experienced anew connection at its best.

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Thanks be to God for teachers and mentors who lead us into holy quietness where each of us is honored before God.