As I am working on taking more time to be listening, I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha, where Mary was lifted up for doing “the better part” sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening.
I am aware that I started my time at St. Andrew by taking time to listen to you. I made an effort to get around to as many in the congregation as possible, and I got about 1/3 of those visits made. My plan is to continue to do that, with special effort being made in August, September and October. We will be setting those up through the church office with Alesia.
As I have found myself flagging in energy through this past year, I noticed that I needed to spend more time listening to God, and what it is that God wants from me, and is doing in the world around me, for me and for others. I would like to propose that we take on the challenge of doing a congregational Bible Study once a month, starting September 2nd, with a Bible Study on Philemon between 1st and 2nd service. The plan would be to continue to hold Bible Study between services on the 1st Sunday of the month. I want to listen to the Word of God.
Listening to God also comes in the form of prayer. I have two changes in the prayer life of the church that I am working to institute. Once a month during service, on the 4th Sunday of the month, we will have an open mic prayer time, where you will be given the opportunity to share your prayer requests from the floor. You will also be able to continue to pass in the prayer cards, and I will read those, during that service, and all other services, and the names will be in the bulletin.
To enhance our time in prayer, I will be adding a time of focused prayer during the 3rd Sunday of the month between 1st and 2nd service. We will have some forms of prayer we may learn - such as word and breath prayers, and Lectio Divina, and Guided Prayer. We will use this time as an opportunity to listen more closely to what God wants for the world and for each of us. We will have listened to one another during our changed community prayer time, and will set this time aside to listen to God through different forms of prayer.
In addition to all of these things in the church, I am aware that we need to listen to what is going on outside of the church more too. There are a few things I am proposing to do. One, I am going to be visiting our neighborhoods once a month, and would invite you to come with me on those days where I walk a neighborhood surrounding the church. My hope would be that we would introduce ourselves and let the people we meet introduce themselves, offer our listening ears and listen. We want to be different, and we want to hear the cry of those in need.
From that listening, I hope to gather some of the clergy nearby to help host forums of discussion in public locations, like schools and mobile home parks, not to push an agenda, but to hear the needs and hopes of the people in our community, that we might build programs and opportunities that fit those needs, and help forward the Kingdom of God in the world today.
I thank you for joining with me in our listening to God, Self and Others. I have to admit I openly stole this plan from the Rev. Dr. Anna Crews Camphouse, who wrote her dissertation on this topic, and worked with some amazing people to put it into practice. Pastor Anna serves the Christ United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, is my wife, and the proud mother of Sophia. I am grateful for the ways in which she has taught me to listen.