Pastor Rick's Letter to the Congregation
This month we enter the joyous season of Easter! It is a time to celebrate the reawakening to new life that is so much a part of both spring and Christian spirituality. I hope you will be able to join us on Easter Sunday as we come together for this “High Holy Day” of our faith.
The past several weeks I have been intrigued with the stories from the gospel of John, and the many layers of meaning these stories contain. While John’s gospel can seem atrociously exclusive and provincial, it also contains some of the most empowering stories about conversations Jesus has with both men and women disciples. And the women are portrayed as wiser and more faithful disciples than the men!
New scholarship has revealed how later scribes rewrote some of those stories in an effort to diminish the power and authority that the women had. If you are interested in pursing this further I encourage you to watch the YouTube video that lays out the data in the link that follows. It is a detailed and lengthy presentation, but well worth the effort.
Women Erased: The Magdalene Mystery with Elizabeth Schrader and Joan Taylor (1:11:20)
A few weeks ago in my Sunday sermon I spoke about a weekly practice that has profoundly enriched and nourished my personal growth. It was first introduced to me through the Breakthrough Mens Community led and founded by Fred Jealous. It’s a weekly commitment to talk to a “check-in partner” for fifteen minutes. The process is deceptively simple. Each person has seven minutes to talk while the other person listens. The person listening is tasked with active listening, without interrupting, offering advice, judging or trying to fix anything. The key to this is keeping one’s attention on all that is good, kind, wise and loving about the person who is talking. As the check-in begins the person listening is also tasked with watching the time and giving the person sharing a one-minute warning so that each person will have had 7 minutes to share, and 7 minutes to listen to the other, and the check-in is completed in 15 minutes.
If you are the one talking first, you begin by sharing a few things that are going well in your life. It may be personal, professional or relational. Next you share any struggles that you are having at the moment. This is the place to take some time to listen to your heart as you talk about your struggles and express your feelings. You then flow into your best thinking about what the next step or steps will be. What assistance might you need in taking the next step? Who will you ask for help? The big picture here is how to create the life you would most like to live. There are two more steps for you before you are done. What are you appreciating about yourself right now? And then the final question; What is making your heart sing?
Before you shift into being the listener you are asked if you would like any appreciation for your sharing. If you say “yes,” the listener then offers a few brief sentences expressing what they appreciate about you and your sharing. Then the roles switch and you are actively and compassionately listening to your partner.
When I first began this process it seemed artificial and a bit uncomfortable. It was often a challenge to get to the heart of things quickly and succinctly. But with time it became more natural and easier to say what needed saying without losing yourself in a long story. The attention of the person listening to you is a potent force, especially if they succeed in not giving advice! And your ability to listen actively and supportively while being mindful of your partner’s inherent goodness becomes a gift to you both.
I know that there are many of you in our church who regularly connect with one another over the phone or by making a personal visit. That’s great! I encourage us all to consider reaching out to someone during the week, perhaps someone you missed seeing at church on Sunday, and just asking them how they’re doing. Perhaps you’d be willing to reach out to someone on a regular basis? You don’t need to go through the format I’ve described above, any opportunity to connect with one another in a genuine, respectful and compassionate way is life enhancing for us all! We just need to show up for one another, and to show up for ourself as well. This is the season for reawakening.
Your partner in our shared ministry,