Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Exploring The Question: MANN

Having just finished my first full year of retirement, I sigh in relief. Thirty years of ministry gave me experiences that I couldn’t have had elsewhere. For this, I am very thankful. From prison cell to hospital bed; family home to nursing care; violence to peace-making; ball field to quilting bee; sanctuary to hockey game; mainline to charismatic to evangelical to Quaker-silence – you name it, I was probably there, learning to reflect God’s love enough to make a difference. I learned well about John Wesley’s prevenient preparing or going before, grace. Yes, God was there even before I arrived – what a confidence.

Like many parishioners, ministers like to explore their faith. Keeping this in mind during this past year, I’ve been even more aware of God’s grace as I attempted to search for new questions that didn’t seem to have place in everyday ordinary church life – if there is such a space. This has proven different from the predictable voice that proves to be safe.

Christendom often falls into the trap of echoing each other’s perspective or cloning a secure and established expression of faith or experience of the Spirit. This past year I asked questions, sat in circles and listened to wise teachers where questions were explored more than answers needed. I discovered different responses where a year or so ago, I would have quipped the answers or replies people would have expected to hear.

Thinking outside the box has been a risk on my part, as those who know me would expect particular expectations of word, attitude and action. It has been as profound as my early years of seminary and equal to those earth-shaking bible studies where people responded from the edge of their faith rather than the predictable center.

I recently read a faith statement on a church’s website that was pure gospel; however, they were courageous enough to state, “This is wonderfully true . . . but it doesn’t say enough. Not nearly enough.” I suspect this would leave the church hungry for more. It was an invitation to go deeper. Katherine Marshall’s book, “Something more” back in the mid 70s started me on a particular search. I remember reading it and saying, “Yes!” Now I ask: “Does anything ever say enough?” Is there not always “more” to understand and to experience? And are we willing to explore questions without needing tried and true answers?

I suppose it is this ‘more’ into which I’ve stepped. Perhaps it’s even in that part of the faith journey where many congregations hesitate to go and if ministers want to explore, they sometimes have to go alone. Well, not quite alone, as they can always count on God’s prevenient grace of preparing and going before: knowing God is present and might be a lonely dimension of faith . . . results in a holy dance.
Aggie’s Dream: Launching September 30th at Owen Sound Collegiate Vocational Institute. The sequel to Aggie’s Storms (The Word Guild Award: 2008)

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

I really appreciate the open and honest candor of your post -- and its freshness. Thanks for your reminder of Wesley's prevenient grace.
How wonderful it is to review our path after decades of following, loving, and serving Christ, and to realise that there are many modes and approaches to worship that please our Father in heaven (so long as they help us to do so "in Spirit and in truth"); that none of us 'have the corner' on how it must be done.
Enjoy your moments of quiet contemplation -- and your stints of holy dance! :)

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