Jenny’s letter 28th April

Dear Friends,

Sometimes, writing the news sheet comes easily to me. Condensing it into something that is short enough to fit on no more than a page is usually where the challenge lies. However, I have been sitting at my desk for over an hour and struggled to think of anything to say. That may surprise some of you! 

Part of the struggle to think is because I am very tired. I spent Monday – Wednesday being trained in Pastoral Supervision. The Diocese of Chester is encouraging all its clergy to have supervision as well as training some of us to be able to offer it to others. 

It’s not that we will have someone checking over our work but rather that we offer to those who wish, the chance to reflect and review their practice as well as to support them, and be supported, in any actions that come from that. 

The programme this week involved a lot of intensive listening. That’s not easy an easy thing to do and yet most humans report that the effect of having someone to listen to them is a powerful and often healing experience – even or perhaps especially when the other person says nothing. 

Yes, God listens to us all of the time but he also works through his people. As Theresa of Avila wrote, Christ has ‘…No hands, no feet on earth but yours… Christ has no body now but yours..’ We are called to minister to one another as servants of the gospel. 

To hold one another on the path when the Christian Journey is tough but also to be alongside those who do not yet know the love of God. I think that too often we worry that we don’t know what to say when in fact, the harder thing is to listen in such a way that the person talking knows that they are heard. 

As our own faith deepens and strengthens (there is always more) we become more able to embody Christ in all our doing and being. When life is peaceable my every moment is a dialogue with him. The practice that I am continually working on is making sure that conversations I have continues in the stressful times. I don’t mean a quick emergency prayer, I can do those, but remaining connected with Jesus when there’s a lot going on. 

Learning to stay connected with Christ brings great transformation. Brother Lawrence wrote a book called, ‘Practising the presence of God’ This concept of bringing God into all tasks and all places began when he was given the job of washing up in the monastery kitchen. A less holy task he could not consider but he decided that as he washed, he would pray, internal prayers that became a conversation. And the people around him saw the change in him. Being part of a continual unbroken relationship with God does change us. 

Since the start of Lent I have been consciously making sure that, at the very least, the first thing I do is have a proper conversation (which means listening as well as talking) with Jesus. And the last thing I do is the same. That is alongside any other formal or informal prayers I say during the day. You might think I should have been doing this all through my ministry, but it is so easy to get up and look at my phone first or have a chat with one of my daughters or read the post. I may still be doing morning prayer at 9.00 am but other things have entered my thinking before that.

Now, I am creating (or actually re-creating because I have done this before), nothing before or after Jesus. And it is a tiny thing but it has made me so much better at hearing God in my everyday living. It’s a good habit to get into. 

We can copy the habits of others, can’t we? We all know that we pick up the language, words and accents of those around us. We are familiar with the idea of a person, ‘getting in with the wrong crowd’ meaning they have been influenced to behave badly because of those around them.

But we can be enormously influenced by the right crowd. That is why coming to church and meeting together is so important. True, Christians are absolutely not all perfect, but we can support and influence and fill one another with Jesus. We can practice the presence of God, like Brother Lawrence, working on a perpetual internal dialogue with Jesus. 

Importantly, we can listen to each other. Which crowd are you part of? 

Every blessing for the week to come,  

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