Still Speaking—but how we do hear?
Newsletter article for the First United Church of Christ, Alpena, MI
You may have noticed that our calendar has begun to bulge with what might be called “contemplative arts”—Christian Chair Yoga framed with the Iona Community Liturgy, mat-based traditional Hatha Yoga, and the meditative steps of Qigong (Tai Chi, its more familiar cousin, is a kind of qigong which means, literally, the Work of the Energy of Life). Our chapel is now home to two centering prayer sessions a week, and soon, a healing service open to all in our Alpena community. On March 14, we’ll host a day- long contemplative retreat complete with meditation, chant, art opportunities, labyrinth walking and silence. In the future, you’ll see offerings that explore expressions of silent prayer gleaned from all the great World religions, as well as more intimate studies of some of our Christian meditative roots.
In a denomination built on the concepts of dialogue, reason, historical critique and social action, perhaps this seems a little, well, “outside our comfort zone.” Yet, to me, it is the perfect partner to all these strengths. Inspired by such avenues, we say with great faith that God is “still speaking”.
Such a statement begs an important question: How then, I must ask, do we actually hear?
Yes, we can take heed, through study, of the richness of other cultures, analyze issues, and create educated responses in the name of social justice. (Did you know that the Koran states that in God’s eyes, one drop of ink from a scholar’s pen is worth more than the blood of a martyr? And Jesus said, “come, let us reason”?)
Education is certainly one very valid form of hearing.
We can also become sensitive to the cries of our own community, and choose to be engaged with/responsive to the humanity that makes up our home in Northern Michigan. We can reach out with dollars and goods and services to those who are struggling. This is another form of hearing.
We can sing and worship together, noticing the little things—the hugs, the tears as someone shares their pain in community, the way the choir smiles when they feel their songs lift the congregation to a new consciousness. Mindful of how we inter-related and hold each other is another valid way of hearing God.
But there is a special kind of hearing. When the eyes close, when we choose to rest in God in an attitude of trust, of non-doing, we come face to face with our “enoughness” before God. When we take heed of the “still small voice” of the Old Testament and when we make the conscious decision to “be still and know that I am God” we realign ourselves with the ground of Being itself. This kind of hearing becomes the frame that holds and supports all the other kinds of true listening. It reminds us Who we are listening to, and places us in an experiential contact with the Divine that will keep our study skills sharp, our compassion clear of egoic subplots and our worship directed to the One who is always inclining toward us if we simply slow down, and turn toward the rich and ever renewing Presence of our God.
I invite you to join us in this wealth of contemplative listening, and look forward to you sharing what you “hear”. Blessings to you all, Kim Beyer.