A Listening Life

Dear Christ Church,

This past week nearly 80 priests and deacons from our C4SO diocese gathered in Nashville for our annual clergy retreat. Like many events these days, this was our first time being together since 2019. The theme was Refresh and it centered around the spiritual discipline of listening.

One of the key images from our gathering was this traditional Chinese character, “tiࠢng,” which means “listen.” The character is a beautiful harmony of five unique parts; Ear, Eye, Heart, King, and One/singular focus.

The meaning of this character is that the action of listening requires multiple faculties. We listen with ears, eyes, and heart giving singular focus to the person before us as if they were a royal figure. A quote we discussed along these lines stuck with me, “Being heard is so close to being loved, that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable” (David Augsburger).

I thought about this quote in the context of our own lives and ministries, that we become attuned to the person before us offering the gift of our own presence. We even have a common phrase ‘pay attention,’ which uses an economic metaphor to suggest that there’s something costly happening in the act of listening, some gift of the self required for listening. In the age of increasing fragmentation, divisiveness, and depersonalization, a community that’s able to listen in love and without fear is a remarkable gift of hospitality.

By the way, if you’re looking for an extended treatment of the spiritual discipline of listening, The Listening Life is wonderful. You might remember it was our Lenten read several years ago.

Christ Church, may we be a generous and hospitable community capable of hearing and holding the stories of all whom God puts in our paths.


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