An In-Depth Look at Faith, Love, and How to Run Major
Author: Suzanne G. Farnham and Timothy H. Grayson
Eating homemade cinnamon rolls around a table brimming with coffee, fruit, and good companions, my first Listening Hearts meditation experience took me away from the world of work, pressure, and distraction to commune more deeply with God. While it was only a three day workshop, the memory remains strong, and I’ve continued to seek out the books that inspired the program, starting with Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community and Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations. Having been deeply religious for most of my life, but highly averse to group activities, the books helped me not only to strengthen my relationship and focus on God, but to appreciate community. I picked up Keeping in Tune with God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Clergy for an entirely different purpose. Having left fundamentalism and a church similar to Southern Baptists when I was in college, I’ve changed to an Episcopal Church but am still unfamiliar with priests and how the decision to, supposedly, give one person so much power and responsibility over others is determined and even justified. Keeping in Tune with God is written for clergy, leading them through the responsibilities of their calling and useful for people like me to understand what undergirds the church. While guiding clergy and giving both spiritual and practical advice, this book also deals with the idea of a “bad” priest and how this effects liturgy, worship, and Eucharist (it doesn’t because these things come from God and not the human conduit.) What I didn’t expect was to find the applications and suggestions in this book personally relevant to my life as a lay person.
With a thought provoking and gentle foreword by the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, the book begins with an introduction functioning as a mission statement. Clergy, like others, can become swamped with the ideas of administrative and the pressing needs of life and the world. This book guides them on how to stay focused not only on God but on the needs of their parishioners. One of the most unique and resonate pieces of this book focuses on detachment and how opinions and insights, religious or otherwise, should be held lightly. This effects representation, enabling others to examine our beliefs and thoughts without feeling badgered and also opens us to the possibility of further learning as we allow beliefs to stand for themselves.
The book is fairly short, but packed with a lot of wisdom and guidelines for reaching discernment, the quiet, meditative processes of opening our minds and hearts to possibilities and what God truly wants us to do. As with the other Listening Hearts books, there is a good deal of overlap with the first two guides, focusing on building workshops, meetings, and creative meditation to enable groups to function well within the spirit. Besides this, there is good advice for remaining rational, seeking humility, fostering detachment from, employing creativity, relying on community, and attending available workshops and other events to practice leadership in a Christian role. Each chapter ends with notes which draw from the in-depth research piled into these books. Appendices provide practical suggestions on building congregations that listen to God, enabling spiritual flow through artistic expression, utilizing the Listening hearts Clergy Support Group, and researching program opportunities for further development and practice of principles.
As a lay person in the church, Keeping in Tune with God enabled me to understand the challenges of clergy and answered many of my questions about the structure and intention of a formal system of authority. The suggestions offered for priests to refresh, reclaim, and refine their relationship with God are applicable to everyone, and reading this book should enable a congregation to interact with one another and with the priest in a Christ-centered manner. Also, for those of you who are curious or fond of e-books, the portions of the book, including the Table of Contents is provided on Google Books. Once again, Listening Hearts has inspired me to open my eyes and my mind, apply meditative qualities to listen for God in all aspects of my life, and reach out to my community. Highly recommended for clergy and non-clergy.
- Frances Carden