Rev Andrew Smith
I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice
In this time of isolation in our homes I wonder whether you are finding any solitude. Isolation does not necessarily translate to solitude. Your isolation may well be very busy with people working from home, children being home from school and finding ways to entertain yourself and others. With everyone home it may be hard to find a quiet space or time for solitude.
Solitude, silence and prayer are central to Michael Frost’s third habit of highly missional people in his handy little book Surprise the World. The third habit is: “I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice”.
Frost gives some useful hints for setting up regular times of solitude, silence and prayer, including setting aside a designated time, eliminating distractions and using centering prayer to listen to the Holy Spirit rather than telling the Holy Spirit what you want. The article in last week’s Presbytery notices by Rev Elizabeth Raine about creating a sacred space in your home helps our thinking about a regular space for solitude, silence and prayer, particularly in these times of being housebound.
This listening for the Spirit’s voice is important as God shapes us as missionaries and fills our hearts with love for those to whom he sends us, and nurtures and sustains us in the practices of generosity and hospitality for the first two habits of blessing and eating with others.
So what might you hope to hear from the Spirit in these times of solitude, silence and prayer? Frost suggests that the “Spirit might bring to your mind the name or the face of a person you are to bless or eat with” or prompt you to reengage with someone you blessed last week, or bring to mind something you could have said to someone but didn’t. Frost also acknowledges that as we seek to live missional lives in our local communities we will be faced with negotiating the extremes of entering fully into a social setting that might be considered ungodly on the one hand, and on the other hand being withdrawn and judgmental of those settings. As we negotiate these extremes, we might hope to hear from Spirit about how to sit somewhere in the middle – “a godly, intriguing, socially adventurous, joyous presence in the lives of others”.
Stories from across the Presbytery gives us an inkling of the Spirit’s promptings for congregations to bless some of the most vulnerable of our local communities in these times of COVID-10 restrictions:
- A congregation stretching to see if it can safely bless people who are homeless by making a shower in its buildings available for use following the closure of the regular showering facilities at the local swimming pool.
- Another congregation with a food relief service imagining how they can partner with delivery runs of local restaurants and chemist for delivery of food hampers when their own volunteers are too much at risk for undertaking the deliveries themselves.
- A member of the church creating a facebook group for the families of the child services that his children had attended. This way the children and families can stay in touch with each other, retaining some familiarity in times of immense change for the little ones.
Maybe you would like to share how you suspect the Spirit may be prompting you and your congregation for mission with your local community during and beyond the COVID-19 restrictions. If you’d like to be in touch, here are my contact details – Rev Andrew Smith – firstname.lastname@example.org – 0437 011 338.
In this time of isolation, may you find solitude. And in that solitude may you hear the Spirit’s voice shaping, nurturing and sustaining you as missionaries.