Love Life Live Lent Wednesday of Week 5: Listen!

If there’s one thing that makes me the envy of my local clergy colleagues it’s that  my parish has a very well supported and well organised good neighbour scheme, meaning that a lot more people get visited and helped than I could possibly visit and help on my own.

A large part of the remit of ‘Friends in Deed’ is listening. Listening to people who are housebound and have stories to tell and nobody else to whom to tell them; listening to people whose burdens in life are more than anyone should have to bear; listening to people whose stories have never been told before, not to anyone.

But tonight all the volunteers came together to listen to each other – we set aside an evening to talk about what we do, and to listen to what we ourselves were saying. We dared to voice which parts of our work are most satisfying, which bits feel draining and which bits we wish we didn’t feel duty-bound to do. And because we were joined by some new volunteers, we were also able to listen to their ideas, and their reflections on what they’d heard.

It was a really good opportunity to ask ourselves some important questions, and to listen to our own answers, and each other’s answers, and to leave some questions unanswered.  It was a chance to grow and evolve, rather than simply perpetuate what we’ve always been.

If we’re never given an opportunity to listen to ourselves, we may never reach the point of learning from our experiences.  Having someone listening to us as a witness, or as a mirror, reflecting back our own words, enables us to hear clearly the thoughts of our hearts; and the way that our articulation of those thoughts gives us more clues as to what’s really going on.  And just sometimes, we might be the only people who give that same opportunity to others.   When we listen, we don’t need to judge, but we do need to give people a chance to hear themselves, and to know that their words, and their thoughts are being witnessed and valued, perhaps for the first time.

So thank you, Friends in Deed, for giving that chance to so many people in my village.  And thank you too for all the people who’ve listened to me over the years, and for the way that that listening has helped me to grow into the person I’ve become. And thank you, too, to everyone who has honoured me by telling me their stories, and trusted me to hear and honour those words.

Love Life Live Lent Thursday of Week Four: relax to some music

This evening it was Ground Floor Group* and while I thought we might think about the Lord’s Prayer (having just done a school RE day based on it), the group had other ideas: ‘We haven’t done today’s action yet!’ And so we spent most of the evening sharing some of our favourite music and even downloaded some.

We hatched plots to start a very occasional informal church orchestra to go with our informal choir, Angel Voices**; we hatched further plots to meet up one evening and sing really nice music and drink wine (or eat chocolate, or both); and while we talked and listened to an astonishing range of music (Johnny Cash to Herbert Howells), we ate quite a lot of fairtrade biscuits and drank a great deal of tea.  Then we said Compline together.

All in all a wonderful evening, and all the better for the fact that largely we were all able to sit and listen respectfully to each other’s musical preferences even if they were very different from our own, and spend time in companionable quiet, too.

So, thank you, Love Life Live Lent, for making sure that we didn’t have a worthy hour reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer but instead spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour and a half sharing something lovely.  And I do feel more peaceful…

* The Ground Floor Group is a home group which started four years ago as the Foundations Group, as in ‘Christian Foundations’, for those new to the faith or wanting a refresher course on the basics. After two years and showing no signs of fizzling out or drawing to any kind of conclusion, we renamed ourselves the Ground Floor Group, and we’re gradually moving upwards. Next term we will become the Mezzanine Group.  Really. 

**Angel Voices is a genuinely all age group of people who are led by one of the Ground Floor members and her husband and who in turn lead the music at our monthly all age service. The youngest member is 6 and we don’t ask how old our oldest member is. 


Someone on twitter raised the question of how the language we use (perhaps particularly in worship) might how God is present to us.  Reminded me about a hymn I wrote for the closing worship of a supervision course ages ago, about us being present to God and God being present to us. The tune is Tallis’ canon.

Be present, Lord, among us here,
And speak to drive away our fear,
And as a stranger seeking rest
Be with us now as host and guest.

Our mind and spirit, flesh and bone,
Our past and present, things to come:
To you, O Lord, we now present –
We gladly spend, are gladly spent.

Our presence, Lord, we dedicate,
This time is yours, and we will wait,
To friend and stranger may we give
The gifts to help each other live.