Executive Conference Minister
At our Annual Meeting this summer, we asked our delegates, “How do you see the Spirit at work transforming us to reflect God’s unqualified love for us?”
Delegates identified three primary ways that they come to see the Spirit’s transforming work: 1) testimony, 2) mindful reflection, and 3) communal discernment.
The first of these leads to the second two.
Testimony provides the opportunity for the community to hear and “test” the veracity of the Spirit at work. As testimonies are shared in the community we grow in mindful reflection of the Spirit’s movement at all times and in all places. As we listen to these stories, as a spiritual practice, we cultivate mindfulness toward the Spirit moving in each of our own lives. Growing mindfulness of the Spirit’s movement produces more testimony.
The accumulating testimonies provide the occasion for communal discernment. We consider the story we are hearing in light of the Biblical story. Have we seen the Spirit move in this way before? Communal discernment raises the question posed by one table group, “What is God working on here?” As we ponder this question, we become more careful listeners, more skilled in our detection of the Spirit’s movement.
Out of this process of shared testimonies, mindful reflection, communal discernment, as one group described this process, we start to connect the dots of seemingly unrelated events and “goodness emerges.” We start to change. Table groups said that as we listen to one another, we grow in empathy, walls come down, we become less rigid, we become more open-minded, and we become more grateful.
We come to understand the transforming work of the Holy Spirit through this cycle of shared testimony, mindful reflection, and communal discernment.
This process poses some important questions. If testimony is the best way to shine the light on the Spirit’s work in our lives, how much space do we create for testimony when the church is gathered? In what ways are we teaching or equipping people in our churches to listen deeply, to cultivate mindfulness about “what is God working on here?”
And, when in our community life do we pause to consider how we are becoming less rigid, more empathetic, more open-minded, more grateful--and ultimately--a greater reflection of God’s unqualified love for the world?