(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
June 7, 2020
Howard Thurman was a Baptist preacher, theologian and Civil Rights leader. He was a friend and mentor to Martin Luther King. He counselled taking some time in the midst of a crisis to listen for God’s still small voice. It takes deliberate time set apart do to this. The alternative is to always be reacting and emotionally involved in the crisis of the moment and missing out on the big picture of life. He said this:
“In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.”
Knox Waterloo is a leading congregation in the Presbyterian Church. We have been mentioned in a book by scholar and guest preacher at Knox, Diana Butler Bass. We have invested in a modern facility with up-to-date technology to best serve our congregation and community in the Twenty-First Century. We seek out the best programming and materials from around the world to offer in ministry and mission. Our LOGOS, Wednesday@Knox and other ministries, are freely shared with other congregations across Canada. This is what a leading congregation does; we seek excellence and offer out best in service to our living Lord. Our values remain firmly grounded in scripture and in God’s love. This is serving us well in these days when we socially isolate to keep ourselves and others safe from Covid-19.
A few days ago in response to the situations following the death of George Floyd, Diana Butler Bass Tweeted a quote by William Sloane Coffin:
“Strengthen our resolve to see fulfilled, the world around and in our time, all hopes for justice so long deferred, and keep us on the stony, long, and lonely road that leads to peace. May we think for peace, struggle for peace, suffer for peace.”
For the past three months we have been reactive. How else to function during a pandemic? We were guided by government directives, expert advice on best practices, and have adapted rapidly as needs arose. Things changed quickly.
Now, things are slowing down a bit and it is time to become more reflective, tapping into our own wisdom and exploring the learning opportunities at hand. The shift begins by asking better questions.
These are rich times ripe for innovation and creativity. A threshold has opened. Our grasp on the past has loosened. The threshold invites us to let go of our fears and discomforts, along with some things that we hold dear. We are broken open to embrace new possibilities.
Moving from reactivity to reflection calls for three kinds of work:
- acknowledging our losses,
- exploring unstated assumptions,
- and noticing what wants to emerge.
Good questions help us prepare for the transformational work ahead of us. These ten questions are adapted from the Praxis Journal.
All transitions begin with an ending. Something must come to an end before we can explore a new beginning. Most of us resist endings, accompanied as they are by loss. We gloss over the painful work of grief to move onto action, which feels more productive.
You have a personal story of loss to share about your journey through this pandemic. We all have stories. There are the immediate losses from isolation and changes in routine, and then there are the more subtle, but still painful losses associated with plans abandoned, dreams deferred, and the loss of control over our destiny.
- What were we on the verge of discovering or accomplishing before the onset of the pandemic? What needs to move forward in different ways now?
- What was possible before that may not be possible for some time—if ever?
- What seemed important before that feels superfluous now?
Many of our old assumptions no longer hold true. If we do not acknowledge the truth of this, we will make decisions that are inappropriate for the next season. We need good questions to unfreeze our thinking:
- What was undervalued before that may hold greater value now?
- What mattered about geography before that no longer matters?
- What margin or lack of margin was built into our old model of doing church? What new abundance are we experiencing now? Where are we experiencing scarcity now that was not evident before?
Needs and priorities are shifting. Values and assets are not the same as they were just a few months ago. When we ask better questions, we invite innovation into the new order. We can be led by the future itself into something fresh and exciting. We begin noticing what wants to emerge through us.
- What is our greatest asset now?
- What relationships will we need to build on or strengthen in the months ahead?
- What unique role might our congregation play in local, national, and even global recovery?
- What long term changes in the bigger picture would we like to be part of bringing to fruition?
These questions are not magic bullets that solve problems. The questions are merely an invitation to pay exquisite attention – to notice why we are making the choices we make, and what wants to happen next. The real question is “Where might God be leading us to best serve the redeeming purposes of Jesus Christ?” The dialogue and discussion that these questions provoke can make the difference between merely surviving this season and thriving in the next.