Discernment and Prayer

Beloved Church!

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

That’s the framing question which the gathered church chose on March 17, as we begin an intensive Lenten season of discerning God’s will for us as a church.

Sundays after worship, we have a brief time of fellowship, and then, in the fellowship hall, join in a work of discerning God’s will, a spiritual practice that is already bearing fruit in our life together.

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

Alternative framing questions we might have chosen.

We could have phrased it differently. In fact, several alternatives were put forward as possibilities, and this is the one we chose. It doesn’t mean that, during the course of our work together, we won’t address the substance of the other questions, but we thought this was a good beginning place.

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

Notice that this question is formed as a prayer. That’s intentional. We are not asking what a majority of the members want, or what the leadership wants, or what the pastor wants, or what the DS or Bishop wants, but we are asking what God wants … and who better to ask than God?

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

We covenanted with one another – and are asking all Trinity folks who weren’t able to be present to join in – to give time each day in prayer, using this question as a starting place. Name God in the language your heart knows best: God, Holy Spirit, Christ Jesus, Father, Creator – or perhaps you name God in other ways in your prayers – Rock of my Salvation, Holy One, and so forth. Name God, and ask this question as prayer. And then wait, in quiet trust. Give it time. Give it a space apart from distractions. Let God speak through the still, small voice. (1 Kings 19:12)

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

Next Sunday after worship, we’ll gather again. After a time of sharing our experience of the week, we’ll ask how to ground our work, and practice shedding our own individual agendas and purposes so that we desire nothing but God’s will for the body. (Odd thing: we may think we already know God’s will for the body … but what we think we know is part of what we need to let go of, so that we can listen together to what the Spirit says to the Church.)

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

Also in weeks to come, we’ll be invited to:

Discerning God’s Will Together, p. 62
  • Shed our own preferences, becoming indifferent to anything but God’s will
  • Root the question in scripture and sacred story
  • Listen to one another and to all the voices we need to hear (This is a research stage, that might well involve gathering data, talking with folks who aren’t part of the body, and perhaps intentionally adding to the body doing the discernment)
  • Explore possible courses of action within the guiding principle
  • Improve each of the possible courses
  • Weigh the options using standards that have proven useful to the faithful over the centuries
  • Close the process when we believe as a body that we’ve discerned the course God would have us take
  • Rest in God’s presence, testing the discerned course

One gift we have: enough time. We are no longer on anybody’s calendar or clock. If it takes longer than the weeks of Lent, so be it. If we realize we need to circle back to an earlier step, we can do it. If we need to take a pause in the work, to allow for an intensive season of farming, so be it. We can do this work in God’s own good time, neither anxious nor pressured.

A resource I’m using as I facilitate this process is a little book by Danny Morris and Charles Olson, Discerning God’s Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church. I bought two copies. I need to keep a copy for my use during these weeks, but you can borrow the other one (Gail Kruckeberg has it at the moment). Let me know!

“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

Let this be part of your life of prayer. And, as you can, participate in worship and in the after-worship conversations. It’ll be a blessing!

Love,
Wes

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