The Presbyterian Outlook exists mostly to facilitate such conversations.
Camp and conference centers exist to facilitate such conversations, too.
For many years, all Presbyterian pastors received Monday Morning, a weekly, hand-sized publication by and for their colleagues. Its pages were filled with letters to the editor, or more exactly, letters to fellow ministers. Over a typical year’s time most any topic of interest would find its way into those pages. Some letters would unleash a stampede of equine responses. Others would find kind affirmation. All in all, the ongoing conversations nurtured faith, provoked debates, stretched minds, and connected friendships.
Budget cuts swatted Monday Morning out of existence, and The Presbyterian Outlook became the prime place for the open exchange of ideas. That is, until the launch of the Internet. We have invested heavily in that medium, and the conversation pace has quickened to satellite speed.
In both the print and Web editions, we continue to report the news carefully to keep you up to date. We also publish lots of other articles and letters to provoke conversations. Some provide straightforward, practical advice. Some inspire. Some urge action. Some reflect this editor’s convictions – as is self-evident in the weekly Editor’s outlook column. Some make me cringe – as in some of the op-ed pieces we publish.
Why? We publish them because many folks offer ideas that deserve a hearing. They may represent a PC(USA) constituent group and its understandings reminiscent of the singular voice in the wilderness. They may provoke the rest of us to take another look at ourselves, our ministries, our church(es), and most especially our God.
Camps and conference centers can do similarly for us. By pulling us away from our regular regimen, our predictable patterns, our familiar settings and our standard sounds, we can more readily enter into a conversation – especially with the One usually discerned as a still, small voice.
You might think of such locations as the Outlook on lithium.
Many of us who serve the church locally or nationally, in ordained office or in programmatic tasks, in classes, offices, or kitchens could use a regular dose of lithium. Too many of us race around like caffeine addicts, looking for our next surge of energy to sustain us through the day’s remaining obligations.
Go on a retreat and all that changes. The pulse slows, the breathing deepens, we see things long missed and hear nature’s voice with clarity.
We can hear the voices of God and of one another with an attuned clarity.
When a congregation goes away for the weekend they receive the gift of time — to do Bible study in groups, to debrief further over meals, to talk as adults to children and even to play as a child. We laugh and sing, too.
When pastor(s) and elders retreat, they can reclaim their first calling to be sisters and brothers in Christ, and their second calling to be the spiritual directors of a congregation’s life — callings that too easily get lost in the middle of working on budgets and prioritizing programs.
And, away from the extrovert-dominated world, the introverts get to teach the rest to listen, really listen, and after having listened, to listen some more, and then and only then, to respond and to converse.
We try to provoke such listening in these pages. We invite responses in the form of letters to the editor and blog comments. Such conversations can shape lives for the better. But, truth be told, the best conversations take place at the camps and conference centers that dot the denominational landscape. May God bless the efforts of the visionary faith-builders who lead them.