Lately I find myself in a new (for me) depth of prayer. It is a kind of prayer that at some moments seems to draw me closer to people, yet at other times draws me apart and into myself. Even in those ‘apart’ times, when I am less interactive with people, I feel connected and close. I often see their faces and hear their needs and concerns in prayer. It is as if each one is held before God; in God’s light. This past Sunday, I was an the adult class and though I was so appreciative of the comments of others, I found myself just soaking in the faith and depth of those in the class. I did not want to talk. I wanted to listen; to receive the expressions of faith they offer so abundantly. I realized later that I was, in essence, praying through the class. It was like lectio divina with the text being the experiences and the faith of the people in that room.
I am a late-night person; definitely not a morning person. I think a part of what I love about the night is the ability to be to myself — to think, to read, to write, or even if I’m watching television, to absorb and reflect — to pray. The night brings a sense of connectedness with God, and a clarity of thought and insight that is different from the day. Night is when the creative juices flow for worship and sermon preparation. The difficulty, of course, is that the world and most of the ‘doing’ parts of ministry live by day. Perhaps that is what makes the night so precious.
At times I feel that ministry is filled with activists and extroverts, who pray and relate in different ways than I do. It seems that with the years, I become even more of who I am. For many of these 25 years in ministry, I have tried to push myself ‘out’ when I am drawn ‘in’. There is nothing wrong with working on the other side — the less dominant side — of our very complex selves. It makes it possible for me to relate in rich ways, to engage with God’s people. Yet, in these days I want to explore the contemplative side; to both allow it and nurture it.
The challenge is to integrate this into the practice of congregational ministry. This brings me to consider my assumptions about pastoral ministry. What does it look like for pastoral ministry to be a ministry of prayer? a ministry of presence? What kind of leader am I evolving into? How can my contemplative leaning come together with the gifts of others in the congregation to effect a strong and integrated ministry? I realize that our congregation’s focus on becoming a community of prayer may have been my desire to live in a community of prayer. I do believe that the process and result of this movement has been good in many ways, however I am realizing my own needs and motivations in it. Hmmm. More for reflection.