Outline for mini retreat: GA
2010, the 4th of July!
What an auspicious day to gather to
celebrate the Voices of Justice as you begin a journey unified by interest
and passion. For the next span of time, we are
going on a mini-retreat … to take time to listen for the voice of Godde and
to allow the movement of the Spirit space to work…To that end join me in
affirming your purpose by reading your mission statement:
We are a
spirited and passionate community of women and men in the Presbyterian
church (USA) who is called to proclaim the gospel vision of God’s
extravagant love and justice in church and society. We seek the wisdom of
the Spirit for following Christ’s example and for living into the hope of
sustained gender equality, racial reconciliation, full human rights for LGBT
persons, economic justice, environmental wholeness, an end to war and all
forms of violence and a justice-loving shalom over all the earth. We commit
to risking the transformation of our own selves and our organization to live
into this vision, even as we invite both church and society to meet this
Were going to open this moment in time together by
listening: not to me or to you but … to GOD!
The psalmist admonishes: Be still and know that I am God…
Psalm 46:10 (pause…silence)
What a time to call for silence, in the midst of the
opening days of a General Assembly…
The Psalm, where God speaks this word to us, is out of the
chaos of that day offering a promise of stability and change.
We live within a cacophony of sound — construction
activity, cars going by, sirens scorching the air intrude and attract my
Are your cell phones off? Are they out of sight so that
for a few minutes they and all the distractions they offer are out of mind?
If we are to discern the mind of Christ as we gather to
make decisions, listening comes as we begin the process…listening to Godde
and to each other … this requires a willingness to truly listen, to create
and make space within yourself to hear first… to be still so that the ears
of your heart and soul can take in what is being said by God and by all who
are gathered… to wait so that your words and wisdom are reflective of what
Christ is calling you to say and be …
In the silence I invite you to notice where God is taking
you… to let the Spirit of God guide your reflections… how are you being
called to be the VOICES of JUSTICE in ‘such a time as this? Slight
Breathe… notice only your own breathing… breathe in and
out… be aware that the spirit is breathing in and with you … now in this
moment… no lists, no what do I need to do after this lunch… breathe in the
spirit, be filled and refreshed… breathe again… Be still and know that I am
God… Pause… silence…
Listen as you do for a holy hearing… let the word or
phrase that captures your attention guide your listening and hearing…
from the book of
Revelation 21.22… first from the NRSV: I saw no temple in the
city, for its temple is the Lord god the Almighty and the Lamb. PAUSE
Now from the Message: The main street of the City was pure
gold, translucent as glass. But there was no sign of a Temple for the Lord
god – the Sovereign-Strong – and the lamb are the Temple.
Mary sang a song that has been remembered through the ages
though it has not recently been on anyone’s hit parade…
Listen to the song: Luke
1:49a, 51-53: for the Mighty One has done great things for me. And
holy is God’s name. … God has shown strength with God’s arm; … has scattered
the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. … has brought down the powerful
from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; … has filled the hungry with
good things and sent the rich away empty.
what captured you --- the word or phrase that speaks to you today.
If God was turning the
world upside down then, what do you imagine God might be doing now? No
temples -- yet Godde is active …
On each table is a list of questions … Questions for
Conversation and Questions for Clarity … look now at the ones for
Conversation … read through them quickly (see attachment)… these are some of
the questions we need to ask ourselves about the church of today and
tomorrow… I wish we had time now to sift through them, talk about them and
let other ideas and wonderings bubble up for pondering and nudging us into
what is ahead. I hope you will take these with you to use with colleagues in
ministry where you live… the purpose behind these and the Questions for
Clarity is to encourage your thinking and acting, giving space for the
Spirit to work before we rush in with solutions.
Do you ever have the sense that you are Don Quixote?
Tilting at windmills? Full of longing and a desire to make a difference even
with or for just one person? And too busy to accomplish what you wish…
Whatever possessed God to create out of chaos all of this?
Do you suppose any of this is what God imagined? So why when we think about
the church of the future and the now does it look so much like what we have
We Americanized souls… no matter our ethnicity, our
cultures from another time or place … have an extremely difficult time
stepping out of what we know to what could
Looking at your website you are invested in many arenas…
what do you do between general assemblies … where is your focus? …who are
your colleagues in ministry? On what do you spend your time and energy? What
have you accomplished, large or small in the last 2 years?
What might we have done today rather than come here for
lunch? How much money have we spent collectively to be here today, to eat
together, and talk about the state of the church?
That is not to say that this is wrong or bad, but to
NOTICE at what cost in time and energy we gather? To what end? Education has
always been a passion… so why am I questioning what we are about? I’m a
reluctant bureaucrat … challenged by the status quo … and underneath it all
I am anxious that I am not facilitating or being the change I would like to
see … because it is hard to change!
Speaking and acting from the margins – yet with the
strength of a community gathered – you and I have the ability, the call to
make a difference and it requires that we become the change you and I want
So in your wildest dreams, your most vivid imagination
what is the role of the church, the role of Voices of Justice, your role in
this millennia; what could we do for Christ’s sake if we set our hearts, our
minds, our souls to the vision? For instance:
• How would we be spending our time if we de-institutionalized the
church with intention?
• What might the de-institutionalized church look like? Nationally,
• Can you imagine the PCUSA with only a small natl. office with 4
primary purposes: what does it take to remain a Presbyterian Christian … is
it reformed theology, is it doing justice, is it polity, is it educated
leaders/pastors … what about the great ends of the church… how might we live
them out in a new more effective way? What on earth does “the promotion of
the social righteousness” mean for us, or “the exhibition of the Kingdom of
Heaven to the world” … ?
• What is the purpose of a national office in this season? A synod,
a presbytery, even a congregation? Remember it wasn’t always the way it is
now? Nor even the way it was a decade ago!
• What if the General Assembly was only convened every 4 years and
we gathered to share stories of ministry, our work on behalf of the justice
we long for and to discern the next steps to be taken as a Presbyterian
family of Christians.
Reflect in your own mind now… what you hope "the church”
may be in the coming millennia… and don’t forget you are / I am the church…
we are the church together!
How will it/you/we be a community of believers?
How will the “church” be serving the world in a way that
makes it a better place to live? Last week a retired pastor came into the
presbytery office and shared a bit of his journey. He has Parkinson’s and
has become an advocate for new treatment of the disease. With his new found
energy and ability he is working as a volunteer with an interfaith group
ministering in ways he did not have time for earlier in his life… his regret
was that he was not working for the church… I was stunned and of course said
so… for he is being the church alongside others in this ministry provides in
What are we doing here and now in this time and in this
place… in this particular decade at this time? The first decade of this
millennia is ending… have we changed anything since 2000 … the world has
changed … have we/have you/have I?
These are the questions we ask in the dark of the night at
the base of our soul…
What difference will my presence make?
Reflect: What is it that
you long for?
A place to be
Love, a sense of belonging and well being, world peace, no more hunger
How do you attempt to fill your longings … possessions, companions, travel,
Do any of those things ever satisfy us?
Or do we pay attention to the world’s deepest hunger and
our greatest passion and know that that is where we will meet God.
As we close this portion of our day, my invitation to you
is to tend your own journey with God, to clarify your call and to tend the
spirit of Voices of Justice… begin at the beginning, without looking back…
what does the world need now, to what are you being called as a collective…
the church as institution needs to be changed dramatically, not just
repeatedly downsized… how will you open the windows and doors for this
millennia… who are/will be the leaders for today and tomorrow? How will we
get out of the way and become re-engaged for the trek ahead… This is a
season in which stopping, waiting and reflecting is needed in order to move
ahead. Breathe …
Take time to listen, first for the still small voice of
God, then to each other that the Spirit may move within you to breathe new
life and direction into the call you hear to do justice, to love kindness
and walk humbly with your God.
(cards on table to be taken) is an ancient practice of setting aside time at
the end of the day to reflect on the ups and downs of that day and to do
this with God … don’t let the day get away from you, recall it, grow through
it, the opportunity is open to let the Spirit move in you that you may
become the change you hope to see.
The Examen or “The Examination of Consciousness” is a
prayerful review of one’s day to discern the presence of God and can even be
helpful, over a period of time, in discerning God’s direction in your life.
At the end of the day, ask:
• What gave me energy today? What drained me?
• When did I feel most alive today? Most depleted?
• For what moment today am I most grateful? Least
• When was I happiest today? When was I the saddest?
• What was today’s high point? What was today’s low
• Where did my greatest passion meet the world’s deepest longing
Adapted from Sleeping with Bread: Holding
What Gives You Life by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn, Paulist Press,
May you experience
God’s faithfulness as you live into the hope that has been planted in your
heart and soul, loving all God’s creation even as God loves, seeking justice
for a world in need of peace. God speed…