Churches are always full of plans – plans for next Sunday’s worship services, plans for the fall education series, plans for how to get the roof fixed. We’re pretty good at that kind of planning.
But what if God has bigger things in mind for us? What if God is doing new things in our communities and in our world, and needs for us to pay attention so we can join in? How do we listen for God’s plans?
I believe that this kind of listening is a matter of prayer, discernment, and listening for the voice of the Spirit in each other’s voices. In the Christian community, God gives us the gift of many voices with many points of view, some impractical and some startlingly illuminating. Discernment of God’s direction for us requires us to listen to the many voices, identify common themes, pay attention to surprises, and open our hearts to new ways of understanding.
That’s why, as one of the earliest actions of my time as your bishop, I want to listen to your voices. During the week of Sept. 23-27, I will be traveling to different locations in the diocese to listen to your wisdom, your hopes, and your dreams for the church. Please register so we know you are coming!
Before the listening sessions, I hope you will join us in nine days of prayer, also known as a novena. This time of prayer will help us all focus on our diocesan themes of discipleship, evangelism, and service, and it will prepare our hearts to share in the listening sessions the thoughts God brings to us in prayer.
The listening sessions will last about two hours, will begin and end with prayer, and will be facilitated by Ms. Susan Czolgosz, a consultant with Holy Cow Consulting. She will ask specific questions for your thoughts and input, and then we will have a time when you can share your thoughts directly with me. I will speak a bit at the beginning and the end of each session, but my basic job will be to listen to what you have to tell me.
What happens to your input after that? We will analyze all your responses and report to you about them at diocesan convention, November 8-9. Those in attendance at the convention will have an opportunity to respond once more there. After that, we will appoint a group who will use your responses to create a new strategic plan for the diocese for the next three to five years. The group will work closely with executive council, your elected representatives, to make sure they are reflecting your hopes and priorities. We will roll out a plan to you in fall of 2020, and it will form the basis for mission decisions in future years.
My hope is that, with your help, we will listen closely for the breath of the Holy Spirit, calling us to new mission and new life in the Diocese of San Diego. Come and speak – I will be listening.
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