Monday, January 5, 2015

The Improvising Christian

Many years ago I had an experience of God's love that brought me to tears. It was one of  those experiences, and there have been others during my life, that deepened my relationship with God. What happened more than once as I talked about the experience with others was that I received advice about what I needed to do after such an experience. Spending at least 30 minutes in prayer each morning was just one of the prescriptions that I was given.
Some of the prescriptions I tried; others I ignored. As my friend and colleague Polly Bowen says, there are no cookie-cutter Christians. The Christian life is an improvisation, not only for each of us but also for the congregations to which we belong. We can get helpful advice from others as we discern how God wants us to go deeper, but it's only advice, not a prescription. Congregations can learn from the experiences of other congregations, but thinking that we can simply do what they did and have the same results is foolish.
I am beginning my fourth year as a Priest Associate at Trinity Church in Topsfield, Massachusetts. It is a wonderful community and like every other congregation to which I have belonged it needs to discern what God has in store for it this year. That discernment is likely to be improvisational, a trying out of different spiritual practices and of different new ministries. That discernment will involve a fair amount of listening, to one another and, as each of prays in our own ways, to God.