Monday, April 28, 2008

finding community voice part 2

In my last post, I celebrated helping a community find their own voice around Scripture. The upside is this genuine sense of a group of people gathered under a text and the realisation that the Spirit is the teacher and we are all learners.

The downside is when people bring their own agenda into the room. We all bring our previous experiences and learnings into a room and when used well, these can enhance a community voice. But they need to be placed carefully alongside the discipline of becoming genuine listeners, to a Bible text and to each other and to the Spirit.

Often when I do speaking around, and move into processes of helping a community find voice, I strike people who are not in fact listening to Bible and to each other, but are in fact using (abusing even), the space I have gifted the group, to bring their agenda’s into a room. My gut tells me that an audience participant is in fact doing this. And the coffee conversations often confirm this, as the agenda is named.

And so, as the one leading the process, I simply have to move the session on, because the disciplines have been broken and the “moment” lost.

And this is disappointing, and frankly immature. I too have lots of agendas and could spout on my hobby horses for hours. Indeed, I have been asked to speak to this group because of my charism. And yet I chose to spend my time seeking to elevate the Biblical text within a community. And so it is sad to see these moments highjacked.

In other words, this is a task best done in community and repeated over time, so that the disciplines grow. And it is a discipline that those with agenda and passion and existing knowledge find hardest. In other words, clergy!!

Posted by steve at 12:43 PM


  1. your comments make me think of parker j palmer’s thoughts on education as a spiritual journey and his definition of teaching and learning as a profoundly compassionate and communal enterprise, which demands great humility and respect from every member – ‘to teach is to create a space in which obedience towards truth (relational troth)is practiced.’

    Comment by julie — April 29, 2008 @ 2:56 am

  2. that’s a fascinating like Julie. I have read parker palmer’s book a number of times over the last 7 years and deeply appreciated his insights.

    thought about them lots in terms of my teaching, but never applied them directly to preaching. must be some osmotic seepage. yeeha


    Comment by steve — April 29, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  3. “I strike people who are not in fact listening to Bible and to each other, but are in fact using (abusing even), the space I have gifted the group, to bring their agenda’s into a room.”

    You may be interested to know that I am currently reading a book that spends a chapter touching on this issue in so many words. I don’t know if you’ve read Charles Kimball’s ‘When Religion Becomes Evil’, but one chapter deals with the problem of religious adherents laying claim to ‘Absolute Truths’ and thus constructing an entire theology on one or two absolutist prooftexts. Kimball’s central point on the issue is that all too often violence and religious extremism often come to the fore when one latches to what they believe is THE yardstick by which all sheep of the flock are to follow. The love and compassion of the God made known by Jesus Christ is overshadowed.

    It is always a shame when personal agendas overshadow the bigger picture.

    Comment by Ryan — April 29, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  4. what a very porous person you must be steve !!

    Comment by julie — April 30, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  5. I found this a very thoughtful comment Steve, and I appreciated those added by Julie, too, about “learning being a profoundly compassionate and communal exercise”. Thanks for writing it.

    Comment by Chris Bedford — May 3, 2008 @ 7:24 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.