Listening is an Act of Love

Listening is an Act of Love

I had a great Saturday night listening. It was at Unity Temple, where I already do a lot o f listening, but this time it was the Spring Music Festival—one of my favorite events of the year. I got to soak in song after song, sung or played on a variety of instruments by a wonderful array of people. I was up in the top balcony, and I had a great view, so I could look around and find where, say, that extra harmony I could hear was coming from, or that guitar lick, or the cowbell. It was a delight for my ears and my spirit to indulge in such a rich festival of listening. 

It occurred to me, as I sat there, how much time we spend listening in the life of our congregation. We come to worship to listen to others preach or speak, to sing or pray. We receive so much if only our ears and hearts and minds are open. Sometimes we are called upon to do that singing or speaking or sharing, and then we count upon those among us to receive what we’ve brought forth. Occasionally, by structure or happenstance in the service, and always before and after the service, we get the chance to talk and listen to one another. 

Part of the beauty of being in a congregation—in any community, really—is the opportunity to connect with others, and we create all kinds of opportunities here, both structured and unstructured, to listen to each other. Some are as we eat and drink together (Community hours, Spring Luncheon, Vegetarian Potlucks), some are within the context of being with people of shared identities (like Rainbow Connections or BiPoc or the Family/Parent group with Gender Diverse kids), some are spiritual exploration opportunities (Soul Connections groups or Mindful Reflection), some are just fun events (like First Friday Family Fun Nights), some are learning opportunities (like some recent and upcoming movie discussion), and so on. 

Sometimes it’s good just to be with one another, and sometimes we end up hearing a story that we really needed to hear. Sometimes a connection helps us, and sometimes we hold space for someone who really needs it, and sometimes both of those might happen in one evening. And so on. Sometimes we might have a specific listening/talking need and there is a place for that as well. 

I have, since my earliest days in seminary, thought of ministry as listening to lives, and that is what both Rev. Roger and I do, in general, and specifically for you, if you wish us to. And we also have a Spiritual Care team of trained lay members and listeners, who are available to listen and meet with you, particularly during a crisis or time of transition. Our spiritual care team members are visible on a Sunday morning, introducing our joys and sorrows in the worship service. They can be reached at spiritualcare@unitytemple.org

I’m deeply grateful to the current (and inaugural) cohort of Spiritual Care Team members, who are Diana Coates, Jay Cohen, Emma Farrell, Tristan Hanson, Jay Petersen, and Geoff Roupas. We’ve journeyed together in refining the role and techniques for providing short term listening care, with a great ministry of presence to the congregation. As per our charter, two members of the team will be ending their terms of service, and we are seeking applications for two new members to serve for a three year term. If this is your skill set and your passion, we invite you find out more about this opportunity of providing support for others. The application can be found here, the deadline to apply is Sunday, May 19. 

The Rev. Rebecca Parker writes: “There is a quality of listening that is possible among  a circle of human beings, who by their attentiveness  to one another create a space in which each person  is able to give voice to the truth of his or her life.” May it be so for each of us both within and beyond this community.