October 2017: From The Minister’s Conversation Pit
At Synod a few weeks ago a speaker challenged us with the art of conversation among our churches. Oh not trivial prattle but speaking about faith. If I asked most of you about this what would you say. Would you say, ‘always talking about it’ or would you say, ‘hardly say a word on the subject’. We can talk about sport, family, and interests with no problem at all. We may in the right company talk about politics or more personal matters. But many of us have drawn back from conversations on faith. We don’t know what to say. We don’t want to offend and we don’t want to be challenged by those who may run rings round us.
At Synod we heard an account of a church who entertained the University of the Third Age for a weekend event. They let them use the church complex and they did the catering. One U3A delegate asked them ‘ How does your spirituality help you as you grow old”.
They paused and said..........well just think for a moment what you might say to this question. It’s a real opportunity and your shouldn’t waste it.
They said “ We have Jesus , we are all going to heaven when we die, and you can come too if you believe”. Sounds a reasonable answer, but do you think it got the conversation further. They delivered a large chunk of Christian teaching and in the process they took the air out of the conversation. Most hearers would not understand the statement or more likely panic. It’s like asking a swimmer if they enjoy the pool and immediately being thrown in to see if you will like it too.
We talked about this at the Sunday Fellowship Service and I am glad to say comments were more positive. One comment was ‘I have become less afraid of death, its not something to fear’. That invites more questions or gives a person a way to respond.
The church with U3A might have said ‘ we care for one another in the fellowship’; ‘ we see a bigger picture because of our belief’. ‘we are not so bothered by dying as others’.
If they were quick they might ask the person ‘What do you find helpful as you grow old’. And then say ‘ Are you finding that’s enough for you’
Getting other people to talk about themselves can be the greatest gift we provide in a day. It also makes it more likely we will be invited to give some detail of our life. Less is more at such times but it invites dialogue
The speaker at Synod wanted this district to be a place where talking about faith (gently) was a usual occurrence. The church is slipping because we have stopped talking about faith, we are not been taught about religious conversation yet we talk on every other subject. If people can talk about Brexit they can talk about Faith.
Colossians 3:16 says “ Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Paul is talking about the Church interacting. I think the words are good for all of us to remember. If we are still not sure we want to speak too much about faith then we need to look at the last bit of the verse. It’s about gratitude to God. And we should have gratitude for those who spoke to us about Christ.
We may not always get it right but silence is not going to get us very far.