Letter from Emily: Season of Listening
Let’s start with a little Greek, shall we? In Greek, there are two words for “time,” chronos and kairos. Chronos is the word that we usually think of when we think of time: clocks and calendars and timers — time that can be measured and ordered and scheduled. Kairos, however, is a different kind of time. Kairos is a moment of opportunity, the “right time,” a moment of readiness that we must either seize or let pass by. It’s a sort of cosmic rhythm that we can learn to be attuned to.
Kairos shows up a lot in the New Testament. Generally, we’re either being told that it is the time, or told to wait for the right time. John the baptist is running around telling everyone that this is the time (Mark 1:15), while Jesus warns us to stay awake and alert, because we don’t know when the appointed time will come (Mark 13:33). There’s also a whole lot of talk about harvests. A harvest that must occur at the right time, in the right season. Kairos is a little bit like ripeness — waiting for a moment of fullness.
I’m writing you today to talk a little bit about this Kairos time at St. Lydia’s. Part of my job as a pastor is to stay attuned to kairos in the midst of the ticking away of the chronos — to help us discern what season it is. Our first two seasons were about practice and culture-building: we learned how to worship together and love one another, rejecting an economy of scarcity in order to live in God’s economy of abundance. Our third year was a season of ordering our communal life together: developing a governance system by which we could share leadership and make decisions as a body. It was also a season to bless and acknowledge all that we’ve done together, with our wonderful Blessing of New Ministry and Installation service that took place in December.
Now it’s a new season in our life together: a new kairos. I believe that it’s time for St. Lydia’s to move into a deeper, rooted relationship with our neighborhood and with the entire city. What is the landscape of the neighborhood we inhabit, and the city of which we are a part? Where are the strengths and connections in that landscape, and where is there hunger and brokenness? How is God calling us to be participate in that strength and connection, and tend to the hunger and brokenness? How can we be agents of healing, peace, and justice within this landscape?
I believe that the answers to all these questions, as well as hearing the call of the Holy Spirit, begins with listening. And so this January, I am launching a “Season of Listening” at St. Lydia’s, in which each and every congregant will have the opportunity to engage in listening to the stories of our neighborhood and the whole city. In order to do this, we’ll be using a Community Organizing technique called a one-on-one. It’s a method for listening to people and hearing about the strengths and struggles of their daily lives. This city has a lot of stories to tell, and you are invited to listen, knowing that each encounter with the stranger is an encounter with Christ.
All Your Questions Answered!
So, how is this all going to work? Good question! Below you will find what I hope are the answers to most of your questions about the Season of Listening. And as you know, you can always reach out to me for more conversation firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a One-On-One?
A one-on-one is a community organizing tool for the purpose of establishing a relationship through conversation and sharing stories. One-on-ones are conversations, not interviews — you don’t go in with a list of questions. They’re also not a pitch of any kind — you don’t invite someone to church as a part of a one-on-one. The goal of a one-on-one is to listen, and build a relationship.
*from resources provided by the Regional Center for Healthy Communities (www.healthier-communities.org)
How do I get started?
Attend a training! Trainings are short and sweet — 25 minutes before or after worship in the Brooklyn Zen Center. Here’s the schedule:
Sunday, January 13, 6:00 pm
Sunday, January 27, 6:00 pm
Sunday, February 3, after worship
Sunday, February 10, 6:00 pm
Once you’ve completed the training, you’ll be given access to a google document that has a big list of people and places we’d like to approach for one-on-ones. You can sign up to visit one of the places I’ve listed, or you can add your own places to the list.
It’s helpful if you sign up for the training you’d like to attend on this googledoc.
Can I take part in the Season of Listening without doing the training?
You can always listen to people! But when you’re representing St. Lydia’s formally doing a one-on-one, it’s important to have specific training.
Who’s doing the training?
Melissa and I, who both have backgrounds in Community Organizing, will be leading the trainings.
I have a specific interest. Can I do one-on-ones in a particular area?
Yes, absolutely. Focus your work around your interests and motivations. If you are really interested in the public school system, for instance, you can plan to meet teachers and principals. Or you might want to meet more people on your block, or folks who work for social services agencies. Feel free to make the one-on-ones your own.
Do I need to do my one-on-ones in Gowanus/Park Slope?
No. St. Lydia’s is rooted in a local neighborhood, and in relationship with the entire city. We want to listen all over the place! You can do one-on-ones with a city organization that you’ve always been interested in, or decide to do one-on-ones in your own neighborhood.
How many one-on-ones should I try to do?
I would suggest coming up with a reasonable goal for your one-on-ones, so you have something to work toward. The Season of Listening will extend from January to April (though I hope the practice of listening will be something that stays with us afterward!)
What if the idea of doing a one-on-one terrifies me?
This is not uncommon. Here is what I will tell you. Your level of terror will significantly decrease after your first one-on-one. Plus, we’ll talk about any terror that’s being experienced as a part of the training.
How will we share information from the one-one-ones?
Everyone who has been trained will share the information from their one-on-ones on a private googledoc. We will also have a place in worship where you can write down the most salient things you’re hearing in your one-on-ones so that other congregants can read them. We’ll also have an opportunity to hear about what you’re learning through your one-on-ones each week as a part of the sermon sharing. Finally, in the Spring, there will be a meeting to talk about what we’re hearing through the Season of Listening.
What will we do with the information we gather during the Season of Listening?
All the listening we’re doing with folks in our community is a way of listening to God. God speaks to us in many ways. One of those ways is through the people around us. My hunch is that, by listening to the voices of those in our community, we will begin to hear the voice of the Spirit nudging us toward our call. The Season of Listening will inform our decisions around our call to healing and justice work in the community. It will also inform our decisions around the new service that I’d like to launch this coming Spring. When we hear of hungers in our community, we will be moved to respond.
It came from a really lovely pastor who spoke about the Season of Listening his congregation did at a conference I went to. I never learned his name, but I am grateful to him, wherever he is!
Have you preached about the Season of Listening?
Why, funny you should ask. I introduced the Season of Listening for the first time this past Fall, in a sermon called Stand up Straight and Breathe.