Simplicity at the heart

In the Alban Institute’s weekly offering, Bruce G. Epperly , Katherine Gould Epperly, reflect on simplicity as being at the heart of the pastoral task because to pray constantly is at heart of the Christian journey.

What would it mean for you as a pastor to pray constantly throughout the many events of your life? What would it be like for your prayers to be as near to you as your breathing? What would it mean for you to recognize, in the spirit of the plaque on Carl Jung’s study door, that “bidden or unbidden, God is here?”

Stephanie, a Disciples of Christ pastor in Virginia, breathes a quiet “Lord, have mercy” whenever the phone rings or she hears a knock on her study door. A United Methodist pas­tor, Charles keeps his spiritual center by humming his favorite hymns throughout the day. Charles notes, “I have hymns that I repeat day after day, like ‘Be Still My Soul’ or ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness,’ but I also break out in song when I am feeling joyful or when I anticipate trouble in my parish. Sometimes the next hymn I sing is as surprising to me as it is to my secretary or to my wife. But singing that hymn always gives me what I need in the moment. Without a song in my heart and on my lips, I’d be lost.” In the spirit of today’s global spirituality, Cathy, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Massachusetts, practices Thich Nhat Hanh’s “walking prayers” as she chants breath by breath and step by step throughout the day, “Breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I smile.”

Simplicity is the heart of what Gerald May described in terms of pausing, noticing, opening, and yielding and stretching to the many voices of God emerging in and through each moment of experience and encounter. While we can seldom fully dis­cern God’s voice, we can honestly experience and probe feeling tones that guide us toward beauty, truth, reconciliation, atten­tiveness, and love. Simplicity grounds us in the holy here and the holy now of God’s lively presence in all things. It leads to the gift of awareness and attention, necessary for experiencing God’s holiness in ourselves and in the life of another.

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