If it feels like you don't know where you're going, that's okay. Here's something that can help you reflect on what God might have in store for you and your congregation.
Issue #18: September 2022
Come and Find the Quiet Center
Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.
Shirley Erena Murray, 1989, Chalice Hymnal
No doubt by now most congregations and parish clergy have returned to the most active fall season since COVID restrictions tamped down parish life. No doubt for many of us, a heightened sense of anxiety has accompanied the fall start-up as we once again move into uncharted territory with renewed expectations of a return to “normal.” It’s beginning to dawn on some of us that what we learned to call a liminal time – when we were betwixt and between – that having reached “between” we still don’t quite know what to make of it. Even though we’re coming through the liminal COVID time, we find ourselves in new territory once again.
In her book “Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times,” Kate Davies proposes six practices for discovering and nurturing intrinsic hope. The first practice is simply Being Present. In uncertain times the most helpful place to return time and again is simply being present. She provides some helpful guides for becoming present:
  1. Whenever you remember to do so, ask yourself “Am I present?” or “Where am I right now?” Make these questions a regular practice in your life. Notice what happens when you check in with yourself like this – you naturally find yourself in the present moment.
  2. Stop whatever you are doing and quietly observe what is happening around you right now. Bring all your attention to your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you touch, smell or taste? Don’t think about it; just experience the present moment as fully as you can.
  3. Remember to pause several times a day and take three deep breaths. Pay attention to the inhale and the exhale and then notice any sensations, feelings or thoughts. Don’t get caught up in them. Just observe them and let them go.
As the pandemic wore on, I found myself drawn into quieter activities. With a dishwasher on the fritz and time on my hands, I began practicing what I called “the ministry of doing the dishes.” It became a practice harkening back to lessons I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh’s little book “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.” I had read it many years earlier but had never given myself time to practice what he lived. And so I have found this simple practice of daily doing the dishes to be a quiet, centering activity.
As we step into this new liminal season, let us be reminded of a helpful perspective for these days used by the Alzheimer’s community:

“Yesterday is past. Tomorrow is not yet here. Today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present.”
We come full circle to the words of Shirley Erena Murray:
Silence is the friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, touches base,
Making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun,
Raising courage when we’re shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.
In the Spirit let us travel, open to each other’s pain,
Let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain:
There’s a place for deepest dreaming, there’s a time for heart to care,
In the Spirit’s lively scheming there is always room to spare.
Discussion questions:
  1. What daily practices do you use to center yourself and remind yourself who and whose you are?
  2. What daily routines might you turn into centering practices?  
Join the Discussion: Finding Your Quiet Center
The Supportive Ministries Team hosts a monthly discussion on topics from this newsletter. The next one, "Finding your quiet center," takes place on October 5 at 12:00 p.m. Central time on Zoom.

Please join us for a discussion on Finding your quiet center, from Rev. Bob Ullman's article above.

Missed these articles?

Revisit these thought-provoking articles from previous issues. Many include questions for groups discussions in your congregation, or for personal reflection.
Conference Supportive Ministries

In addition to the direct support to pastors and congregations provided by Wisconsin Conference staff, here are some of the supportive ministries congregations can take advantage of. Follow the link below to learn more about this programs and how your church might benefit.
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Coaching Partners
  • Grants and assistance programs
  • Communities of Practice for Clergy or Faith Formation
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations
  • Readiness 360
View a comprehensive list with more information about Supportive Ministries offerings.
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Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force provides articles, discussion guides and other resources for clergy and congregations on coping and thriving as we navigate the current turbulent waters. Supportive Ministries Task Force members from top left are Bob Ullman, Lisa Hart, Bonnie Andrews, Cathleen Wille and Tim Perkins.
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