Garrett-Evangelical News

Cutting Edges: Woman of Pompeii

Charles Cosgrove HBy Dr. Charles Cosgrove, Professor of Early Christian Literature

Eliza Garrett, patron founder of Garrett Biblical Institute, lived and died before archeological excavations brought to light a certain nameless, but not faceless, woman of ancient Pompeii. Garrett would have found something to like about this baker’s wife, whose image, nearly two millennia old now, was preserved as a wall painting in a house she shared with her husband, Terentius Neo. The portrait is now at the Museum of Naples, but this year it made a journey, with many other Pompeiian artifacts, to the British Museum in London, where I viewed it in July.

The woman in the portrait looks out from the painting with an air of confident composure. Her hair, coiffed in a style of the 50s–60s, is adorned with a thin red headband. Pearl earrings, a red tunic, and mantle complete her attire. Remarkably, in her right hand she holds a stylus and in her left a set of writing tablets. She is educated. By posing with her stylus and tablets she expresses her pride in that fact.

Her husband’s image shows him in a bleached toga, which marks him as a candidate for public office. In his right hand is a scroll, indicating that he, too, is literate.

The two of them appear to be about the same age and are shown side by side in a single portrait, she slightly in the foreground, as if to stress that she is not simply “the wife” but a partner. Do the wax tablets, often used for tabulations, suggest that she served as accountant in her husband’s bakery business?

We have no reason to think that this woman was a Christian or that the Christian mission reached Pompeii before that city was destroyed and covered with volcanic ash in 79 C.E. Women like her played an important role in the early church, especially in the mission of Paul. Blessed with education, property, or their own business, they assumed various roles of leadership. Prisca and Aquila (Paul puts her name ahead of his) instructed Apollos. Phoebe was Paul’s patron and led an entourage to Rome with his letter to the Roman church. Junia was an apostle along with her husband, Andronicas.

By the second century, however, patriarchy had vigorously reasserted itself in most churches and, despite their numerical superiority, women were largely blocked from leadership roles. The majority of churches were by then organized in a structure of offices to which only men were appointed, and it was only communions somewhat on the margins—the churches of Montanists and Gnostics—that continued to affirm some form of gender equality inspired by Paul’s teaching that in Christ there is “no longer male and female.”

Terentius Neo and his wife lived in Paul’s time, and their portrait helps me picture the more affluent members of his churches who provided meeting places for worship, funds for missionary travel, contributions to the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, and perhaps also the writing materials and the scribes Paul needed to carry on his correspondence. There is a gentleness in the look of this Pompeiian couple that also makes them appealing.

I was so taken with Neo and his wife when I viewed their portrait last summer that I purchased a fine copy, which I now display in a corner of my faculty office at the seminary. On the adjacent wall nearby is an etching of another woman, who is not nameless—Eliza Garrett—and I like to imagine her and the Pompeiian woman engaging in a wordless communication across the ages. Clearly, neither was content with confinement to the background. Both wanted to have a say in things that matter. As one who believes that I am better off when women have an equal say in everything that matters, I think I owe them both a debt.

Cutting Edges: Remember You are Dust, and to Dust You Shall Return

Tim Eberhart copyBy Timothy R. Eberhart, Visiting Assistant Professor of Moral and Public Theology and Director of the Course of Study School


With sobering words and ashen smudges on our foreheads, Christians worldwide were ushered this month into the Lenten season.  In an age marked by increasingly dire signs that the earth itself is suffering from multiple afflictions, even unto death, we are challenged this Lent to consider the meaning of Jesus’ passion and resurrection for a stricken planet.   

Remember that to dust you shall return.  The wages of human sin is death (Rom. 6:23), as Paul declares, and not only our own degeneration, but the unnatural decay of the whole groaning creation (8:21-22).  Today, this unwelcome message comes to us from the scientific community, as we hear reports almost daily that the earth and every form of life it sustains is in grave peril and that the great ecological crises of our time are “anthropogenic” (i.e. caused by human activity).

Among these crises, climate change is perhaps the most foreboding.  Climatologist James Hansen notes that over the last ten thousand years, the number of parts of carbon dioxide per million in the atmosphere has hovered around 275.  275 ppm has produced temperatures warm enough to melt the ice sheets from the centers of our continents, allowing us to grow grain, but cold enough for mountain glaciers to provide yearly drinking water.  Every aspect of our creaturely life and the human civilizations that have developed over this time have adapted to those climatic conditions.  Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, that CO2 number has risen an average of 2 parts per million a year.  Hansen has said that 350 is the number we can reach before we do irreparable harm to the biosphere.  We are now at 395 ppm, and growing.  If individuals, communities, and governments begin immediately to reduce carbon emissions worldwide, we may eventually reduce that number to below 350.  Even so, enormous damage will have already occurred.  As climate change author Bill McKibben says, “we’re like the guy who smoked for forty years and then he had a stroke.  He doesn’t smoke anymore [we hope], but the left side of his body doesn’t work anymore either.”[1]

In the face of such hard truths, we are being forced to confess that our own greed, sloth, and prideful ignorance – manifest in unsustaining ways of life – are directly responsible for a sickly, impaired planet.  Nothing could be more appropriate this Lenten season, therefore, than for us honestly and humbly to lament, both to our Lord and to the beloved Creation: “Oh sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down…Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain” (B. Clairvaux).            

Remember that you are dust.  We human beings, like all living creatures, originate from the earth.  As we read in the second creation story, we are clay/soil enlivened by the breath of God (Gen. 2:7).  In and though our earthly bodies, we share in the great community of creation with all other forms of life, sentient and non-sentient, that are fashioned by our common Creator.  As ecologists have affirmed for years, what happens to the earth and its creatures, happens to us.

It was in and through an earthly body, of course, that God became human and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14).  God’s own life is intimately wedded to our own, not only as enlivening spirit, but also as terrestrial flesh.  And what we will proclaim on Easter morning with shouts of hallelujah is that what has happened in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is what will happen for us and for the entire creation!  “For behold, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth,” so “be glad and rejoice” (Is. 65:17-18).  To be clear, the hope of Easter is not an opiate for inaction.  For the church is an earthly body of people called to be a tangible witness amidst this present age to the glory of the new creation that is to come.  In fact, no call could be more urgent this Lenten season, and in the seasons and years to come, than for Christians to participate in the great work of healing the earth through personal lifestyle changes, the conversion of others to ways that lead to life, and the transformation of our common public life.  It is in so doing that we will “practice resurrection” (W. Berry). 

Repent, and believe the Gospel.  Garrett-Evangelical is committed to this gospel work.  Last April, we joined with eleven other seminaries and divinity schools in a Seminary Stewardship Alliance (seminaryalliance.org).  The inauguration of the SSA took place at the Earth Day service at the National Cathedral, where Dean Lallene Rector and other seminary deans and presidents signed a covenant to integrate “creation care” into the heart of theological education.  I was honored to attend as a seminary co-representative and excited to end up seated by three of today’s great environmental leaders: Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and Wes Jackson.  Prior to the service, I asked McKibben why, of all the places he could be on Earth Day, he chose to attend this event.  McKibben, a committed Christian active in his local United Methodist church, said this: “Our churches represent one of the best hopes we have of making a difference on the environment, and it is our seminaries and divinity schools that will shape the church to come.” 

Spurred by this sense of urgency, President Amerson has charged that a new Stewardship Committee be formed to promote the just and wise care of God’s creation in all areas of our seminary life together.  As the committee description affirms:    

Garrett-Evangelical is committed to integrating ecological perspectives and sustainable practices throughout the curriculum, worship and spiritual life, programming, buildings and grounds, and administrative operations of the seminary.  This commitment also includes empowering students, faculty, and staff to be good stewards of the earth and its resources in their daily lives, while seeking out institutional collaboration with environmental groups in the Northwestern, Evanston, and Chicago communities.  Because the ecological crises we face are interconnected with matters of human justice, and since the poor and marginalized are often hardest hit by realities like climate change, toxic waste, and resource depletion, the Stewardship Committee encourages efforts to tie our commitments to creation care with the seminary’s longstanding commitments to racial, gender, and socio-economic justice.     

This spring, the Stewardship Committee is inviting the seminary’s many constituents to share ideas and visions for how we might fulfill our institutional calling to care for God’s creation.  You can participate by completing this online survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HHLR996.   

Perhaps more than ever we need to be reminded that it is the earth from which we have come and the earth to which we will return.  For in truth, the redemption of our bodies and the saving of our planet are joined together.  And both the earth and we belong to God.  In full confidence of the resurrection, may we live as bold disciples whose hope is in the coming of the glory of the Lord. 


 

 

 



[1] Bill McKibben, “A New World,” in Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, eds., The Post Carbon Reader: Managing The 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (Healdsbury, CA: Watershed Media, 2010). 
 

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Cutting Edges: Theology and the Undocumented Worker

PH09_Faculty_Nancy_Bedford_2_9-09By Dr. Nancy Bedford, the Georgia Harkness Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.


Each fall my family and I put the community garden plot we tend in Evanston to rest for the winter under its coverlet of straw; each spring we look forward to planting season and to the wonderful vegetables of the Midwestern summer. Our adventures in gardening are pleasurable, yet ultimately optional, as our food supply does not depend on their success. It is different for the migrant farm workers in the United States who care for the many crops, especially fruits and vegetables, that continue to be human-labor intensive. Such workers live precariously, anonymously, often exposed to toxic chemicals, moving from place to place. Without their backbreaking work, our food supply would be decimated.

Only about one in ten farm workers in the United States are U.S. citizens, and an overwhelming majority of them are undocumented, with most of them hailing from Mexico and Central America. Nearly three- fourths of farm workers make under $10,000 per year and ironically, the profit levels of agribusiness have increased greatly since the implementation of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) in 1994. Meanwhile millions of small farmers in Mexico have been forced off their lands, and family farmers in the United States and Canada have struggled to stay afloat.

Undocumented workers, especially those from Latin America, have recently become the target of rhetorical and physical attacks. They have become scapegoats for the troubles facing the United States and accused of being a threat to security, though actually food security would be compromised without their labor. They are told “go back home,” without consideration of the structural reasons why they become migrants. Migrant farm workers often banded together in families and moved with the crops. When the border between Mexico and the U.S. was less militarized and more porous, many cycled in and out of Mexico with the seasons. Lately many have found themselves locked into a precarious undocumented existence in the United States in order to be able to continue to work in U.S. fields.

What is the role of theology in the face of the smoke and mirrors that obscure the discussion of undocumented migration in this country? Theology should ask: Where does the bread – and by extension the produce – we eat at the Lord’s Table and elsewhere actually come from? What are the human and natural costs involved in producing it? Why are the migrant farm workers, upon whose labor we all depend, treated as if they were not supposed to exist or to be present at all in the country? At its best, theology brings a capacity to discern and to articulate the “truth of reality” in a society easily distracted by trivialities.

There are a number of concrete ways to practice a public theology that takes seriously the reality of migrant farm workers. It can be as specific as an analysis of how the food habits within a congregation are related to migrant farm worker conditions, or as far-reaching as developing comprehensive immigration reform and legislation directed specifically to the situation of migrant farm workers.

Such legislation would be helpful, but it would not resolve the deeper questions of justice that haunt us. A public theology needs to hammer away at the perverse logic that depicts undocumented migrants as potential “terrorists” and allows the short-term financial gain of a few to shape agricultural, ecological, and migration policies. “Common sense” about building walls and scape-goating undocumented Latinos and Latinas should be decried as contrary to the good news of the gospel, according to which Christ came to knock down walls of separation, not to build them up according to an economy of fear. It may well be that in taking this kind of stance theology will be accused by some of naiveté or even treacherousness, but perhaps the time has come to take such accusations in stride: God is no respecter of borders.


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Cutting Edges: Worship - Mirrors and Models

RAndersonBy Dr. E. Byron (Ron) Anderson, the Styberg Professor of Worship and director of the Nellie B. Ebersole program in Music Ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.



Contemporary discussions of the function of worship in the life of the church tend to focus on the ways in which worship serves as a means to reach out to the unchurched, as a tool for evangelism, as the central practice for church growth, and as a set of products shaped by consumer desires. (The recent Call to Action report in The United Methodist Church provides only one recent example of these tendencies.) But what if we began to think about worship from a different perspective? What if we began to think of worship as a kind of mirror and model for the Christian community?

Worship as mirror. We know what mirrors do; they reflect back to us an image. Some
mirrors are shaped in ways to help focus images (even images at great distances, like telescope mirrors), some to expand our field of vision (like side mirrors on semis), and some distort images (like the “Bean” at Chicago’s Millennium Park). Some of these reflected images are helpful, some are simply fun, and some are harmful.

Worship can do all of these things. It can distort our vision and be harmful when we expect worship to look exactly like us, when we expect worship to express our particular feelings, sensibilities, and tastes. In this sense, worship becomes a kind of “looking glass”—the kind of mirror we use for personal grooming and self-adoration. You might say that such a mirror prompts a kind of narcissism, a loving gaze at our selves.

But the mirror that is faithful worship sharpens and expands our vision. This mirror reflects back to us the brokenness of our lives and brings us to self-examination. It helps us look more closely at our lives, our blemishes and our wrinkles, helping us see that we are not quite as kind, as just, as attentive to the poor, or as welcoming of those who are different from us as we think we are. Yet, as it reflects this reality to us, it also reveals that we are more than we can see. This mirror shows us, even in our brokenness, an image of redemption, healing, and love. It shows us that we bear the image of God.

Worship as model. A model is something used to represent something else—whether that representation is of something concrete, like the plan for a church building, or something conceptual, like our understanding of the universe. Models can represent the actual “state of affairs” in our world or they can represent an idealized state, such as John’s vision of the heavenly city in Revelation 21-22. Models provide frameworks that help us understand things, ideas, and relationships.

When worship primarily models the actual conditions of our world, it is affirming and forming us in the values, prejudices, and behaviors of the dominant cultures in which we live. That the “worship hour” remains the most racially and economically segregated hour in our public lives is but one example. Another is the way in which many growth-oriented models for church life look increasingly like models for shopping malls, with specialized shops (worship services and musical styles) catering to every taste and level of income. A third example, especially in North American protestantism, is the way in which some of our worship practices reflect confusion between our allegiance to God and our allegiance to nation.

In contrast, the model of faithful worship enables us to encounter God’s vision and plan for the world. Worship, more than anything else, should model for us (even provide the place in which we practice) the ways in which we, in all our difference and brokenness, can become a community beloved in that difference, encounter a prophetic and caring word, and be drawn to a common banquet table. Faithful worship models for us the ways in which we bring lament and praise to God, intercede for those close to us as well those to whom we are strangers, and learn to blend our diverse voices into a harmony worthy of a generous and merciful God. What is the mirror and model of worship showing you? How is it shaping your life as a Christian community?


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Cutting Edges: A Theology of Empty Shirts or Justice?

Barry_BryantBy Dr. Barry Bryant, Associate Professor of United Methodist and Wesleyan Studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.



Where were you at 6:00 p.m. on May 21, 2011? What were you thinking? That was the hour that Harold Camping, a radio preacher in California, predicted the rapture as a prelude to the return of Jesus, the battle of Armageddon, and the end of the world. While it provided many with a bonanza of easy material used in derision of Christianity, other Christians tried to distance themselves from an absurd theological caricature of what we regularly affirm through the Apostles’ Creed, “...and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Harold Camping reminds us that without serious and constant theological reflection we can lose sight of creedal significance, relevance, and meaning.

While we may rightfully disparage outlandish and misguided predictions, they come from the theology of Dispensationalism, which has been a part of American culture for over 150 years now. Started by the 19th century Irish theologian, John Nelson Darby, it was popularized by the American pastor, C. I. Scofield, through his Scofield Reference Bible and evangelists such D. L. Moody. This view was politicized by the Chicago-based Methodist lay preacher, William E. Blackstone, who authored Jesus is Coming (1908). More recently Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth), and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind series) have made millions by marketing this view of the end times.

Dispensationalism teaches that in the last days all Jews must return to the state of Israel, where they will either be converted to Christianity or killed by the anti-Christ. All of this is a prelude to the battle of Armageddon and Christ’s second coming. If Israel is pushed into conflict withitsArabneighbors,Armageddonwillbeaccelerated, hastening the second coming of Christ. Dispensationalism means that peace postpones Christ’s second coming and peacemakers are seen as anti-Christ.

So, what was I thinking on May 21, at 6:00 p.m.? I was thinking less about the silliness of the rapture and more about the seriousness of how this theology participates in oppression.

Palestinians see dispensationalism as one source of their oppression and a volatile fuel to their conflicts. In 2004, Naim Ateek, Canon of St. George’s Cathedral (Anglican), convened a conference in Jerusalem to investigate the influences of dispensationalism as a source of Palestinian oppression. Rosemary Radford Reuther and I attended. At that time I didn’t know I would one day teach at Garrett-Evangelical and become a part of its long history of engaging dispensationalism.

For example, Harris Franklin Rall, professor of theology, wrote Modern Premillennialism and the Christian Hope (1920) challenging the dispensationalism of fellow Methodist, William E. Blackstone. Or, Georgia Harkness, who wrote, Biblical Backgrounds of the Middle East Conflict, which was published posthumously in 1976 with fellow Garrett seminary colleague, Charles F. Kraft. Then, Rosemary Radford Reuther’s stellar work and support of Palestine resulted in The Wrath of Jonah (2002). It is nothing new for Garrett-Evangelical faculty members to provide critical and creative theological reflection on the serious and most vexing theological issues of the day, including the issue of Palestine.

My wife, Rhonda McCarty, and I have made more than twenty trips to Palestine. We have seen first-hand the violence, the oppression, the erection of the apartheid wall, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the confiscation of Palestinian farmland, the usurpation of Palestinian water rights, the building of Israeli settlements, the destruction of Palestinian olive trees, and the humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints. In spite of these difficulties, there are groups of Israelis and Palestinians working together in “outrageous hope” toward justice, peace, and reconciliation.

From December 28, 2011, to January 10, 2012, a group of Garrett-Evangelical students will be visiting some of those groups.You are invited to join us. “Outrageous Hope:A Cross-Cultural Immersion in a Study of Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation in Israel and Palestine” will be an opportunity to see first-hand the root causes of the conflict and learn strategies that are being employed by Israelis, Palestinians, and others to bring about peace. For more information, send an email to barry.bryant@garrett.edu.

Eschatology is not about being snatched shirtless up into heaven. It is about working for justice, peace, and reconciliation until whenever Christ comes. Ours is not a theology of empty shirts, but one of hope and justice.


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Cutting Edges: Be Ye Not Conformed

RayBy Dr. Stephen Ray, the Neal F. and Ila A. Fisher Professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.



These are difficult and troubling times in which we live. The lines between faith and public life are bending in ways that help neither. Perhaps it is time to remind ourselves, as each generation must, of both our calling and our vocation in the world. I find that Jeremiah and Paul help me to think through what vocation means in the world.

In the 29th chapter of his “jeremiad,” the prophet gives voice to the reality that God sends people of faith into the various cities of the world with the specific charge to seek the welfare of those places. A way that we live toward the welfare of the places that God sends us is to bear witness to the fact that there is no earthly power that knowingly works on God’s behalf. This witness curbs the penchant for societies, nations, and groups to claim for themselves divine sanction. This is an important vocation. Time and again groups will claim for themselves the role of being “God’s ______” (you fill in the blank) in the world. The goal of this claim is always the same: to exercise arbitrary power for the benefit of social elites. Sometimes it is almost comical to see those who use “ungodly” means to achieve and maintain power constantly refer to themselves as “godly” people. Comical, that is, if this type of hypocrisy weren’t so dangerous.

The type of reactionary political discourse that cloaks itself in religion plays to both the best and the worst in us. It plays to the best in us because it relies on our impulse to serve God and something greater than ourselves (usually country). It plays to the worst in us by drawing on the innate tribalism that characterizes all human groups. In the end the point is always the same: defeat the enemy in the name of God, and the result is always the same: those holding economic and political power become more powerful, and everyone else loses. The country loses because the threads of what Lincoln called the “bonds of affection” are frayed and drawn. The polis loses because while its attention has been distracted by disingenuous god- talk the commonwealth has been plundered by those who could in the end care less about God and country. Finally, and most important to me, the name of Jesus Christ is defamed. Rather than being witnessed to as the one who loved the poor, the last and the least so much that he gave his life so that all might live (Matt. 25), he is instead portrayed as the arch defender of the privileged, and the worshiper of filthy mammon who takes no greater pleasure than in seeing the marginalized suffer. So, the only ones who win, if you call this winning, are the very forces against which the prophets raged and the apostles castigated. What is perhaps the saddest note is not that the world takes this crowd of hypocrites seriously when they call themselves Christians. No, the saddest part is that we so seldom call them on it.

Perhaps hypocrite is too strong a word. A more descriptive term might be conformed. Conformed to ways of being in the world which the Gospel calls us out of. It may well be that people of good faith and intention can unwittingly allow themselves to become so conformed to the “ways of the world” that they cease to see that worldly power is not the summum bonum of the Christian life. It is possible that in the zeal to be godly, persons and groups fail to see that the embodiment of arbitrary and destructive power is anything but godly. It may well be that we are living in an age in which large parts of the Christian community in America are so bent on winning at any cost that they make alliance with powers and forces whose only aim is domination and whose only means is the sowing of bitterness and contention. In times like these, it could be that our task in our public life is to contend for the faith that is our salvation against the powers of evil and destruction that go by the name “Christian.”


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Cutting Edges: Listening Empathically

_MG_8608_copyBy Dr. Pamela Holliman, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Psychotherapy at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary


Several years ago at a meeting with a Board of Ordained Ministry, a small group was interviewing a candidate for ordination who had recently graduated from seminary. One member asked the young man what he had learned in his field education experience that most surprised him. He answered, “I learned that ministry is primarily about relationships.” In a similar vein I have heard graduates return to Garrett-Evangelical and indicate they wished they had taken more pastoral care or Christian education courses. They appreciate the depth of the work they did in theology, Bible, and Church history as it grounds and enlivens their day to day  ministry. At the same time many graduates have come to a greater appreciation of relationships with people as the heart of ministry.

The local parish is one of the very few places in our society where there is the opportunity for people to be heard in ways that can be transforming. Pastors and congregations work together to maintain, direct, and administer their life together. Pastors and congregations relate to individuals and families at points of deepest need as they navigate normal stages of life from birth to death. Pastors and congregations are present for the difficult experiences of job loss, severe illness, still birth, suicide, family alienation, divorce, and the effects of violence. Pastors and congregations in their life together also provide the spaces to deepen expressions of celebration, praise, joy, and thanksgiving. In all these moments, who we are in relationship, how we relate and most importantly, how we listen to each other provide an opportunity for us to be more fully human and recognize the presence of God in each other.

However, listening is a rather difficult skill and one not even particularly valued in much of today’s United States society. People appear to be more focused on getting their point across than truly listening to each other. Conversation becomes competitive, as if communication is a sport of winners and losers rather than a means to deepen relationship. Too often a person seeking help is dismissed with advice rather than empathic listening that opens possibilities within the person and between them.

In congregations there can be a particularly difficult barrier to listening in depth to others. We are too often overly concerned with avoiding the difficult conversation. We tend to put this reluctance in the language of “caring.” We sincerely want to make things “better,” to be “supportive,” to keep everything “nice.” The language of caring with the goal of not upsetting anyone is used to cover a myriad of ways to deny, deflect, or ignore conflict, pain, disagreements, anger, sadness, shame. The concept of empathy has been misused in this pursuit.

Empathy is misunderstood as being sympathetic, kind, always nice, never confrontational, without any negative affect acknowledged or expressed. Empathy, however, as defined by analyst Heinz Kohut is “the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.” One of the most important aspects of empathy is the ability to suspend any agenda in listening to another person. Our agendas can include our value system, our preferred approach to an issue, our feelings about the other person or the situation, what others have done in the situation, and how we want this issue to be resolved. To listen in this way is to privilege the other’s experiences, feelings, thoughts, options. Hearing in this way is too rarely available to most people in this society.

Most of us need others to hear us empathically in ways that affirm our humanity, increase our capacity to cope with reality, remind us of our limits, invite us into
truth telling, and guide us back into community. In the fellowship of the congregation, we have the privilege to help each other practice empathic listening in ways that sustain, energize, promote honest communication, and deepen relationships.

Listening empathically means embracing the negative, the difficult, the conflicted in the other. Listening empathically means naming the anger, shame, confusion that we hear, sense, and feel from the other. Listening empathically means tolerating our own discomfort, vulnerability, anxiety, and inability to fix situations for others. Listening empathically means inviting others to be heard in ways that give voice to their deepest yearnings, feelings, and needs. Empathic listening builds relationships within the love of God.


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