Have you heard of “Examen”? It is a spiritual practice described by Ignatius Loyola in which we are invited to reflect on the events of the day in order to discover the way in which God’s presence has been with us personally, and to discern God’s love for us. This is a helpful practice as an individual, and also as a community. St Ignatius described five steps to the Daily Examen:
- Become aware of God’s presence
- Review the day with gratitude
- Pay attention to your emotions
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it
- Look toward tomorrow
This guidance can help us as individuals to notice when God has been at work in our lives. When combined with Morning and Evening Prayer, it is a beautiful way of developing a conversation with God in which we grow closer to him.
As a Church community we can also benefit from some reflection on the past and enter into a conversation with God about the future. The rhythm of a daily prayer life gives a grounded sense of alignment with God, as we read scripture and pray, our hearts more harmoniously beat in time with Gods heart for us. Bishop Nick has invited everyone in the Diocese of Leeds to reflect on four open-ended questions for the future of our Church’s life… a sort of variation on a Church Examen…
During the Coronavirus disruption:
- What have we lost that we need to regain?
- What have we lost that needs to stay lost?
- What have we gained that we need to keep and build upon?
- What have we gained during the emergency that we now need to lose for the future?
These are wide ranging and deliberately open-ended questions to give us the opportunity to discuss Church life and to seek a future for our Churches in which the things that help us grow closer to God get prioritised and the things which distract us from God get left behind. My thoughts have been along these lines:
- Developing a culture of invitation: how do we make invitation part of who we are?
- If we pray for growth… will we recognise everyone who walks through our doors as an answer to prayer?
- Do we really know we are forgiven? Can we live like children of God who sins are wiped clean? Where would this lead us?
- What would abundant and gracious generosity towards the world look like?
- Can we really grow in the knowledge and love of God?
- Do we have the courage to talk about Jesus with each other? Are we prepared to be fools for Christ?
- What does the future of singing and music look like?
- What is the future of Home Church?
- How do we support Shred families and Sunday School leaders?
I am currently starting my second year of ministry in Marsden and Slaithwaite. Has the faith of our Church community developed and grown in the past year? Are there signs that we are embracing God more closely? Are we optimistic about God’s will for us and do we believe God will answer our prayers if we pray for Church growth?
Please pray for Valerie France, Joanna Baxter Fielding, Sara Brown and I as we look forward to attending the “Leading Your Church into Growth” conference in October 2021.