Be ready and willing to listen, even to things you don’t want to hear, the Archbishop of Wales said in a keynote speech to church members today (May 1).
Listening to each other attentively and respectfully is a key part of our faith and church life, Archbishop John Davies told the Church’s Governing Body at the start of its two-day meeting in Cardiff.
In his Presidential Address, he urged people to commit to the process of listening so that they could walk willingly together, especially when faced with difficult, divisive and challenging issues.
Listening consciously could challenge and change us, the Archbishop said, “Listening properly in the context of our corporate faith and the development of our individual faith-journeys can be demanding, and it can be unsettling. This is because it’s more than simply hearing; that’s a physiological process, the mere registering, by our brains, of random, external sounds.
“Listening is the conscious engagement of mind, soul and spirit with what is heard. And that conscious engagement happens by means of respectful and gracious attentiveness of mind, soul and spirit. The result can, and sometimes should, challenge our preconceptions, it might require us to make a change or lead us to recognise that at least we ought to be ready to consider a change. And let me assure you that I have no particular change in mind – I am simply attempting to state what I firmly believe to be a key principle of the way in which we should conduct ourselves and do our business as a church.”
Listening could mean “uncomfortably humbling” ourselves, he said, warning that there might be items on the meeting’s agenda some would rather not hear.
“Readiness and willingness to demonstrate that respectful and gracious attentiveness of mind, soul and spirit, to the Father, to the Teacher, to the Spirit and to each other, may sometimes mean uncomfortably humbling ourselves by being attentive to and listening to things we don’t like and would rather not even hear; things with which we might disagree profoundly. There are almost certainly items on the agenda of this meeting which some of us will, undoubtedly, view in such ways. But hear about them we must, and be respectfully attentive to those who think differently, we must, shining upon them the light of the Father’s wisdom, the light of the Teacher’s love and the light of the Spirit’s grace.”
The Archbishop said listening respectfully was part of what it meant to take up Christ’s yoke and cross and being able to walk together.
“Christ offers yoke and cross, and Christ commands that they be taken up. He doesn’t suggest, he commands. So, for today, for tomorrow and for our future, let me please urge you and encourage you and our whole church family, to willingly and fully commit to that important process of listening, undertaken in eager attentiveness, and in willing, gracious respectfulness of each other.
“Then, in word and action – and, perhaps, especially when we differ over difficult, divisive and challenging issues – we will be able to demonstrate that we truly understand what it means to take up yoke and the cross, willingly walking together, even if not always being able to agree.”
The Governing Body of the Church in Wales is meeting at Cardiff City Hall on May 1-2.