One of today’s tasks was to plan a set of prayer workshops that begin tomorrow in one of my congregations. Last minute as always. But I convinced myself that it was right to delay so that I could include a visiting ordinand in the planning process.
So, as darkness fell, I gave her a rough outline of where I was coming from and where I thought the congregation might be coming from, and we went our separate ways to think for 20 minutes, before comparing notes.
Despite the fact that this course has been in the diary for months, I have been struggling to know where to go with it. This is the fifth time I’ve done a course like this on prayer, and I keep hoping that one of these days I will be able to reuse, or at least adapt old material. But each time, I find that I can’t. Although the main goals are the same (encouraging and understanding and practice of prayer as relationship & being-with-God) the process is always different.
And for the first time, I simply didn’t know where to go. I’ve been dithering for weeks. When I sent the ordinand upstairs, I thought I was going to spend a very frustrating 20 minutes going in circles.
But not so. As soon as I picked up a pen and started writing down the obvious (‘prayer as relationship, talking/listening, do something practical, bridge unfamiliar with familiar) it all came pouring out. In ten minutes, I had a fully developed plan and rational for three sessions, including a detailed breakdown of approach and timing for the first week. It came so sure and fast, that I knew my intentions for open dialogue with the ordinand were shattered.
I went through the motions, of course. I listened to her many excellent ideas, and we considered various contexts in which they would be most helpful or most difficult. But by then I was sure that I knew what this congregation needed right now.
It’s reassuring to find that knowledge of a congregation is held in instinct even in moments when all feels adrift.
Now, let us just hope that tomorrow’s session proves me right, and I am not sent back to the drawing board. Instinct can be so beguiling.