When the question arose among the Early Church as to whether Gentile Christians in Antioch should live and behave according to the Jewish Law, the apostles and elders got together to discern direction from God. After discussion, consulting scripture, and (I imagine) prayer, they made the important decision that, aside from two or three of the commandments, Gentiles did not have to abide by the Jewish law.
In the letter these leaders sent to the church in Antioch, they notified them of this decision, saying they had made this decision because “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to do so” (Acts 15.28cf). “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” is a good model. We invite and listen to the Holy Spirit, we enter into conversation, even debate, we seek to discern God’s will together, and then we do God’s will.
St. Ignatius of Loyola put it this way, the aim of spiritual discernment is “finding God in all things in order that we might love and serve God in all.”
At the beginning of 2021, council and staff began a relationship with a consulting and coaching ministry called Spiritual Leadership, Inc. The intention was to lead the way in becoming a healthier staff and council in our relationships with one another and in our decision-making practices. The hope and fervent prayer was that, through this process, ECC as a whole would grow in these things, as well.
I celebrate that these things are happening. The future for ECC is bright, indeed!
We are becoming more intentional in healthy conflict resolution, repairing trust between one another when it is broken, and in seeking God together for the direction of the mission. This ties in well with the emphasis I discerned on sabbatical: that we need to slow down and give more attention to prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit—as individuals and as a community. It also flows naturally from lessons we learned about seeking the Spirit’s guidance during the Vitality Pathway, which we began in the spring of 2017.
The goal is that we learn to practice discernment together, as a community. And this, too, is happening. We saw it happen around the new housing ministry proposal at the May congregational meeting while I was on Sabbatical, and my prayer is that we will see it happen again at our congregational meeting on October 24. I invite you to pray for that meeting, even now.
Almost three weeks ago our pastors and directors spent two days together, worshiping, praying, seeking God, listening to the Holy Spirit, and dreaming about next steps for ECC. We discerned these things together, as a team. We then took what we felt we had heard from God and submitted it to council. They, too, are seeking God on these things, and we intend to present them to the congregation at our meeting on October 24 for further conversation and spiritual discernment.
In the meantime, you can be a part of the process, too! I invite you to pray, to pause and listen, and to come prepared to contribute to the discussion out of the time you have spent in prayer and listening. Pray that God will meet us and that we will what God has to say to us and through us. I look forward to working together with you on October 24.
Pastor Stacey Littlefield