Hagerstown Church of the Brethren
15 S. Mulberry St., Hagerstown, MD 21740
Phone: 301-733-3565 * FAX: 301-733-3598

"Church in the Heart of the City with the City at Heart"
Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.

Pastor's Bookshelf - June 2017

The Art of Christian Listening  by Thomas Hart 

During college, Pastor Audrey was a Student Peer Minister assigned to her dorm as a trusted spiritual companion for other students needing to process their faith life.  To prepare for this role, she read The Art of Christian Listening and found its instruction so helpful that she passed it along to me.  Maybe this was a subtle hint for me to become a better listener. But  isn’t it the case that we could all be better listeners?

We have all been in situations where we feel like we need to process what seems like a critical issue with someone and we are met with barriers.   The listening partner could be distracted  by their phone or their brain, or they could simply be uninterested.  Hart’s book is not an instruction manual only for those looking to go into pastoral ministry or counseling.  This is a book to help any person become a better spiritual companion  and friend to those persons God has placed in our lives. 

During May, the Contemporary Christian  Conversations Class (formerly the Young Adults) studied this book and practiced  becoming better listeners.  We discovered  that in many of our relationships as parent, co-worker, deacon, or friend, we can be called upon to act as a listening “helper.”  We ought to be prepared and expect that as we become close with people, moments of  trusted sharing will arise when we must be ready to stop and listen. 

Hart claims that these opportunities for the listening helper can even be sacramental.  If a sacrament is a moment when the sacred becomes real in our midst, then moments of deep spiritual sharing between sisters and brothers can be sacramental. Our job as the helper is not to be Christ to another, but to direct the sharing process towards Christ.  This is something that any of us can do for the ones we love.

After Hart establishes the significance of Christian listening, he gives some tools for listeners to consider.  He outlines introducing  prayer, discernment skills, selfpreparation, and potential pitfalls.  I highly  recommend this book as an introduction to  the basic skills of Christian listening.  The  Art of Christian Listening will be available  in  the West Entrance to be checked out during the month of June.