From the Rector
Over the past unprecedented year, most of us have discovered, or rediscovered, skills and habits that we had either never needed or had forgotten all about.
I hadn’t actually heard of the video conferencing service ‘Zoom’ before last spring’s lockdown was imposed, but I quickly realised that it could be a lifeline to the Church’s ministry, and now, though by no means an expert, I can navigate my way round most of its challenges.
Many parishioners I have spoken to have similarly upped their game in their use of the internet and social media, enabling them to stay visually in touch with far-off family members and to tune in to streamed acts of worship.
We also relearned the value of precious things, such as love of family, the important of trustworthy friends, the essential significance of looking out for one another and making sure that the neediest members of our communities were cared for.
And one simple discipline that I renewed was the art of listening.
It began on our daily walks with the skylarks on the top road above St Tudy. I would stop and just listen to their seemingly ceaseless song, as they rose higher and higher into blue sky before plummeting back to ground. This then progressed into stopping regularly to listen really attentively to other precious sounds: the wind in the trees, the chattering of the swallows, the babbling of the moorland streams. But it wasn’t just the sounds of the natural world I listened to with greater care and attention.
I relearned the art of listening to people too, not simply hearing what they say but really listening, with compassion and empathy, because people needed to be listened to.
I think this happened for lots of us. We had more time to spare and we knew that some of our neighbours were lonely or finding times hard, so we listened, with care, concern and real attentiveness. I have always been struck by how the Gospels in the New Testament show how Jesus listened, not just to the powerful, the influential or the loud, but to all who needed to be heard and healed, in body, mind or spirit. Brother Keith Nelson of the Society of St John the Evangelist recently wrote these words: ‘Jesus knew the needs of those around him because he listened intently.
He also knew that people experience the healing presence of God when they are able to listen to their own needs and are invited to name them, so he asked questions like “What do you want me to do for you?” and “What are you looking for?” Listening is a crucial first step in responding to human need.’
As we emerge from this deeply troubling and distressing period of our collective experience, people will want and need to talk about how they survived and what they suffered. We will all need to listen, to listen lovingly and caringly.
We will remember that listening is indeed the crucial first step in responding to human need.