Since the topic of discernment seems to almost rival “Euro-pride” this week, let’s keep hitting on that theme. In continuing to follow the blogosphere’s ongoing tussles over Intentional Disciples, I’d like to offer a quick reflection on the quality of trust, then let my commentariat take over, if they wish.
Trust is darned difficult to earn in today’s Church. I work hard at it. I try to maintain an openness and conduct parish conflict with the maximum diplomacy I can muster. After a few years, I begin to see tensions ease in the parish. I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school, but even in family situations, trust is such a long ramp upward to good relationships and it can so easily be damaged or destroyed.
Submitting one’s story of faith to the ears of another demands a strong level of trust. In my 80’s home parish, the famous/infamous Corpus Christi of Rochester NY, there was an attempt to develop a culture of trust, submission, discernment, and direction. The challenge there, for me in that decade, was that mutuality was lacking at times. The small group system developed and thrived there for awhile. Then it was time for me to move into the real world, and before they went into schism, I don’t really know how it landed from there. I do know that trust was strained at times, and outside of my circle of friends, I was very guarded. I knew that some people wanted to steer the community in the way they wanted to go; others disagreed, and sometimes we butted heads over it.
I’m convinced from what I’ve read from the ID people that discerning gifts is probably a very respectful process. In a way, it can be easier to discern with a total stranger. Try it with people who have an agenda with you or if you have an agenda with them. I tell you: it’s harder with the people with whom you live.
The social life dimension of the parish is often criticized, but I’m not so sure a strong social life doesn’t lay some good groundwork for trust. How else do people interact and begin to form the bonds of trust that would enable them to open up and share the experience of their faith lives with others?
I don’t have easy answers on the trust + discernment direction. It’s probably the pastor’s job to cultivate it. Parish leaders should be clued in to support the cultivation of trust: open meetings, welcoming of newcomers, minimal gossip, doing what one says one will do. Once that quality is well-sowed, I think people might be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt in really harrowing situations: major fund drives, intense personal sharing, and the like.
That feels grossly incomplete, but I’ll leave it to the readers to flesh it out, as you wish.