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Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   143
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5" Height: 7.5"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 1991
Publisher   Morehouse Publishing
ISBN  0819215635  
EAN  9780819215635  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
How can a Christian discern God's will, especially in terms of gifts and vocation? By sifting through the lives of believers across the centuries for concrete, flexible guidelines, this influential manual is appropriate for governing boards across denominational lines. Complete with appendices and an annotated bibiography

Buy Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community by Suzanne G. Farnham, Joseph P. Gill, R. Taylor McLean & Susan M. Ward from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780819215635 & 0819215635

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Hearing God's Call for vocation...  Apr 26, 2007
The popular question, "Does God speak to us or tell us what we should do?" comes to mind when I think of the book, "Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community," Morehouse Publishing, 1991. We do live in an era of doubt, and Christianity or belief in God is lacking. Even among believers one wonders if one is following the will of God. In this book the reader finds ways to discover what God is saying for one's life.

I came across this title as part of a one-day conference held by the Episcopal Church on discerning a call within community. The book was recommended reading by the San Francisco Bay Area organization (ECUSA). I read it gladly, and with interest. I want to know if I am doing what I should, and if I am meeting the needs of both my community and my Church--most certainly the will of God. For me, this is not an arrogant request, but a genuine one.

The book is easy to read, informative, intelligent and direct. Its premise goes like this: "A call may come as a gradual dawning of God's purpose for our lives." Some may be surprised that lay people will want to respond to a call, usually thought reserved only for ordained clergy. I think call comes to the laity, too. We are under baptismal vows. If you are a Christian, or interested in knowing about God's will for you in work, service, prayer, even marriage, this is a worthwhile book. It is a book about ministry.

Here is the rationale for ministry:

"Doing good things--volunteer work, for instance--may not be ministry if God is not the motivating force--even if the person doing them is a Christian. On the other hand, if God is the motivating force, even those who do not consciously bear the name of Christ may participate in God's work. God used Cyrus, king of Persia, to release Israel from captivity, saying, "...I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me" (Isa. 45:4). One task of the Christian, then, is to recognize, affirm, and celebrate Christ's reconciling action in others, including non-Christians. A true minister is "anybody who is the channel to others of God's love, and is willing to share something of the cost of that love; and whose eyes are open to perceive God's presence everywhere and in everybody." In The Rule of St. Benedict, this same thought for monks goes: "...the work of the monk is to accept and participate in the divine saving activity in our life." The quote (Terrence G. Kardong, OSB) from another book demonstrates that this request of God and us is for all Christians the same. It is a general request that "Listening Hearts" addresses.

You can see that I like this book, and I like the fact that a group of people put it together, a team effort of its own which reflects the kind of book this is for people who may be living in a community or team setting. It is as if a whole group thought these were good things, and a way to hear what God is saying.

One needs confirmation in the subject area of discernment and acts of discernment, so there is a need for a book like "Listening Hearts." The book suggests this confirmation by community, and offers a guide to the book's use by groups. The appendix titles: "Guidelines for Discernment Groups;" "Types of Questions to Raise When Serving in Discernment Groups;" "Suggestions for Recognizing and Encouraging Ministries;" "Informal History of the Project and the Research Methods Used" by Suzanne Farnham. Authors of the book: Suzanne G. Farnham, Joseph P. Gill, R. Taylor McLean, Susan M. Ward. This edition is, "With Newly Formulated Guidelines for Discernment," and the "Newly Revised Edition."

Some chapters are shorter than others. "Supporting the Ministries of Others" is a shorter chapter, but a necessary one for a book like this. I say a book like this, because it talks of living in community: "Without support, ministry may become lost. Without support, we may become lost." It isn't the length of chapter that is important, nor the pithy nature of the text, but the direct and practical way theological matters are explained. There is a common sense to this book.

To emphasize the quest for God as subject for man and woman, the introduction quotes Soren Kierkegaard (1835): "What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know...The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do...What good would it do me to be able to explain the meaning of Christianity if it had no deeper significance for me and for my life?" "Listening Hearts" is an aid in this journey of finding deeper significance in life. Not too long, written in a readable manner for the general reader, the book is good for group discussion and for individual reading.

I don't think the writers considered this book the end or maybe even the beginning of a book on the subject of discernment. But among those available, this is an excellent one to have on hand, to read. The intent is to help with a living a question of what God may want for us, as living the good and bad in our lives is a living in the tensions of life with God. "Thus we gain hearts to listen and respond to God's call."

--Peter Menkin, Easter 2007
Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community  Nov 10, 2006
This book was recommended by my spiritual advisor. I was struggling with my call as a deacon. This book helped me look at the whole picture, not just a call in ministry, but a call in one's life. It clarified for me many things and I was able to see clearly the path to which I have been guided. It was also very helpful in how to help others discern their call.
Do you hear what I hear?  Aug 11, 2004
Too many people see 'vocation' as a narrow thing, something that is designed only to ask 'should I become a priest?' or 'should I enter the ministry?' In fact, there are many ways of being God's servant and following God's call in the world, and the ordained ministries are but one narrow band of this. 'Listening Hearts' is designed to take a community approach to seeing what God's call is in the world.

The word 'vocation' comes from the Latin vocare -- to call -- and thus has a wide range of meanings, biblical and spiritual, as well as outside accumulations onto the concept. The authors here derive inspiration from the Quaker practice of silence and reflection (a clearness process) as well as other spiritual processes, many of which are elaborated in more detail in works referenced in the bibliography, a great resource for those interested in issues of vocation.

A call is different from a job -- a career can be a vocation, in the sense that it encompasses more than 'just a job'; teaching is a career and a vocation, for example. To be a teacher involves more than just being paid to be in a classroom; indeed, one can be a teacher without being employed as one in a school. The same holds true for God's call in ministry -- just as a career (again derivative of more ancient meanings, literally meaning a path one follows, like the career of the earth around the sun) can be narrowly defined or more broadly held, so too can a vocation to ministry be understood in terms of many aspects of living one's life. C.S. Lewis famously discouraged a friend from becoming a priest, fearing that it would cease to be a valid vocation and slip into the 'just a job' kind of situation.

Communities, under the ideas presented here, are less susceptible to the kinds of self-deception that some are likely to experience in seeing themselves in certain roles. Are we hearing God's call, or our own desires and petitions? Similarly, ministry is not conducted in a vacuum: ministers act for and with others, and require the support of community for their actions to have efficacy and validity.

There is a flaw in this, that is not covered in this book, but one hopes might be addressed at some point in discernment processes: the definitnion of community is never made clear. What happens when there are competing communities? What happens when the local church is at odds with the regional or national (or international) church? What happens when a discernment group at a local parish supports a particular candidate in a certain vocation, but the distant powers-that-be do not?

Another issue that is not addressed in this text, which I feel (given the experience that I and many other have had in discernment processes) needs to be addressed is this: what happens when one is not dealing with a community of integrity? What happens when the rector or a particularly powerful congregation member blocks the discernment process from even beginning? What about institutional issues -- how does the 'listening hearts' process work for a Roman Catholic woman, given that their institution will not recognise a call to priesthood, however much the listening hearts group might see that call clearly? What happens when a hierarch in a local church decides for whatever reason he doesn't like someone, and so doesn't permit a listening hearts group to be formed? It is somewhat irresponsible (but unfortunately has happened, in this reviewer's experience) that the institution will on the one hand say that discernment cannot be done alone, without community, but then will refuse to be the community in which discernment should be done.

The authors here quote an anonymously authored document on servant leadership, which said: to ignore or resist a call may fracture us further, widening the split between what we subscribe to inwardly and what we do outwardly. The authors undoubtedly meant this to mean for individuals that they should not ignore a call from God. They remain mute about what it means for a community to ignore the call, or be left in ignorance about a call. In that regard, this book has a serious flaw.

These flaws aside, in any situation where the community does come together in honesty and love to address issues of vocation, this will be a useful and helpful guide, and I have recommended it to many, and indeed used it myself with the group I formed after I left my church, and found many wonderful revelations about myself, about the world, about the nature of vocation, and about God. I truly wish this might have been done in my own 'native' Episcopal community.
This book helped me  Dec 13, 2003
I read this book about 10 years ago as I began to wrestle with questions of vocation. I felt called to ministry, possibly ordained ministry. I had far more questions than answers and didn't know where to begin.

Recommended by my pastor, this book gave me a vocabulary and suggested a process for listening to who God calls me to be. It also offered important advice on the benefits of listening in the context of community.

The book is accessible but rich. I found that individual chapters bear rereading at various times in my life. I attribute this to the prayerfulness of the authors, who used many of the discernment ideas they describe in the book to write the book itself.

The bibliography is a list of classics on Christian discernment and spirituality that have stood the test of time. Many of the books listed in the bibliography have become important parts of my journey as well.

I am glad I read the book and recommend it to others beginning or continuing their own discernment process.

Incredibly helpful  May 15, 2001
Six years ago, my priest used this book with a group of seniors at Gordon College to help us learn more about listening to God in the context of testing our call to ordained ministry. This book is simply incredible. God used it powerfully in my life!

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