Roger Gottlieb’s book Engaging Voices reminded me of an experience we used to have at a 5-day Christian prayer retreat program for youth ministers. The group that gathered was very diverse theologically and at the beginning of the week half the people in room probably wouldn’t have thought the other half were even Christians! The format of the retreat was such that we didn’t give the participants much chance to talk to each other, much less begin to argue about who was right on some hot button issue. They could only pray, be in silence, and listen to each other. By the end of the week the large room overflowed with appreciation, gratitude, and love for one another. The potential divisive bickering was not only avoided, it was transcended. Gottlieb is correct in identifying silence and listening as great sources of love and compassion; attributes the world sorely needs.
Dan Wolpert is a Spiritual Director and Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Crookston, MN, and the director of the Minnesota Institute for Contemplation and Healing (MICAH).