Lend a listening earDoral Hayes portrait 

In our modern world where our senses are regularly not just stimulated but over-loaded by images, sounds and people, the ability and the opportunity to really listen can be limited.
Life is lively, colourful, loud and fast paced.  In my view much of this is great, something to be enjoyed and utilized, but at times the fast pace can leave many feeling anxious, restless and burdened.  In the words of the poet W.H. Davies
" What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stop and stare".
It is in the stopping, and in the reflecting that we can listen. To ourselves, to our friends, colleagues and loved ones and to what God might be saying to us.
This is not a modern problem.  In the Old Testament we see the story of the boy Samuel being restive and unable to sleep.  It takes Samuel a while for him to recognise God’s voice and he attributes it to Eli before finally responding 'Speak Lord, for your servant is listening'. There are many examples in Christ's ministry of him listening to others’ stories, of people wanting to listen to him and indeed of Jesus taking himself away from both noise and people to listen.
One example is of Christ as a twelve year old boy spending time in the temple listening and learning from the church elders and also speaking with them.  Hoffman’s painting "The boy Jesus in the temple" shows others listening to him, with church elders looking on quizzically, mystified by this young boy who is holding their attention. Much of what they heard would have challenged them, moved them in their faith.  How often do we really listen and allow ourselves to be moved in our faith, our relationships and our behaviour?
One of the main events in the calendar of Interchurch Families is our annual weekend away.  As well as listening to interesting speakers and sharing the experience of other families, couples get a chance to hear from each other, to really listen to each other.  In the everyday work of married life these opportunities can be too rare. This experience can leave us moved and challenged and has the power to refresh relationships.
Early this month we have our annual London Meeting where we will meet with our new Anglican President, Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro.  Bishop Tim comes to listen to the lived experience of interchurch families as well as to speak with us about his work as co-chair of the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee.  We are looking forward to starting out on this new relationship, one in which both of us will be actively listening to, and supporting, the other. 
In this month of February, we find red roses, hearts and special offers telling us how to show our “special someone” that they are loved. St Valentine is a mysterious historical character and there are a number of theories about who he was, the most likely being that he was a Roman Bishop living in around 250 AD.  He lived as a priest, pastor and healer before he was tortured and martyred, all of which bears little relation to the festival of St Valentine focusing on romance – but he too, as a pastor and teacher, would have focused on building relationships, speaking and listening, just as we seek to do with those whom we love.   
As we consider our relationships this month let us all desire to listen more carefully, to reflect and respond with care and to in our hearts pray “speak Lord, for your servant is listening".  
Doral Hayes
Executive Development Officer
Association of Interchurch Families



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