Whilst training for ordination I had the unexpected opportunity to go on a short counselling course at Bristol University. Paid for by the FE college, where I had a placement, this course taught me the fine art of reflective listening. Looking back I can see that going on this course was no accident, it gave me some essential skills for the future - which at the time was unknown to me. Reflective listening however wasn't the only skill I have needed to develop, in the Christian context it has to be integrated with what I call Holy Listening. The task of discernment of sorting out mentally the wheat from the chaff; the ability to distinguish between personal desire and God at work; making sense of the hunch or the intuitive response and using it effectively to move someone on, or make a perceptive insight or challenge by naming that which could remain unsaid.
Today I give thanks for spiritual directors, friends and mentors who have listened to me in a holy way over the years and seen God at work there through my words spoken to them. Listening for God's insights is not always easy and is something I will go on learning. It has been an essential tool over the last few days here in Ely and, at a time, when many clergy need someone to walk alongside them and listen, when Ministry Development Review is becoming more and more important and time is scarce, it is something to willingly offer.