This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, April 23, 2021
This week I’ve been doing some reading in a whole new way. I can’t say the technology I’ve been using is at all new, but my tapping into it is a new experience, and quite nurturing, quite transformative, I must say.
The technology, the practice, is simply this: listening to an audio version of an article or book with the printed (or screen version) text before me. It’s just an act of simultaneity, I guess, but one that slows me down in good, necessary ways. It reminds me of a reading comprehension centre we had in elementary school, where we sat at little work stations, donning flimsy headphones to listen to stories on cassette (yes, cassette) as we followed along on the page. Educators will explain far better all the technical terms of this reinforcing methodology.
I tend to read too quickly. It’s a poor combination of 1. my lifelong hunger to devour language and the worlds it both creates and restores; and 2. my vocational hazard of needing to take in too much for any given span of time. Reading too quickly is fraught with perils. It impacts thinking and speaking, not to mention comprehending. It fosters a speed of processing that is anything but contemplative.
Enter this week the blessed invitation to read an article by Adam Grant, as published in The New York Times. It was forwarded to me by one of our church family, with the wise recognition of how much it could speak to what and whom I’m encountering in pastoral care these days. First read, I only had the text before me, but then a follow-up text pointed out what I had skipped right over: an audio link, to listen to Adam Grant read his piece. Second read, I had both voice and page, gifting me the time and reflection required to see not just others, but also myself. Grant’s voice, lifting his honest confession and insights, helped me encounter myself.
I don’t know how long I’ll ride this wave of discovery, but I can now tally three pieces in two days where I’ve sought the author’s voice, to speak their words into being. For example: Margaret Atwood has a new story in this week’s New Yorker, in voice and in print. I highly recommend it. I’ve earmarked Barbara Brown Taylor’s ‘Always a Guest’ as next on my listen and read list, and in the meantime, I’ve restarted a book, for the sake of simultaneous intake. Richard Holloway brings an extraordinary grace and humility in narrating his 2018 text, ‘Waiting for the Last Bus’. I’ll say more about it on Sunday, but suffice to say it has accompanied, he has accompanied me and my sermon preparation, with wit, wisdom, and wry, faithful honesty.
I know I won’t always have the time to read in this way, but I’m grateful for the many layers of lesson from this ‘discovery’. Among others, these authors, in their taking of time to offer an accompanying voice, have proven again how powerful it is to have things said out loud. There is an ownership, but also a modelling. Giving voice, giving testimony, giving oneself to expression is an undergirding of authenticity. Each author’s reading is more than an act of accessibility. In lending their voice, somehow it offers another window to them, as author. Their words become more attached to a real person, wrestling with real issues, and offering real suggestions for making it through.
I ask myself if I would choose to listen and read to an author with whom I have disagreement. The answer is, I don’t know, but I think I should. I don’t think I’m easily swayed just by the timbre of voice, but I do think I need to be reminded that we’re all just real people, wrestling with real issues. We must stand against those who suggest injustice as means of coping. That’s non-negotiable for me – but we must still know our shared humanity in it all. I’m going to keep working on that. I’m grateful that you will, too.
With love to you all,
“Giving people what they said they wanted has not made disciples for Jesus.
It has made fans for a religious caricature for Jesus.”
(C. Don Jones, ‘Glorious Life’ Blog, 12 April 2021)
p.s. In follow-up to last week, a note of thanks for your prayers for my in-laws and our friends. Tom is home from the hospital, recovering slowly and ever mindful of his doctor’s summary of how serious his condition became, and how quickly. The rest of their family continues to recover at home. My in-laws are out of quarantine, seemingly free from their exposure scare. Thank God. Chemo has resumed for Joe, We all press on.