Listening Hearts

Sue Ward writes: You may not be familiar with a very special, somewhat quiet ministry at St. Paul’s called Listening Hearts. Listening Hearts helps us face questions, problems or decisions that defy our usual abilities to reason, sift, assess and cope. We all want to be guided by God in making life’s difficult decisions, but left to our own devices, we can end up hearing every voice but God’s; voices of culture, peer pressure, ambition, ego, and so on. Listening Hearts is a chance to settle down and quiet that noise through a process of discernment.

Discernment is the gift God gives us to sort through the various voices to identify that which comes from God. The Listening Hearts approach to discernment is rooted in the idea that we stand a better chance of hearing the Spirit if we listen quietly, in prayer, and together. Years ago I was trained as a Listening Hearts discerner. It made a huge difference in my life by making me realize I could get and give help to others as we struggle together to seek God’s guidance in our lives.

We started the Listening Hearts Ministry here at St Paul’s about 5 years ago and several people have taken the opportunity to ask for discernment. Some comments like “It was one of the most loving, caring, encouraging group experiences I’ve ever had” and “Because of the Listening Hearts experience, I was no longer stuck in self-doubt or uncertainty” and another “Thank you again for this opportunity – what a gift!” I encourage anyone who is struggling with issues in his or her life look into a Listening Hearts discernment session.

What’s it like? Caroline Morse shares some of her thoughts as she went through Listening Hearts several years ago while she was training to be a discerner, and wrote a journal:

November 2005 – My own Discernment. I discovered that as part of my training to become a Listening Hearts discerner, I had to experience Discernment of my own, I had to become the Focus person, write up an issue of my own and receive discernment on it.

I wasn’t so sure how I felt about this. On the one hand, I looked forward to it and thought it might be interesting and helpful On the other hand, I was nervous ahead of time, uncomfortable about the idea of exposing my inner self, being vulnerable with three discerners. There was the possibility one of the discerners might impose their own agenda on me. I didn’t know how comfortable I was about revealing my inner issues, fears and doubts to three “strangers”, even though I knew them and had been hanging out with them for a few days. And of course, they would always know this “inner stuff” of mine. Would they judge me?

But I experienced the Discernment as a very gentle and loving process. The listening and questioning was kind and prayerful. Slowly, gently I became clearer and surer about the direction in my life I was considering. It seemed as if this was really just fine with God. No one imposed their own issues and judgments on me. I sensed the kind and caring qualities of the Discerners. None of the things that I had feared took place. I felt very close to the three people who had so deeply concerned themselves with my issues. And it was a relief to have more clarity in my direction.

December 2009 – as I think back today on that Discernment of my own issue, what I learned is still with me and is a source of comfort. What I experienced in 2005 is still valid four years later.

I am grateful for Listening Hearts in my life. It has taught me to be a better listener, to be still enough to sense the movement of the Holy Spirit in both my own and other’s lives. It’s a process which opens people to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives through prayerful listening and questioning. People have all kind of issues that they can receive help with: personal, career, time and energy, ethical dilemmas. How are they experiencing God’s call? What I like about it is that Listening Hearts doesn’t tell people what to do. Through prayerful listening and questioning, it helps them find their own way with the help of the Holy Spirit.

If you’d like to know more, or would like to schedule a session please contact Susan Ward at

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