The person seeking discernment is called the “focus person.” In a participating congregation, anyone who wants the help of a discernment group gets in touch with the contact person and then follows these steps:
- Meets with the contact person to learn more about how the program works and to make sure that spiritual discernment is what he or she wants.
- Reads Listening Hearts, 20th Anniversary Edition – at the very least the introduction, chapters 1 through 7, and appendices 1 and 2. The contact person may have copies to lend out.
- Also, the first six chapters of Grounded in God can be particularly helpful.
- Helps the contact person select three discerners to constitute a diverse and balanced group, one of whom will be designated as “the convener.”
- Writes a few paragraphs stating the question to be explored and providing background information pertinent to the issue (see Appendix 1 of Listening Hearts, 20th Anniversary Edition).
- E-mails the aforementioned informational write-up to the convener to distribute to the other discerners. At this point, the convener replaces the contact person as the designated support person.
- Prays daily for oneself and the discerners in preparation for the discernment meeting. When a person requests a discernment group, discernment already has begun. It continues during the preparation, intensifies and takes on an added dimension during the actual meeting, and continues after the meeting has concluded.
Discerners gather not to solve problems or give advice, but to prayerfully listen and gently raise questions that may bring a clearer sense of what God is asking. Discerners treat what is said in a discernment group as highly confidential.
Discernment is a time of becoming aligned with God. Sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit is imperceptible. On occasion a vivid insight emerges. Whether the fruits are known or unknown, time spent together in prayerful listening is always time well spent.
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