Rev. Algernon Lewis
Chairman of PEC

Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him. This motto has guided the Moravian church over these five centuries. Our spiritual forebears were very deliberate in their ministry. They emerged at a time when the ministry of the church of the day was more form than substance and the church bore little resemblance to what Jesus had intended. God raised up people who were more concerned about the integrity of the gospel than with personal power and prestige. They answered the call and stepped out in faith, being guided by the Spirit of God. This bold, courageous move was undergirded by unceasing prayer and commitment to obedience.

With this much legacy in the background, there is a tendency to think that we have seen it all, done it all, and are experts at it all. With that mindset, passion and focus are threatened and mission drift can set in. Mission drift speaks of the tendency to wander off the trajectory that has been set. This was not something our forebears had to deal with. However, in the current season, it is part of our reality. The zeal for mission and the cry for souls for the Lamb are not as potent. Other than in the African Provinces, growth seems illusive.

This birthday of the Moravian Church meets us at a critical point. A choice must be made as to whether we want to be a church that lives in the past or one that builds on the revelation of God from the past. There is no doubt that God led our forebears and showed up in unmistakable ways. Being unmistakably led by God is part of our DNA and therefore part of our usable past. The church God is calling us to be at this time is one that is sensitive to the move of God and responds in like manner.


This brings me back to the theme for this Province – S.H.I.F.T. In previous columns, elements of the theme have been unpacked – Shift, Seek, and Submit. In this column, the focus will be on Hear and Heed. To hear is to receive or perceive sound. To hear is a physical function in that it is natural once the capacity is present. Once an individual is within earshot and a sound is made, the likelihood is that the signal will be received. It is hardly likely though, that we encode most of the things we hear. Most sounds simply pass through our auditory system. Hearing by itself is foundational but not transformational. Therefore, we need to go one step further.

The oft repeated New Testament phrase, “whoever has ears, let them hear”, has relevance here. Those texts were calling readers to heed the message that was sent. They challenged reader to receive the message sent and act on it. It is therefore not enough to hear; one is called to heed. What does it mean to heed? To heed is to pay attention or to take notice. To heed is to go beyond the physical act of receiving the information to the more intentional act of taking on board that which has been heard.

One might say to heed the call, or the challenge is to put faith into action. This is captured beautifully by Exodus 14 as Moses and the Israelites arrived at the Red Sea and were trapped by Pharaoh’s army. The sting of the people’ complaints were strong in Moses’ ear and he was unsure of the next steps. The text records that Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still” (14:13-14). This suggests that he heard from God that something was about to happen; but he did nothing. However, in verse 15 the tone of the conversation changes and God seems to speak with urgency to Moses indicating that it is time to act. He obviously heard from God before when he assured the people that God would fight for them. It was now time to move out in faith and act on what was heard – Tell the people of Israel to go forward. It was time to heed what was heard.

In order to heed, one must hear. Moses acted on what he heard, and God did the rest. In this time of disruptions and dislocation as it relates to the ministry

of this church, we can look back to see how Moses shifted so that he could hear and heed what God was saying to him and the wider body of the Israelites. It was life and death for them as it is for us. And the same God in on the case ready to shepherd us through.

The space in which the church does its ministry is largely unfamiliar – we have not been this way before. It is a world filled with new opportunities, but they are not always easily discerned. One has to become a student of the culture to understand where the opportunities lie. It is this author’s conviction that God is calling us out of the confinement of the walls of the church and religion, to the trenches where people live. The church must go back the way we came and hear and heed what God is saying and hear and heed what the culture and the people are saying. In other words, God is calling us to listen. Fundamentally, listening is hearing and heeding.

“Leadership begins with listening!” This statement challenged me the first time I heard it. Surely, it must be incorrect as leadership begins with vision or purpose or even a call. Leadership is a function of movement – moving people or an institution from one place to the next. How does one know that movement is required? By hear and heeding – listening – to the various sounds for change in the atmosphere. As a church we are called to listen to God and listen to the people of God.

The liturgical calendar offers us the season of Lent as a time to slow down and be more focused in our relation-ship with God. It can be another religious exercise, or it can be a meaningful time to develop our capacity to hear from God. There is no way to please God unless we can hear from God. It matters not if you have people around you “telling” you what God is saying. Each believer needs to hear what God is saying to her or him in their personal affairs. God wants each believer to know the voice of God and to discern it amid all the other voices that are competing to be heard.

Nehemiah went into prayer and fasting when those men told him what was happening in Jerusalem. Those men were sent by God to activate Nehemiah. He could have brushed them aside as he was set in life. But he listened to that word from God and his mission began. There needs to be more listening to God. Over the years this has become the domain of the ordained.

That is wonderful. However, God speaks to all who will listen – open revelation. God wants the ordinary saint to hear as well and know what to say and how to represent the kingdom.

During the season of Lent we get to practice our listening. Setting aside time for prayer and fasting is an excellent way to begin. Some choose a day in the week to fast and pray while others have daily habits. Fasting may be of various types; the general emphasis being of going without something that is a regular part of life – meals, sweets, social media, places, negative habits. There are other spiritual disciplines such as study, silence, service, and meditation that can be part of our listening to God.

In our context we are accustomed to hearing scripture read and interpretation given. That is necessary as it helps us understand the deeper meaning of the word. There is a practice called “Dwelling in the Word” – a way of letting God address people through Scripture rather than using scripture as a source from which one preaches. “Dwelling in the Word” invites the Holy Spirit to enliven a biblical text among us, so that we become aware of and responsive to what God is doing. This is a practice of listening to God through the text and through one another” (Roxburgh 2015).

Dwelling in the Word is not Bible study where commentaries and study guides are used to understand the text. Dwelling suggest “sitting with” or even “living in.” In this practice we bring ourselves before the text with others and are open to what we hear from the text when it is read. It is not about getting it right but listening for what the Spirit may be imparting to us as we listen to the text and listen to what others say about the text. Often, in this setting, a tapestry is woven around that text as persons share what God spoke to them as they listened. This is not interpreting the text as much as it is hearing what the text is saying to the individual. Like any other practice, time brings greater understanding.

Some may be uneasy about persons sharing their thoughts or what they heard from Scripture. Like all other matters of faith, there is an element of vulnerability. When we approach practices asking the Spirit

of God to lead us, we are usually led to where God desires. The Spirit of God also knows how to silence other voices or cause contrary thoughts to evaporate from the atmosphere. When God speaks there is usually a resonance in the individual who is open to hear and heed.

Listening also involves the people God has called us to serve. If the message of God is accurately received but knowledge of the context is inaccurate, failure will result. The context determines how the message is delivered. There are many wonderful sermons that failed to reach the target audience because the delivery was inadequate. This is a new posture for the church as we are accustomed to imparting. This is a growing edge for the church. To go listening is not a negation of the Great Commission. It is a recognition that there are many things that we must learn from our community so the message can be structured for the said community. When we listen to our communities, we are less likely to have preconceived notions about the reality and can properly understand people’s lived experiences. This forces the church to be more deliberate about our lived testimony rather than our spoken words. We are better at speaking than living.

Listening positions the church to hear people on their terms – their joys, their sorrows, and their challenges with faith. When we go listening, adopting the posture of follow sojourners, it should help us just to listen what people are saying without passing judgement. It is difficult to listen neutrally. But it one way for us to reach our community for Christ. This is neither new nor strange for us as Moravians. A study of the ministry of John Hus would reveal that he was effective because he tapped into the issued faced by the people of his day. The same may be said for the efforts our church in the Caribbean to create schools to educate our forebears. It is not new. That is why the call is for us to go back the way we came so that we can reconnect with community and reconnect with what God is doing all around us.

As we celebrate this milestone, let us think deliberately on how we can shift to the place God is calling us. Let us hear and heed – listen – for how God is moving us into place. Let each of us inquire of God as to what we should be doing. All of us can hear and heed. There is something for each of us to do in shifting to a new place in God. Let us use this time of Lent to realign ourselves for what God is doing.