Reading: Chapter 4 - Ministry by a Lonely Minister This chapter brings us home. Over the last few weeks we've sought to understand the hopeless man, who is a part of a rootless generation, living in a dislocated world. In this final chapter we allow ourselves to be present to our own personal wounds - to recognize that they are as real and deep as those we see around us. Yet we can also affirm that because we experience these deep wounds we are in fact in a better position to offer ourselves as a facilitator of healing and hope. 1) Henri begins by articulating one of the deepest human pains - loneliness. a) What are some areas of our inner lives that Henri is referring to with this word loneliness? b) Take some time to consider signs and symptoms of loneliness in your own heart and life - for some it will be very obvious, but others will have to think creatively in order to identify how loneliness manifests itself (You may choose to not share your reflections, but this is a good activity none the less.) c) Can you recognize the habits, techniques, distractions you've developed in your life in order to cover over feelings of loneliness? 2) As the chapter progresses we begin to see how such a deeply painful experience of loneliness can in fact be the very tool that transforms us into effective ministers. Henri asks each of us to let the pain of loneliness lead us on a courageous and honest journey inward to our center, where we can allow our Creator to set us free, and learn to be at home there. a) How does one begin to learn to be at home in one's own skin? b) Can you describe a moment when you tasted the freedom of being at home with yourself and with God? What led you to that moment? c) How can we be sure that once we arrive at our own center, we will "know that being alive means being loved"? (p98) 3) Henri suggests that people who are at home with themselves are able to create a safe space for others to "dance their own dance, sing their own song, and speak their own language without fear." a) Have you ever known someone who seemed truly at home in their own skin - did you feel the freedom to "dance" in their presence? 4) Finally, Henri really emphasizes that as ministers we are not meant to try to solve people's problems for them. Rather, "when people come with their loneliness to ministers, they can only expect that their loneliness will be understood and felt, so that they no longer have to run away from it but can accept it as an expression of the basic human condition" (p99). a) How can this type of acceptance of another relieve suffering, and bring health to a person's life or to a community? b) How can we find the balance between being comfortable with woundedness - ours and others, while not glorifying it, feeding it, exhibiting it, or over-emphasizing it? Once again, I encourage you to share whatever came up for you through the reading. I offer these questions simply to get us thinking and sharing. Looking forward to hearing from each of you!