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Wednesday
Feb132019

Habits are like muscles 

Habits are like muscles; they get stronger with repeated exercise. You force yourself to do something the first time. You force yourself the second and the third and the fourth. And then, with each subsequent effort, there’s less force required. What was intense effort becomes unthinking reflex or at least something close to that. You just have to trust in that trajectory at the outset.   Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist

Bruni’s insight is at the heart of good parish development work. And it's very, very difficult for intuitives (N) who always seem to seek something new and different. And in the Episcopal Church the clergy are mostly intuitives. A new vision each year. A new project or program every few months.

In the Parish Development Clinics of the Order of the Ascension we help clergy understand ways to increase communal and individual proficiency in spiritual practices and parish listening processes.

We work on methods for taking counsel, for the parish to develop the habits of listening, developing trust in one another, and creating internal commitment to the common life and work. We provide ways to train and guide people in the spiritual practices of the daily office, Eucharist and personal devotions/reflection.

And we raise with all these visionary, driven priests, the need to repeat, repeat, repeat. If you want to offer entertainment – no need to repeat things, in fact it will work against you.

If you want to help people develop Christian proficiency, to establish a prayerful core at the center of parish life, and to do something that will last beyond your time with this congregation – you need to be repetitious. You need to use the same method again and again so the community or some sub unit in the community begin to own it. You need to offer the same program in saying the Daily office every year, knowing that each time there will only be a few participants. But over time you will take the parish into a more prayerful life.

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