Friday, July 28, 2023

Spiritual (mystical) experience


Reflecting on a spiritual experience continues. What was the setting?  What were the outcomes, still continuing.

The year was 1973, the third Sunday in March, and I was the guest celebrant at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bettendorf, Iowa. The next day I would be leaving for Atlanta, GA, where the College of Chaplains would gather for their workshops. I was scheduled to give a paper on the training of lay people to be story listeners in a hospital setting. We began in 1966 and I now had enough experience to let others know about our adventure.

Since I could not find other like programs in the journals I was anxious about the reception. During the prayer of Consecration and the words “he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it”. I lost my voice. I could not speak. My mind went into a life review of rejections.  I don’t know the length of time, enough time for many in the congregation to start wondering if I was getting sick, faint, etc. Then I heard a distinct voice and words. “Broke is not the last word.” My voice came back and I finished the service. The paper was well received. A chaplain across the river in Illinois asked to join me in training lay people for his hospital. We worked together for five years and wrote a book at the request of Howard Clinebell who came to do several workshops for clergy and laity in the community.

The words and experience were the beginning of a creative pastoral adventure culminating (2013) in a six session DVD on the Healing Power of Story Listening. The art of listening for metaphors became the key for the spirituality of deeper listening. The initial words are also metaphorical, moving to different life events, my mantra for living in crisis, grief, conflict, any transition. They are meno. “He in us and we in Him” from John’s Gospel.

Marlin Whitmer, BCC (Ret.)

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