|A pleasant path in Duke Gardens|
Because the idea for an Aldersgate house-church included the concept of having Divinity students live in the house, the district superintendent suggested that I contact Elaine Heath, who is the relatively new dean of Duke Divinity School. The dean has a special interest in intentional living communities, she told me.
Right around the time I had that conversation, I received a copy of The 2016 Dean’s Report of the Divinity School. It began with a feature story on Elaine Heath and how she is different from previous deans.
The story included many interesting things, three of which “struck” me. One, the new dean has a lot of experience forming intentional Christian communities; and two, her method of spiritual discernment involves a process of: “show up, pay attention, cooperate with God, and release the outcome.” I liked that a lot.
And three, Heath is a mystic. By this, I do not mean an extraordinary person who has esoteric experiences of God. I mean an ordinary person who seeks to know God better and to love God more faithfully through prayer. I mean a person who doesn’t just pray for things but who seeks to know and love God through prayer. These people tend to have experiences of God, in prayer.
In fact, the story ended with Heath’s vision of God as “three wiry old grandmothers.” I was delighted by this image. When Heath, in prayer, expressed her frustration at the long, drawn-out process of change, God said: “We try to avoid coercing people. We work with openings. This takes time.”
Since then, I have thought often of the image of God as three old grandmothers, the truth of what was conveyed in the prayer, and how it might relate to what is happening with Aldersgate.
The article gave me the impetus I needed to send Heath an email.