The Practice of Holding Space for One Another

by | Sep 4, 2015 | Ordinary, Reflections

Here I sit.
This is the time set aside to write a sermon.
I’ve written a sermon, now and then, as a guest preacher.
This sermon is different.
I write it as one appointed to a part-time, six month ministry.
I’m excited.
I really am.


I know
what has most changed
in the long years since my last pastoral ministry is the competing values.

So on this threshold between pew-sitter and worship leader
I offer my fear
and my desire.

My fear.
DSC_3368Some will want many scripture passages read
For some, one is enough.
Some will adore the contemporary reading alongside.
Some will suspect it.
Some will want the traditional Lord’s Prayer, every week.
Some won’t want it at all.
Some prefer it sung.
Some will cringe at this old hymn.
Some will lose themselves in this new one.
As for the sermon, it will be too long, too short, too relevant, not relevant enough.
It will be too plain spoken, too poetic, too harsh, not prophetic enough.


I’m type-shouting because I feel strongly – we should not agree.
We cannot possibly agree across radically different generations and intensely personal experiences of faith.


We must learn the spiritual practice of holding space for one another.

My desire.

We will not like everything.
But we need to know that when we aren’t liking something, someone else is liking it.
It’s that simple.
We shouldn’t like everything.

In the last 15 years as a pew-sitter I learned to carve a holding space in me
and when I didn’t like something I made myself curious about who was liking it.
I hate (ok, strongly dislike) the song: Come in, Come in You are Part of the Family.
I might not sing it. But I might watch for someone else belting it out with heart-pleasure
and together we worship.

I might not be into the prayer offered in actions.
But I let that piece go and wait for the one phrase in a sermon, the one verse of a hymn,
an image I love, the one gesture of greeting
that makes this worship today.

I might not get the sermon each time. But I know someone else will.
Instead, I try to sit and claim this rare time of being still among the generations.
That is worship too.
And the church remains one of the few places for generations to be together.
I like that.

I could go on
but I need to write a sermon.

I’m more certain now
of the prayer praying in me,
that I can faithfully create a worship space
where we can differ in likes and desires
yet be permeable enough to hold space for one another.

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  1. This is an extremely artful and helpful reflection. How good it would be if it could get into the hands of every worshiper. In this transitional time, the tensions you mention that come up in worship preparation are all too real. I tend to be rather judgmental about hymns. many of which express a theology I do not embrace. But they may touch a deep chord for others, and I need to hold that space for them I agree, (Difficult sometimes, though.)

  2. Thank you, Janice. This has named a great tension of which I am deeply aware each time I sit to prepare both worship and sermon each week…As one who has not been a “pew-sitter” for a while, I must also be aware of this so that I don’t just create worship that speaks to people like me, but rather be aware of the many needs within the congregation. Again, many thanks for this reflection.

  3. I love the image of holding space for others. Impossible to please everyone and yet what is key is that people know we care about them. We can’t all agree and at the same time we can hold space to listen and BE. There is a great quote that goes something like this”people don’t care about how much we know they just need to know that we care ” .

  4. This is so timely. What a wonderful reframing of the gifts of diversity and difference in our experiences of worship.A powerful image: “being permeable enough to hold space for one another” while being aware of our different likes and desires. So glad you shared this practice of holding space for one another. I am struck by how this increases our own heart space.

  5. Janice, as you enter into ministry in the way you began, I love you and will pray that you will be blessed and be a blessing to those with whom you minister. I hope your father and I will get to visit some Sunday as we did before.

  6. Janice, I too, love the image of holding space for one another. I appreciate the reminder for those of us sitting in the pews and for those of us leading in worship. blessings as you move into this new yet old phase of ministry.

  7. Janice, a few people in leadership at St. Paul’s are wondering whether we could reprint this for the entire congregation.

  8. Yes. Certainly. Can you attribute with website address? Thanks. Janice

  9. Definitely will give you and the website attribution. If you send me an electronic file of the flyer you sent me to distribute at presbytery, I can get it sent out through the presbytery distribution list.

  10. Thank you, Janice
    Tiffany Jull shared this at a Church in Action meeting this week in Ayr. since I am currently on leave and preparing to return after almost a year away, these were wonderful words to contemplate. I was wondering if I might share them in our weekly e-bulletin as a gentle reminder.

  11. Yes, you most certainly can share them. Blessings to you on your return. Janice

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