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This Spirit, discernment and mission

As I was listening to the app ‘pray as you go’ this week, I was invited to reflect upon the Beatitudes. After they were read out, I was invited to enter into the mind of the crowd, to understand how I would respond to Jesus. The problem was all I could then think of was “blessed are the cheesemakers” from Monty Python! (if you have seen it then you'll understand!). The Spirit and I definitely had a little giggle though. I was easily distracted and either I was missing the point or Jesus just wanted me to smile that day.

We cannot help but bring our whole selves into our prayer lives, which means our experiences of the world will be present as we listen to Jesus. I honestly think that as we meet God, the Spirit can use our experiences to speak to us but they can also be a distraction – it’s a classic ‘both and’ scenario. So how do we grow in our discernment?

There’s no single answer to this question, Ignatian consolidation and desolation, the Bible as a plumb line, previous discernment experience and with the help of others all come to mind. I’m sure we can all add to this very brief list. But what I’ve found foundational to this question is our understanding of the Spirit. If we are joining in with God’s mission, and if the principal agent of that mission is the Holy Spirit, our understanding of the Spirit will influence our discernment and ultimately our missional activity. Who we believe the Spirit to be will impact our life as the church and our missionary nature. Pneumatology (the theology of the Spirit) is foundational to a mission centred church.

For example, If I believe that the Spirit is only at work in the Church, during discernment everything that I’ve experienced in the world will be ignored, and as such how I interact with the world will be from a more combative stance of ‘us verses you’. However, if I believe that the Spirit is at work in the world around me, then as I pray and discern, the things I have experienced in the world may become places of encounter with God, and as such I’ll engage in God’s mission in the world from a ‘working with’ stance. Who the Spirit is, what the Spirit does and where the Spirit is at work tremendously impacts our missional discernment and activity. It’s therefore important that, when possible, we engage with pneumatology.

Through my studies I’ve hugely enjoyed reading and listening to Kirsteen Kim, Amos Young, S.J. Sumartha, John V Taylor, Bevans and Schroder, Cathy Ross, Michael W. Goheen and the incredible catholic Ad Gentes from the second Vatican Council. Not forgetting to mention James G. D. Dunn whom I’m excited to dive into. I may not agree with everything they write, and I always find myself reading the Bible and reflecting on my experience in relation to what I read, but it definitely spurs me on to ask questions and grow in my understanding of the missional Spirit.


Our understanding of who the Spirit is, is foundational to our prayer life, our discernment and our missional life. I encourage you to read, listen, ask questions and grow in your understanding of the Spirit, so together we can develop a better pneumatology for mission and discernment.

Jo Allen

Director: South West


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