Bethel Pastoral Centre
Prayer Day February 5, 2014
“Bethel” is what we call ourselves. The day offered opportunity for staff and council members to reflect and pray, to meditate and to have creative conversations about who we are, both personally and as an institution. Our “work” was led by John Bottomley who had prepared three movements which began with the place that Jacob had rested in the Genesis narrative, Bethel.
Preparing for the Journey: The well-spring of God’s created order
Genesis 28: 11-19
11He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12And he dreamed that there was a ladder* set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13And the Lord stood beside him* and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you and in your offspring. 15Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ 16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He called that place Bethel;* but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
Surely the Lord is in this place! The general sense of our conversations was clear affirmation for the sacred work that Bethel is doing. The ladder and the coming in and out of angels held parallels for each of us in attendance. The theme of “gate of heaven” and “hospitality” emerged as markers for the ministry provided at Bethel. Reflecting back, the efforts made in recent months to provide new furnishings and create a caring and welcoming space for clients and visitors was affirmed. Marilyn’s role in welcoming people to Bethel and the provision of hospitality was honoured and affirmed also. The stone at Jacob’s head may represent the uncomfortable nature of clients who seek wholeness and healing at our centre which links in with the notion that people take a significant risk with themselves in coming to Bethel, that the charism of hospitality makes it possible for something of the Kingdom of God to be made known to our clients.
The Journey Begins: Jesus’ healing love
Jacob Sends Presents to Appease Esau
3 Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4instructing them, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; 5and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favour in your sight.” ’
6 The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ 7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8thinking, ‘If Esau comes to one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.’
9 And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, “Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good”, 10I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children.
A number of parallels to our own journeys of faith emerged as well as for the work in which Bethel engages. The themes of “coming home” and the “fear and distress” in key moments of reckoning were evident. “Surrender to God” and “helplessness against stronger forces” were recognised in Jacob’s response to his situation. His shrewdness did not go unnoticed nor was it forgotten that Jacob’s treachery against his father and his brother was at the root of his alienation in the first place. Despite Jacob’s treachery, God continued to bless him and provide a way toward reconciliation with his brother and with God. These ponderings led us to consider Bethel’s role and response to perpetrators of abuse within the church. In turn this paved the way toward an increased clarity about who/what Bethel is. The role of prayerful approach to discerning the way into the year was affirmed.
24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ 27So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28Then the man* said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,* for you have striven with God and with humans,* and have prevailed.’ 29Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel,* saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
Even when it seems we are alone, we are not alone. The third movement saw a sense of Bethel having “wrestled” with its own identity and purpose which has realised some clarity of focus. There is the sense of a new day emerging in the new year. Further thought will be given to how Bethel might respond to perpetrators of abuse within in the church and thus provide a valuable ministry to those who have alienated themselves from their congregations and themselves.
The issue of Bethel’s name came for review and in light of the conversations remains as appropriate to its purpose and identity. The logo however does not reflect well the centre or its work and further consideration ought to be given to changing the logo.
The prayer day affirmed the valuable ministry that Bethel provides. It also affirmed the roles of each of our council members and made space for us to gain new insights into each other. It was noted that 2013 had seen considerable change and that this day saw Bethel in a new place. During the course of the day Marcel was appointed to the co-ordinator role, affirming the leadership he has provided and giving clarity to his position. This made space for clarity around the next appointment of counsellor and educator. Further to that Marilyn’s position description ought to be reviewed (and has since done so.) This style of gathering was appreciated by the entire council and staff, all of whom were in attendance. Paying attention to the Spirit, as did Jacob, is a valuable way of discerning the way forward. Further planning days will do well to follow this model.