Festival of Christ the Chief Elder
November 10, 2013
Deciding or discerning?
Today Moravian Churches celebrate the Chief Elder Festival. Nearly 300 years ago, the term “chief elder” referred to an individual entrusted with the spiritual oversight of the Moravian community. People looked to the chief elder for guidance, encouragement, correction, and care. But as the church spread in mission, the position became overwhelming. In response, the leaders felt led in a new direction: Christ himself would be Chief Elder of the Moravian Church. On November 13, 1741, this was announced to the Moravian congregations . . . and met with joy.
Christ as our Chief Elder. What might this mean for us today?
When we are faced with important decisions as individuals and churches, it’s natural to respond with the same approaches used by the world around us: we gather information, weigh possibilities, make a choice, and act. We become “decision makers.” But what if, as our forebears believed, Christ our Chief Elder is willing and able to actually lead us? Doesn’t this suggest a profound change in our methods? Instead of simply “deciding,” aren’t we instead called to “discern”-to discover and follow the will of our Chief Elder?
Discernment begins when we open our decisions to God, intentionally inviting God’s leading. It includes “making space for God” by identifying and releasing our preconceived notions, biases, and fears. Prayerful atten-tion to the witness of Scripture, noticing God’s activity already at work in a situation, and receptivity to the input of trusted Christian sisters and brothers have their place. Faith, humility, silence, and patience are impor-tant too. Discernment-we Moravians might call it “consulting with the Chief Elder”-is a learning process, centered upon our desire for God. For those willing to pursue it, it is an adventure. Who knows where our Chief Elder might lead?
Are you facing an important decision? Have you consulted your Chief Elder? Will you decide . . . or will you discern?
David Geyer, pastor, College Hill Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pa.