Christian listening is a concept that was developed by the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation which was set up Bishop Morris Maddocks and his wife Canon Anne Long in 1983. The courses centred on listening to God, oneself, others and society.

Ken Yates lives in North Hykeham and he did the course in 1992 at The Sub Deanery at Lincoln Cathedral.

Ken said: “The course was split into six modules spread over 12 weeks so there is plenty of time for reflection in-between the sessions although you do have to make space to study the course material too. We would practice our listening during the sessions, working in twos, swapping between talking and being the listener. Then we discussed it and gave feedback on how we felt the other person had come across. 

“What I found surprising is that you have to really concentrate on listening to what the person is saying as the essence of the course is to reflect back to the person what they are saying, not what you think they are saying which could be different. What is often the case is that people think they are saying one thing, when in actual fact they are saying something else and so it’s about getting them to really hone in on what they do want to say.”

Another important element of the Christian listening interaction is that you have to ensure you are being non-judgemental; so keeping your facial expression in a neutral state is very important. You are not there to give advice, nor to agree or disagree with what the person is saying.  “I really enjoyed the course but did find it very difficult not to give advice as you want to help the person solve their problem” Ken said, “but just talking can give relief to someone who has problems which is what the course is all about. I also learnt not to talk so much!”

The course has several elements to it and one of these looks at the importance of body language as people subconsciously display a range of feelings which the listener also has to take note of. Bereavement, and the various stages of it, were also covered, “My wife Ann sadly died recently and people sometimes say that they know how I feel because they have been bereaved but of course they don’t as feelings are individual to a person but what they can probably do is understand and Christian listening helps with that understanding. 

Prior to retiring Ken had a long career working in management at a large utility company. He now volunteers at a police station working on the counter. “We have a rule that whatever happens at the station, stays at the station. Life isn’t black and white and there is always some good in most people.

“Things have changed so much over the last 27 years and mental health is now much more high-profile and people recognise the importance of it.  I totally believe that there needs to be a whole healing approach to health where mental health is considered just as much as the physical as I feel that there is often a link between the two. 

“I really enjoyed the course and wish I had done it sooner. Although we weren’t able to set up any formalised groups it taught me to be more understanding, sympathetic and to accept people as they are and this has had a really positive effect on my life.”