Reflections on an open space…

To my good friends–

Last night was the closing circle. The last man to speak was an ex-Marine, rugged, silent. He passed the stick to me without speaking–and then withdrew it with a grin. We came in here as many, he said, “now we are one.”

One man said we were tired, “but it is a good tired.” That is perhaps something else we can promise people–you will be tired, drained, but it will be a good tired.

In the closing circle, there was also talk of coming together, of hearing and meeting each other for the first time after so many years of brief meetings in coffee hour after church. This was an OST on the theme “How then shall we serve?” in my home church. The subtitle was “Where we invent, rally support for, and choose our service projects for this year.” Lutherans are not known for being aggressive in the service arena.

It was a good event. Much got started, many promises were made, some will inevitably not be kept. I felt the energy was down from the night before… yet there were groups who clearly did not feel it was over because they went on meeting well past the appointed time, and came back to each other informally. Still, I was feeling let down by it. Why?

Perhaps it was because of the sadness of the end coming, the end of this time of meeting. Perhaps it was because I was tired, exhausted. Perhaps it was because I was not part of the rich conversations, a rowboat moored to a far off island, hearing only the echo of random syllables across the water. Perhaps it was because I knew so much more was possible.

And so I must continue to invite, to open spaces.

The questions I asked people to address in the closing circle were: How (not what) did we learn? Who are we now?

We had probably 30 people in all attend this 4 day event, and we averaged around 23 each evening. The fourth evening is tonight and I expect a drop off as we head into actual work projects. The sessions were from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, Sunday through Wednesday evenings.

One of those projects is painting the walls of the fellowship hall. This I see as the hallmark of this gathering. It was proposed the first evening, and had a great deal of enthusiasm around it. The lady who said “You know, what I’d like to see is…” had to be encouraged by several others from all around the room to post this topic. Then the excitement was in the room! This was a highly symbolic decision to be taken–and carried out. The room had not been painted since the building was built 26 years ago. We had felt locked into the colors chosen decades ago by our architect. Now we are breaking loose, showing ourselves that we can do the impossible. By Tuesday evening ladders and drop cloths were in the room, and about half the edges had already been painted, meaning there was now no turning back.

There were 5 or 6 topics posted for Sunday evening, and 4 sessions held; 7 or 8 proposed for Monday, and 6 held; and 6 proposed on Tuesday and 5 sessions held. After that we reopened the space for action planning and two projects were posted. Three sessions were held! Tuesday evening there was an evening long butterfly conversation by two gentlemen who were not members of the congregation, but others butter-flew around them and one of them reported rich conversations in the process. The book of proceedings had 15 reports. That is interesting to me because when we came into Tuesday only 6 reports had been turned in. Several people took turns entering reports into the computer for others and the job was done. We put the reports into the copier, pushed the button, and walked off to the closing circle. When we were done, we had copies for everybody, and three of us stapled and handed them out.

The committee provided baby-sitting, rides for those who needed them, and food, all without cost or baskets for donations.

There were no tears in the closing circle and I wonder about that. They were perhaps not ready to open that much space. Whatever happens, whoever comes, when it’s not over….

:- Doug.

Published in: Conversations | on September 28th, 2005 | No Comments »

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