This morning's business meeting turned out to be a high light of the Conference for me. What a good time to drop the trappings of corporate culture for a format that reflects a contemplative way of servant leadership! This is a Circle of Service that is not powered by the primitive energy centers. It was presented by Ron with clarity, poetry and beauty. What a business meeting! The balance of the meeting was the distribution of the the clear, easy to understand reports from our President, Treasurer, Nominating Committee, CRCS, Resource Faculty, Circle of Friends. The "Building Community" report with its news about the improved web site, bookstore and even on-line courses was exciting. And the fiinal five minutes of the business meeting was a preview of a new "Heartfulness" video series which features a wonderful interview of Fr. Keating with Betty Sue Flowers that will be released on three DVD's with study guide by March. I was sorry when the meeting was over.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The words "contemplative" and "business" seemed incongruent until I attended today's 2008 Business Meeting of Contemplative Outreach. I am impressed by the Board of Trustee's determination and efforts to find or develop a model of contemplative governance. For the last two years the Board has been prayerfully discerning ways to govern with a contemplative organizational structure based on the servant leadership style of Jesus. Decisions emerge out of group consensus rather than the power of a majority; they rely solely on the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit. When giving the Treasurer's report, Mary Anne Best laughed, explaining that following a serious financial down turn two years ago, the Board decided to made Jesus their Financial adviser. The following year generous donations flowed in and they haven't had financial problems since! God always answers our prayers, sometimes even more generously than we would ask or even imagine. I noticed the atmosphere of the meeting was one of listening and openness to the views of others as well as the Spirit. The usual hierarchal model for officers has changed and is now known as the Circle of Service. The Holy Spirit is at the center of this circle, flowing out in all directions into the committees, the membership and their communities. This style of leadership is 180 degrees from what we are accustomed to in our goal oriented, ego-centered culture. Thank you, Circle of Service, for your continuing efforts to bring about the transformative process in us all.
Here at the Conference, each morning begins with Centering Prayer. Each afternoon ends with Centering Prayer. Hundreds of people sit together in the Silence. This is what gives energy to plans, and renews our patience and generosity on mornings like Friday, when we have Regional Meetings and the Annual Business Meeting. It is easy to see how Spirit inspires the words of Fr. Thomas and Gail, but the equal miracle is how Spirit opens us to do the less exciting jobs with love and with increased care for each other on the journey. For this we are daily grateful.
As I opened the blog this morning, it was so exciting to see what all had been added. Could not help but say, "Three cheers, Ron, for answering the Spirit's call to host this wonderful blog." Not only has he worked tirelessly taking photos, posting video interviews and speeches, doing his own blogging, etc., but he has most patiently nurtured us first time bloggers until we (or should I say I?) got it right. He has done all this while smiling and as we say in Contemplative Outreach, with utmost charity. So, three cheers, Ron, you are doing a great job, and I am sure all those "tuning in" would agree!
Yesterday morning Thusday Fr. Thomas spoke on "Contemplative Outreach Community: Vision and Service." Here attendees await the beginning.
Twice a day, morning and
evening, 200+ of us gather for prayer in this room. The good folks of the Pittsburgh chapter coordinate the sits including gong chimes to mark the beginnings and endings and a special reading to assist us in moving to the "inner room" where God in silence awaits.
David Frenette, who was staffing the information table on retreats on Thursday, was gracious and playful enough to assent to a short impromptu interview. As you'll hear, David fairs better than I, as I begin by asking David about a conference when my intent was to ask about a retreat he and Fr. Thomas are conducting for individuals who have considerable experience with Centering Prayer. Here is David's website Incarnational Contemplation http://www.incarnationalcontemplation.com/main/Home.html.