Considering the Heart of Community... Courage and Renewal (Day 12)

Last evening (Monday) was spent in community sharing our last few hours with Parker Palmer and
being nourished by the soul touching music of Carrie Newcomer.

Parker took some extended time answering some well crafted questions that were created at our supper time table group conversations.  I was deeply touched by his response to a question (stated more complexly than this - but essentially) "What is true?  Why does it matter?

If I understood Parker correctly, truth is important because any truth is our truth... a truth grounded in our experience, a truth that shapes our reality.  There is no truth capital "T" - except the truth that we seek and create in community, truth that is shared and owned - and this truth is ever evolving... that its more important to be in relationship than to be right.  Parker also reminded me of the wise words of a fellow Canadain, Jean Vanier who said "community is the continual act of forgiveness..."  In the next breath Carrie Newcomer ended our time with two of her signature songs - one I made a link to on yesterdays entry and the other, connected to Parker's quote from Jean Vanier took my heart to a very soft place.
Silver                          Carrie Newcomer
Will you love me when we go silver
When our ears and noses get bigger
When Arthritis starts to nag
And our best parts start to sag

Will you love me in reading glasses
Kiss my neck and still make passes
And our grandchildren we'll scandalize
By holding hands and making eyes

There is no real way of knowin'
But if things keep goin' the way they're goin'
I will promise you again
I will be with you and we'll be the best of friends

Will you love me if I babble
Let me win sometimes at scrabble
Will you help me bare the load
And be somebody I'm still proud to know


Will I still be what you need
When I drive below posted speed
Lay down like spoons in quiet wonder
And love me years and days without number

Will you love me when life hurts
Wake me up if I fall asleep in church
Sit beside me when evening comes
And count our blessing one by one?

Will you love me when we go silver...

Being so far from home drawing near to Anna and I's 25th Wedding Anniversary, this song touched me in some pretty deep places - and this probably contributed to the deep, vulnerable reflective place that my spirit went to over the rest of the day.

Our task, in small groups was begin to examine the community or communities we are part of and look at where the habits of the heart are evident.  There are many communities that I am a part of that I could have chosen to examine - and in a manner of speaking I held each of them for a time - but, I focused on two communities: the community of Chaplains I am part of and the small community of men that I have been meeting with each month now for going on almost a year.

Yes, we Chaplains are a community.  We may not share the same physical space, nor do we share all the same beliefs - but we share similar values - we share common space in our concern for those who are incarcerated and this draws us together in community.

Habits of the Heart (see earlier entries for an explanation) that I see as strongly evident in our community, habits that are well developed include "a sense we are in this together" and "an appreciation of otherness" - but even as I named these as strong habits I also was called to acknowledge that we hold these in tension...  I align myself well with those with whom I work.  I sometimes do a poor job of doing that with colleagues who are of other spiritual traditions.  We do well at creating community and as community we commiserate well with one another, we share the struggle well with each other but we struggle with holding tension in creative life-giving ways  that lead to finding our voice and agency.

This of course let me to reflect more deeply on how the venture of KPC Inc. is for me a spiritual one... this step is in fact a living out of a habit of the heart.  In daring to begin the conversation that led to founding of KPC Inc. I found my voice... and this of course leads to a new tension for me - for now I and others are leaders in this community we are part of... let me say more about that...

Early in this journey a colleague offered to me, upon learning that we were forming KPC Inc. and putting forth a response to the RFP that they had "lost three colleagues..."  I remember at the time being stung by this comment.  I now know why - it was a projection.  I as a leader am standing in the "tragic gap" and this person was projecting onto me... that I had changed, that I was now in control... but I haven't changed.  My heart hasn't changed.  It is the same heart that led me into prison ministry that led me into starting the conversation that brought forth our response to the RFP... yes, my role has changed, yes, I may now with others have new responsibilities, but my heart remain the same and it is this this is in tension with our ability to continue to create community among Chaplains and remain a part of that community.  As I pondered these thoughts I came to this poem that was in our material:

May Our Eyes Remain Open

May our eyes remain open even in the face of tragedy.
May we not become disheartened.
May we find in the dissolution
of our apathy and denial
the cup of the broken heart.
May we discover the gift of the fire burning
in the inner chamber of our being—
burning great and bright enough
to transform any poison.
May we offer the power of our sorrow to the service
of something greater than ourselves.
May our guilt not rise up to form
yet another defensive wall.
May the suffering purify and not paralyze us.
May we endure; may sorrow bond us and not separate us.
May we realize the greatness of our sorrow
And not run from its touch or its flame.
May clarity be our ally and wisdom our support.
May our wrath be cleansing, cutting through
the confusion of denial and greed.
May we not be afraid to see or speak our truth.
May the bleakness of the wasteland be dispelled.
May the soul’s journey be revealed
and the true hunger fed.
May we be forgiven for what we have forgotten
and blessed with the remembrance
of who we really are.

The Terma Collective, Life Prayers from Around the World

It will be so very important for all of us to have eyes open and we continue to move into this new model of Chaplaincy services - the movement will require trust on the part of all of us - not the least of which will be the Chaplains for KPC Inc., and KPC Inc. of the Chaplains that it engages for the provision of service - and let us all not forget who we really are - the heart that brought us to this place of service.


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