I’m happy to tell you we had a wonderful community meeting on Oct. 20! There were 27 people in attendance and six people who emailed me with their ideas before the meeting. The first hour was spent on introductions and establishing some guidelines for our time together. It was very rich sharing. The specific topic we addressed was the need to find another place to meet for mass, given that St. Andrew’s is being sold. A number of community members agreed to come up with a list of possible places and the cost for each. I’ll follow up with that in another newsletter in a couple of weeks, when we’ve heard back from everyone.
We began our meeting with a short candle and prayer ritual. There was an expectant, hopeful, energetic atmosphere. We began with some guidelines for the discussion ahead and then we agreed to trust the Holy Spirit’s presence and move intuitively and responsively through our time together. We recognized many St. Brigid’s people were present in spirit thought not present in the room, and we remembered we were there to think on behalf of the entire community.
We then moved to short introductions of ourselves, so we could get to know one another. That was very rich sharing. Some things we noted through that process:
the amount of diversity and richness in the community, in terms of e.g., theology, culture, religious background, and areas of interest – but we recognized that we all had come together in support of St. Brigid’s, and through the love of God and the desire to make some good changes in the world.
We agreed that St. Brigid is a wonderful, strong, powerful matron saint for our community, a treasured ‘touchstone’ for who we are; the Celtic tradition is earthy and rich and a powerful stream within the Catholic tradition. It was noted, too, that there are also some other cultural/spiritual streams present through the people in our community so we also we need to look for ways to surface these and connect them with one another, in true catholic fashion. The Spirit of Vatican II was named as an inspiration for our visioning.
Monica suggested a few wisdom words to guide us: Joy, Hope, Courage, Confidence, Curiosity, and Trust!
These are other things to keep in mind as we move forward: to have a goal of creating a culture of candour and kindness; agreeing to disagree; recognizing the task of creating community is not an easy one (as St. Paul could attest), but that if remember we are committed to a vision that is greater than all of us, and that we are surrounded by the love of God that is greater than all of us, we will be able to persevere and succeed, happily. One task for everyone is to commit to honour all our different ways and talents and insights, and so on — knowing that there are many parts in one body, all of them important and valuable.
Monica presented a way of discussing the needs and future of the community called “Appreciative Inquiry:” an asset-based approach to discernment, growth and change, wherein the focus is not on ‘what’s wrong’ but on ‘what’s right,’ and how can we build on what we have. The key words in this framework are:
- DISCOVER: The identification of characteristics/processes that work well.
- DREAM: The envisioning of characteristics/processes that would work well in the future.
- DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing characteristics/processes that would work well.
- DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design/plan.
This inspiring statement from well-known community-builders Margaret Wheatley and her co-author of Walk Out, Walk On, Deborah Frieze, is helpful: “It is common sense to bring stakeholders [i.e. people who care] together in conversation when you seek new solutions for the common good. We believe that when human beings are invited to work together on what truly matters to them, they will take ownership and responsibility for moving their issues and ideas into wiser actions that last.”
Around 11 a.m., one person had to leave and we took a short break. Upon return to the circle, we decided that, given the constraints of time, we would need to focus on either values/visioning or practical matters, especially the need for a new meeting place. We decided to proceed with a discussion about a new meeting place, with Don Tait and Fred Williams presenting on their positive visit to the Reform Synagogue. A few other people had suggestions for other places to try. In the end, six people said they would look into other venues and come up with a report on those places which included the following information: location of the place, cost, when we can meet on Sunday, storage space, insurance, and availability of the venue during the week for other meetings. Each of the six will send their report to Don and Fred for gathering into one document. Everyone felt we need to move forward on this soon, and not wait for St. Andrews to suddenly tell us we have to go. The invitation was issued to everyone to be on the lookout for a suitable place and gather information if they saw one.
Closing Ritual: Everyone lit a tea light from St. B’s candle or hearthkeeper candle. We stood at our places with our candle and recited together, again, the hearthkeeper blessing. Invitation given to all to take home tealight and a copy of the prayer, to keep praying with, in the weeks until we meet again.