(A Blog entry for our Urban Abbey blog, submitted by Anne Omelianowich)
Last Saturday, at the quarterly chapter meeting of The Urban Abbey, we prepared ourselves to select a new member of our leadership counsel. In doing so, we used a selection from Joan Chittister’s new book, Monasteries of The Heart. It challenged us to explore and support the gifts of each in conscious and committed ways.
‘Leaders’, Joan tells us, ‘must be an example to the community of its best self; open, loving, hospitable; committed to study of the Word; kind and understanding of the struggles we all face. The leader must point out all that is good and holy more by example than by words and must value the Gospel beyond public approval. The leader must be committed to the needs and growth of the community and even-handed in their love for the members. The leader must encourage us to be: a sign of the world to come, a bringer of peace, a haven for the homeless, the heart of the temple on the streets of the city, a light in the dark to those who seek peace and human community.’
As we meditated on these directives and shared our thinking in small ‘Listening Groups’, many came to realize that we honestly do not know all of our members in this way. There was a response of yearning to know all in the same way, to the same degree and within this vision. Many agreed that for the most part, those that we do know this well we have come to know within our Listening Groups over a period of time. Those that we have not had that shared experience with are those we know far less well.
We have asked the question in recent chapters concerning the reassignment of members within the Listening Groups, and it has met with resistance. The resistance came from very good reasons largely centered on the Benedictine rule of stability; but for the first time, in a long time, there seems to be a collective listening that hears that now is time for this change.
Another bit from the Monasteries of The Heart says that ‘the self-centered community carves out no new directions, risks no new questions, that might disturb the sleepy apathy that comes to anyone over time.’ With this bit of caution, I would ask us all to listen and consider if, at our next chapter meeting in September, it is the time to change our Listening Groups so that we might come to know, understand and appreciate one another more fully, enabling us to share and discover each other’s unique gifts. If we did know one another this well, what might we become as a community?
Faithfully, Anne Omelianowich