Here is my reflection on this year’s retreat. I’ll break this down into three sections. General, People, and Ordination.
The focus of this year’s retreat was Serving Others: Seeking Wellbeing. In our first session, we discussed where the Lindisfarne Community (LC from here forward) started, where it is now, and where it is going -- at least in one area. And it’s to that bit I will focus on.
The LC’s “Mother House” (the building overseen by the Abbess and Abbett) is in Ithaca, New York. It’s where LC started and continues to be a place of ministry and support. Over the last year, one of our priests has been cultivating a “Daughter House” (the building overseen by a Prioress or Prior). This is kind of like a “local chapter” of the Mother House, where the Prior follows closely to the model of the Mother House. In this instance, however, New Seeds Priory also adds a Zen Buddhist element. It’s an inter-spiritual, contemplative practice community. This is an exciting new chapter for our community. It sent my little brain percolating! I’ve been trying to do something similar here in Oklahoma but I’m still in the refining process. I have to find the practices that work well for me but also that’s inviting for the community around me. It was great to see the recognition and support of the community for Scott, the Prior of the Daughter House.
The rest of the session dealt with different aspects of Wellness. The wellbeing of others -- how we take care of others -- and wellbeing of ourselves -- how we take care of us. The sessions were quite good, as I have come to expect, with great information as well as practical applications.
One of the highlights for me was the panel conversations. One conversation focused on the medical field. A lot of people in the LC have a vocation in the medical realm, whether it be on-call support or hospice chaplaincy and/or nursing, or volunteer work. One of the questions posed to this panel was, “How are you Christ in your job?” With some of those positions already mentioned, it seems kind of obvious how those people would answer. But others were not so obvious. But upon reflection, they’re obvious, too. When one does on-call support for crisis types of situations, one has to be compassionate, kind, patient, a deep listener, while feeling for promptings from the Holy Spirit. Some of the examples of that was how a person called frustrated and angry because she had already spoken to several people and “You never listen to me!” The support person was very clear, “Well,” she replied, “you haven’t talked with me.” After a few moments, the caller was calmed down and thanking the support person for being there and listening.
It brought back to my mind something a colleague once said to me after I had been doing some contract work with him. He said, “You should get ‘Minister of IT’ on your business cards. I mean it. I really appreciate how you’ve completely calmed the situation and repaired the relationship between the staff and IT.” I had forgotten that. That panel conversation helped me see that one could be Christ in whatever work environment one is in. The question for us to consider is, “Do we intend that in our places of work? Do we try and exemplify that, no matter what we’re doing?” That panel was a great way of bringing that to the forefront for me. Plus there were some great seeds planted about where one could volunteer in various areas of care. Basically, as I’m sure we’re all aware -- people need help. Who better to bring that aid -- whether it’s just a listening ear or a kind word or a gentle touch -- than people intending to reflect the Love of Christ?
Another aspect of the retreat was on our own wellbeing as givers of care; of giving out all of the time without caring for ourselves. We talked about the various ways this manifests and ways to recognize them beforehand. It seems this is a very widespread problem that goes by many names -- Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Trauma Stress (STS), and Vicarious Trauma. Basically, those are all just other ways of saying “burnout.” You give your support to others, and when you don’t care for yourself, you can lose compassion and empathy until you just come undone yourself. You act out (excessive use of drugs and alcohol, eating and sleep disorders, etc.) until you “hit a wall;” you just don’t care anymore. I’m so thankful to know that there are others who have felt these same types of things I have and found ways of recognizing it and ways of caring for ourselves.
While the focus of the retreat was on wellness, it’s also a time of fellowship. It was great seeing my friends and meeting new ones. There was such an overwhelming kindness and acceptance and companionship and love about getting together with the people from the LC. As Andy our Abbott said, “It’s like a homecoming on one hand and on the other it’s like we never really left.” This sentiment was echoed by many of us.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting James. He’s been a member for a while but this was the first time I’ve ever met him. He’s such a kind, warm person.
Then there was Beatrice and Timothy Jones. These two were such a hoot! Beatrice’s laugh and spirit really light up a room! And Timothy’s inquisitive, quiet demeanor just seemed to bring a calmness to anyone he was around. I could just set with him for hours!
Yanchy is just a fascinating person. He has so much knowledge and insight to various topics, it’s great for a junky like me to just soak up what he brings to the LC. There’s so much I can learn.
Chris was such a sweet fellow. His quiet Northumberland mannerisms were so...Christlike. A humble and determined man that makes one want to follow his example of service. I was honored to help him find his way around our prayer book, The Way of Living.
Then there was Charlie and Beth. They’re love for each other is so evident. I remember sitting next to Charlie one morning when Beth came over and sat down next to him. After a moment, she leaned over and did something with his hair. “You know,” Charlie said slyly, “I do that on purpose...”
Beth was such a delight! She is the “resident Celtic scholar,” as Andy pointed out once. And it’s so true! If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know whom I wanted to spend all of my time talking with! But, I controlled myself. I think I only corralled her a half-dozen times. (I’m kidding.) (No I’m not.) (Okay, I am.) (Not really.)
Lastly, there was my companions, Emma and Scott. Scott I’ve had the privilege of getting to know for awhile now (he’s another guy I could really spend a lot of time with), but Emma was new to me. And she was a delight! Funny and insightful and warm. I’m so thankful for their hospitality and company; their openness and humor. They really made me feel welcome and were the best traveling companions.
An honorable mention here goes out to little Sam, Jessica’s 18 month old son. Sam was fantastic! He has such a wonderful demeanor. I had the great pleasure of sitting next to him at lunch one day. We played with his trucks (he loves those trucks!) and I got to make him laugh (he would lean his head back and I would lightly tickle his neck. Gosh, is there anything more joy filled than a toddlers laughter? No, I can’t think of anything either!). Jess is such a wonderful Mom, too. She’s so patient and caring. Often she would stand by just enough to let Sam explore...it was great.
One of the things we do when we meet is welcome new members (novices and professed) and ordain new ministers. This year’s retreat was no exception. Part of the ordination service was ordaining Scott to the office of Prior. It was a very moving service for him.
We then ordained the deacons and priests. One of those ordained lives in another country and could not make it to the retreat, but with the wonderful use of technology, he was able to participate with us.
One of the things that happens in an ordination service is the “vesting” of the ordinands. That is where the candidates are clothed with the monastic alb, scapula, community cross, and stole. I had the privilege of vesting Timothy. I remember how it felt when Br. Larry did that for me. I hope Timothy had a similar feeling. It was such an honor for me to serve him in this way.
After the service, there was a host of pictures taken on the grounds of Casowasco Retreat Center. You can see the album on my Facebook page.
In closing, I have to say that I am very proud and humbled to be part of such a wonderful community. The Lindisfarne Community is an open, inclusive, welcoming community as I have never experienced before. Our community motto is, “To love. To serve. To forgive.” Our prayer is, “To be as Christ to those we meet; to find Christ within them.” For more information about us, please see our website. Also, check out our series of books, The Way of Living (our prayer book and liturgy resource), Secular Monasticism (the understandings and personal stories of some of our members), and An Intentional Life (some of the reflections of our Abbott). All of these are available in softback, hardback, and e-book formats.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC