In her poem, To be of use, Marge Piercy writes:
“The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.”
I am grateful for work that is real; work that encourages and inspires leadership for the sake of present and future generations.
A week away from the Centre has helped me gain fresh perspective on this real work. The first few days of last week were what my spouse and I like to call our “winter cruise” -when instead of adding to our carbon footprint by flying to the sunny south, we spend a few snowy days in Toronto enjoying good theatre, the symphony and visits with family and long-time friends – over good food.
It was stiking to see how much theatre is currently focused on that which divides and tortures our souls and relationships, making for deep brokeness and in the extreme, war – reminding me that it is real and worthy work to provide retreat and learning opportunities for those exercising or preparing to exercise leadership, because leaders, as Parker Palmer says, “have the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there.” Five Oaks is a place that shapes an ethos toward more light-filled places.
The last half of the week, including yesterday, was spent with the United Church of Canada’s new Education and Vocations Committee. This committee advises national church staff about theological education for church leaders, both lay and ordered, and is responsible for ensuring that retreat and education centres like Five Oaks (www.fiveoaks.on.ca) receive whatever support General Council is able to give. More real – and difficult – work for the sake of shaping an ethos in which new growth can flourish.
While most people come to Five Oaks to gain perspective on how real their own work is, clearly I step away from the place to gain such perspective.
The past month’s real work has included being in circle with aboriginal and non-aboriginal students and leaders to learn about Finding God’s Way in practices of Discernment (Jan. 14-16); encouraging our network of friends to imagine more significant financial gifts being given for the centre’s real work; supporting colleagues as they lead and coordinate programs and provide hospitality for the deepening of spiritual practices, and faith formation for all ages; providing hospitality for a variety of others who are engaged in real work including the United Church’s Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations network.
Tomorrow I’ll be back at my desk, looking out onto a snowy campus, wondering about how Spirit will continue to move in the place this year to enable the real work to continue… and I’ll be listening to the delicious harmonies of 30 men singing as they arrive for a 13th annual, four-day Male Spirituality retreat.
I am ready to return to work that is real!