We are a community whose most important work takes shape quietly, almost entirely unnoticed, unseen, and with little public recognition.Most of the time, there's no one sitting beside us to affirm us ("Oh,that was nice!") or coach us ("Try it this way, instead, and see if that helps") or help us stay steady when the pain our client describes is a pain we ourselves have experienced, or perhaps even worse, one we have inflicted.
We touch the world one person, not 99, at a time. We make no big splash, only the smallest of ripples. And even on that scale, where impact is measured by ripple-not-splash, there are times we wonder if what we're doing is making a difference. ("How many years have I been working with this couple? Has anything actually changed?")
We work with one foot in the spiritual realm and one in the world of healthcare. Many of us regularly feel torn between God and Caesar; "between my Father's/Mother's business and the business of diagnosis codes, evidence-based treatment, and third-party payments.
We are ever learning to notice the movements and sometimes subtle twitchings of Spirit in human living, and what it means, and how, to align ourselves therapeutically with those movements and twitchings. No wonder we need each other!
Where else can we go to be with people who understand what it's like to do this work? Where else can we be with people who will bless us in what we do and teach us to do it better? I hope you've noticed our new-since-Kanuga tagline: "Supporting the Care of Souls." We are a community gathered to educate, support, and form souls who care for souls. It's no secret that the container that holds our community is struggling. Our membership has been in decline for many years, and for a while we got stuck in worry about that. In the past few years, however, we've shifted our focus from survival to service, from "who's already here" to "who's not here yet," and our experience of energy, connection, and renewal - new wine! -- is greatly encouraging.
Looking ahead It is still not clear what wineskin we'll need to hold the new wine being poured out among us. The systems and infrastructure required to turn wine-tasting friends into wine-making members have been slow to adapt and help us. This is not surprising. Change rarely happens apart from ambiguity, frustration, and failure - sometimes even death. But we are hopeful about our future here in the Southeast, committed to extending the gifts of this community to others, and confident that we will find our way.
As our nation prepares to observe the Martin Luther King Holiday, we witness the inauguration of a new President. In preparation for both events, and feeling the need for some spiritual support, I revisited Krista Tippett's 2013 wonderful interview with John Lewis.
Congressman Lewis is one of our national treasurers: his life a witness that faith can indeed move mountains, his voice, the very sound of it, a reminder that the one thing that never fails is love. One of his quotes from this interview keeps playing over and over in my mind. Speaking of what has sustained him through his many decades of service, Lewis says, "You have to have this sense of faith that what you're moving toward is already done. It's already happened." These words - "it's already done, it's already happened" - are clearly relevant to the part of our lives we devote explicitly to engaging social, cultural, economic, and political forces, with an eye on the prize of liberation and justice. But they are relevant also, I think, to the care of souls work that is this community's shared practice and to the life of our community itself. The man in your office feeling too weak and too fragile to go to work, needing a double shot of courage and self-confidence? It's already done. The woman worn down by years of negative projections from her partner and her faith community, needing the truth and strength of an embodied connection with herself and with God? It's already done. The couple caught in a cycle of contempt, attacking and defending, defending and attacking, needing grace and safety to interrupt the cycle and taste again the sweetness of knowing and being known? It's already done. A professional community, committed to supporting the care of souls though weakened by years of resisting change, needing the spirit of new wine and a new wineskin to contain it? It's already done.