He is Peter, and upon this rock…

Well, this Sunday, Peter Steinke, Lutheran minister and troubleshooter for troubled congregations will return to All Souls to present his findings from all the material we sent him last month.  Part of our job in January and February will be to process Rev. Steinke’s observations and develop an action plan for further development.  This processing will be done, in part, at least through a series of discussions or fora.  And I’ll be one of the conveners.  So, from what I gleaned from reading two of Mr. Steinke’s books — what is my # 1 memory (I’ll be reviewing one of the books again before Sunday) of the books — from Healthy Congregations I recall his story about how monkeys are caught in some cultures.  A bowl of rice is put within sight of the monkey.  He can only reach for the rice by sticking his hand through a coconut shell that has been halved, a hole bored in the half.  When he grabs the rice, his fist around the rice, he cannot get his hand back through the shell and escape.  But the hungry monkey cannot think of letting the rice go, even though he cannot get it.  Stuck in this position, he gets caught.  For Steinke, this is a key element in whether a congregation will progress through a crisis, or get stuck in it — can people let go of their presuppositions, or not?  Do we define ourselves into a box, either to protect ourselves or are we open to dialog and change.  I suppose that will be the key for All Souls too. 

So, as I look forward, with a certain amount of anxiety myself, let me go through the contents of my bag of tricks (and the stuff in my bag that’ll trip me up):

One generic bandaid — my gift from the goddess some 18 years ago.  During a visioning exercise, we were asked to imagine that the goddess met us in her temple and gave us a gift.  Others at the CUUPS convocation in Rowe Conference Center in Massachusetts shouted out their gift — they got crystals, or gold, or beams of light (cool stuff).  I didn’t shout out  “generic band-aid” (or more appropriately generic adhesive strip — as Band-aid (R) is a brand name) — when I first envisioned the handing over of the adhesive strip, I thought immediately of Charlie Brown’s “I got a rock” mantra in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I accepted the gift, but felt a bit sheepish about admitting it to this group who were getting all sorts of cool stuff (shiny stuff at any rate).  I also wondered if they would think that I was making it up, and making fun of them.  But that gift has stayed with me.  It may be generic, but I figure — it’s from the goddess so it’s gotta be everlasting. So, in case things get a bit heated and someone gets a bit scuffed or bruised, I got the band-aid.  It is generic, so it may have limits, but I am not without resources.

And then I have my guardian angels — Bouncing Boy and the Dancer with Bruised Knees.  Bouncing Boy, from the 30th c. Legion of Superheroes, has the rather dubious power of being able to inflate himself to the size of a large ball and bounce around.  In his bouncing form, he is pretty impervious to pain (rather like a ball) and is very resilient.  He also has a big heart, which lends him a different kind of resilience.  Besides, because he has such a dorky power, it keeps him humble — he never thinks he can take on trouble, until he has to, and then does.  The “Dancer with Bruised Knees” was an album by the McGarrigle Sisters.  Kate McGarrigle, married to Loudon Wainwright III, had a rocky relation with her husband, and was both hopelessly romantic and skeptical of romance.  My guess is that album title and the image of the woman hobbling along on the cover was probably intended to mean that all you get from relationships is pain — your partner, who should have caught you, left you in the lurch and you come crashing down.  I always thought it a helpful image — something akin to “And Still I Rise” — though life sends you setbacks, you can, even if bruised, get up and get on with  your life.  It may be a bit more world weary, but is still resilient.   Those (and a sense of humor) are the gifts I bring to the table as convener/facilitator. 

On my own downside, there are things I’ll need to be on the lookout for — so my spider sense or meerkat attentiveness will need to be working hard.  I know there are all sorts of buttons on me (I think of myself emotionally like an old adding machine — with all those buttons to push) and I’ll have to do my best and not take things personally.  In being witness to the process, I’ll need to keep faith with community and stay vigilant that I not get distracted or thrown from the path.  This may be beyond my abilities — but, as someone who said yes, I must do my best to help the process along.  Well, the ride is about to begin — better buckle up and get ready for adventure.

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