J. Richard Hackman, a Harvard professor who specialized in group organization, spoke about conflict in groups in the PBS series, This Emotional Life. He gave some surprising advice: Move towards conflict rather than away from it. He believed it was not possible to avoid conflict, and have nice, smooth, harmonious group interaction all the time. Even if it were possible, he did not think it desirable. “It is in the conflict that we really capture the differences of perspective that is the reason for having a group in the first place.”
At the heart of everything I do is a desire for Presence. Presence to me means being utterly connected with what IS, with the larger reality, with Spirit, with God, the Divine, the Sacred. It means being completely present to each moment of life as it unfolds, letting go of my past perceptions, fears, and judgments, and being open to the vast and astonishing depth of the gift and lesson of this moment. With each moment, the gift and the lesson are new.
I began my ministry in small group development at St. Mary’s one year ago in December. This year of developing the framework for small group ministry has been one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences of my life, and many of you have been part of that. As any of you who have come to a small group training know, I like to end my groups by asking each person to share their highlights of the gathering. I thought at the end of 2018, I would share a few of the many highlights of my first year.
Listening deeply is a way of creating a container so that another person’s soul can grow in this way. When we listen prayerfully to another person, we create a positive container that provides safety and encouragement. The container provides the energy and love God wants each of us to have. Within this nourishing container, the soul can wake up, stretch, and fly. The soul can find its purpose and move towards action in the world.