Hello St. Paul’s,
This week the cathedral staff gathered on Zoom for our first Sacred Ground session. We are serving as a guinea-pig for the customized version of Sacred Ground that the eight or nine parish groups will begin using in August.
Much of the first session, with 12 staff members, was introductory; each person was invited to say something about where we grew up, what draws us to the work of dismantling racism, and what we hope for from the months ahead. Our staff is a mix of full- and part-time employees, as well as some non-stipendiary key leaders. It is rare for us all to get together, especially on an occasion when we aren’t focusing on the tasks of ministry. I know some people better than I know others. This conversation gave me new insight into my colleagues’ lives and experience. It gave all of us a greater sense of connection and community as a staff team. It reminded us that we are diverse, with widely varying family histories and ethnic identities (even if most of us look like Europeans).
We had some homework to do in preparation for session one, and while there wasn’t exactly a test, we were asked to reflect on the materials we had read or watched, and to share how they intersected with our own experience.
We implemented a group practice called Mutual Invitation, in which the leader invites someone to share, then that person invites someone else, and so on until everyone has had the opportunity to speak. The beauty of this method, as long as people adhere to time limits, is that nobody gets to monopolize the and everyone has a chance to contribute once. It’s especially helpful in a group where there is a perceived unequal power dynamic; in our case, for example, the lay people might defer to the clergy, and the clergy might yield to the temptation to preach; whereas the point is that we are all on this journey together and everyone’s voice is equally important.
I am very grateful that our staff are willing to participate in this program, and especially grateful to Kathleen Burgess for serving as our facilitator. We all have plenty to do and giving two hours in the middle of a busy week is a significant commitment, especially when we have deadlines (such as recording for Sunday morning) that do not yield.
Sacred Ground encourages us to share our emotions, so it isn’t just an intellectual exercise. We are invited to share our tender feelings, to express our grief at the crumbling of cherished myths, to examine the ways we have unconsciously enjoyed privilege and to critique them. It is going to be challenging work, but work that I believe is central to our call to follow Jesus. I enjoyed our time together this week and I look forward to future sessions.
Registration for Sacred Ground is always open, and, if you haven’t yet signed up, I hope you will consider doing so. It’s going to be time well spent.
See you on Sunday.
Your sister in Christ, Penny