I was asked to convene a 6 hour gathering with representatives from 3 Presbyteries [groups of between 45 & 60 PC(USA) churches] for the purpose of exploring shared ministries. After I sent out the design for the day which was built on the Art of Convening model one Presbytery, already quite tentative in their initial commitment, pulled out, questioning how the design would produce the needed results. One other individual participant pulled out because they couldnt see how the 6 hours spent together would produce "real deliverables." Ten people came to the gathering.
We spent the morning, focusing on the intent of the gathering, creating a container with several rounds of stringing the beads in addition to an open community circle focused on five generative questions. Initially it felt like there was good energy in the room although one of the participants spent the time drawing a cartoon on the paper table cloth. . . which felt to me like a signal to the group that he wanted to get on with the "real business."
After lunch it felt like the positive energy began to slip away. I was conscious of how a few remarks can shift the energy. A few examples:
"Thats (a suggested new paradigm for mission) nothing new, just another fad by a different name. We've always done this... just by a different name."
Then, on several occasions, when the silence seemed particularly generative someone would proclaimed a proverbial tidbit of wisdom. I cant remember what it was but something long the lines of "Those who_____ find themselves _____." Ok, interesting but disconnected.
There were many positive movements and an increasing openness to the possibilities, and in the last half hour a breakthrough that will move us to the next step in our partnership.
I found myself struggling to hold, internally and externally, the container of possibilities. But I did not respond, at least consciously, to this frustration. I just let it happen. In other words I did not assume responsibility to confront or take upon myself, what I perceived as constrictive energies. I just noticed it and wondered about how it would effect the group. After I wondered how effective I was in this.
At the end of the time I felt exhausted and spent an hour lying down and revisiting my core values and intention (Like the in the Canteen poem). I then felt refreshed and renewed but sad when I considered how much resistance there is in the world, some of which I know resides in me. (That's when I wrote the reflection about the tears in a bottle...)
I think that I need to hone my awareness, understanding and skills when it comes to holding the container (inner and outer) wide open in the presence of resistance.