Saturday, April 16, 2016

The workshop

I went to Ireland to help lead a Making a Difference Workshop. I've been helping in that for over 20 years. It is a vital and transforming part of my life.

The group was fascinating. There were five members of a rabbinical school in Israel--4 women and a man (obviously this is reformed Judaism!) And one of the women was a German national with blond hair and pale skin. In addition there was an academic from Austria who is a trained leader of Centering Prayer. A scientist who teaches Centering Prayer--how cool is that?

The Irish were a mixed group: a priest who has been a missionary in Africa, whose name was (get this!) Paddy; a Presbyterian minister; a Church of Ireland lay woman who works for the church; a couple of nuns and a mix of RC lay folks.

By in large they were one of the quietest groups I've ever worked with, which gave me pause since I usually gage how well a group is 'getting it' from their conversation. But in small groups they talked like crazy. My psychological listening was that most of them were introverts--comfortable with two or three others but not in the large group. My two Irish co-leaders told me that Irish folks tend to clam up around foreigners--the Irish listening that people from other places are smarter than they are.

Whatever the reason, I fretted more about this group than any in years. But when the workshop was over I knew how wrong I was about them--they were great, just great and really 'got it'.

One of the mantras we leaders have is this: "the workshop 'works'!"

In spite of my fretting, the workshop 'worked'.  What made it ever more remarkable is that the workshop 'plays with language' and we had six folks for whom English was at least a second language. The German rabbi spoke 5! Besides, the Irish are a folk divided by a common language!

There was a time of parsing language when I said (another workshop mantra) "understanding is the booby prize". What that means is that once we think we 'understand' something we stop inquiring about it. 'Understanding' shuts down questioning and the workshop is about 'questions' not 'answers'.

Try explaining 'booby prize' to folks whose first language is Hebrew and German! Give that a try.

But it was all great. The Israelis would break into song from time to time--my first workshop with a soundtrack!


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.