I have just completed a training for the last four days about how to lead ritual / ceremony within the diverse soup of religions and the many kinds of spiritual seekers we have in California and the nation. Many are the spiritual not religious folks and those who do not consider themselves anything (i.e. the infamous 'Nones").
It was a fun immersion, which taught me much and pushed a few of my buttons, too.
Touching the sacred, (whether you want to or not)...
My plan is a self-care, caregiver workbook created from the Fieldguide. Part of those workshops might involve touching on the sacred and timeless. Whether we want to or not, when we show up for the big ticket items in life such as caregiving of our loved ones, we get up close (and too personal) to our own mortal fire. This involves the always dynamic equilibrium of loyalty, and authenticity balanced with compassion for all concerned.
Let me tell you what to do...
Religion works, if you trust your intermediaries i.e. the gurus, priests, ministers, pastors, rabbi, imans etc. After all, benevolent dictators can be quite effective and the most efficient forms of government. They can be wonderful leaders–or not. Keeping them honorable in the long term is the tricky part.
But the spiritual not religious folks, are demanding a bit more autonomy and efficacy. They do not wholeheartedly trust their leaders which is what pushed them out of the fish bowl and into the ocean at large. I had excellent leadership at this seminar but the subject came up over and over, for me, what kind of leader do I want to be in this new place I am growing into.
Serving (not fixing or helping)
As a chaplain, I reside each day on the side of service. I companion people as a clinical hospice chaplain. I am part of a team of clinicians who focus on comfort. I have no agenda other than that. Though, as part of the job title/description I sometimes get projected upon by people who have been wounded by the authority structures of organized religions. Not complaining...it's all part of my job, really. Sometimes the only service I can be, is to give my patient a last shred of control to throw their offending religious symbol (that would be me...) out of the room. Ahem. It does not happen very often. Most times, I can overcome their initial mistrust by being hospitable, kind and simply standing by. Even then, some people will not, or are unable to accept support. Sometimes it is me, (I could have done that call better...or something else triggering to them, which could be a bad hair day on my part...).
Many times it is not me at all.
A Workshop Servant Leader?
That said, as a hospice chaplain, I am guided by a 1996 essay by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, In the Service of Life. She says serving is different from helping or fixing. It is not about pushing through or controlling, but allowing things to open up by service (and good, open-ended questions).
Helping is based on inequality. It is not a relationship of equals - when I use my strength to help those of lesser strength...People feel this inequality...We don't serve with our own strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life...Service is a relationship of equals.- Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen,
That beautiful old mama crone in the habit, got it right, again:
We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy. - Mother Teresa
The other's highest priority needs...
The idea of servant leadership goes back at least a couple thousand years. The modern servant leadership movement was launched by Robert K. Greenleaf who was in turn inspired to write it by Herman Hesse's book Journey to the East (says Wikipedia). In this classic essay, The Servant as Leader, it said:
The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? –Robert K. Greenleaf
The sacred/secular leader's question
And that is the governing and orienting question a sacred/secular leader can trust. It is the balancing question that I will keep returning to: seeing the wholeness in the apparent brokenness...or simply that we are better healed to wholeness and health by being treated as a whole person with integrity.
This is the kind of peer leadership I am planning...in my future self-care caregiver workshops. It's a dynamic balance and the way I, myself, want to learn. But the point of these workshops are to model, in a fun and joyous way, that caregiving is a circle of care. To be sustainable, we, the caregivers must also be fed. The biggest, baddest, blackbelt servant leader, Jesus, had the fine print worked out:
Love your neighbor as yourself. - Mathew 22:39
on a Chaplain's life