Years ago, I facilitated a weekend workshop with a group of Catholic Sisters. They were having great difficulty envisioning a way forward for their religious community. From their vantage point, the world they knew, including the Church and their place in it, was on its head. Their capacity to meet the needs of the inner-city population they served was strained. The Sisters’ advancing age and shrinking numbers made it increasingly difficult to fulfill their mission. And their mission was bound to their reason for being – their purpose in life.
The complexity of the situation and the chaotic circumstances around them had taken a toll on these dedicated women. Fractures began to appear within the group, resembling the fractures in the community they served, and in the broader societal landscape. Individual perspectives on how or how not to advance had become hardened and polarized. Even simple decisions, like where to have lunch, required facilitation. By their own account, the group members were feeling isolated, angry and sorrowful.
The sisters might have been channeling the voice of our present collective experience. You don’t have to go far to find an angry disagreement on just about anything under the sun. Rigid perspectives and emotional outbursts are no longer confined to topics on religious, economic and political power, although they remain root culprits. For example, an online forum of neighborhood birdwatchers that I previously enjoyed is now off my list after several group members came to verbal blows. Was it a Blackheaded Grosbeak or a Spotted Towhee? It wasn’t a battle over the birds, per se. It was a battle of who was right and who was wrong, and neither side would relent. Whichever side you were on depended on your vantage point – quite literally.
How have we come to this?
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