[RivCompanions] about the Formation program - please read!

susanna601 at aol.com susanna601 at aol.com
Fri Jul 6 15:17:05 UTC 2012

Dear Companions,

A week ago some of us from the Council of Advice for Virginia met to encourage her - and to discuss a little about questions that have come up recentrly about how we want to proceed with the formation program. We tried to talk to Noel, but she was having WAY too much fun helping Dan pack to move home, and couldn't hear us, and Christine was unable to come because of a tragic pastoral situation revolving around a battered baby. So Virginia, Susie and i talked for an hour or so.

One issue is whether it is wise to ROUTINELY include postulants and novices in our local or general chapter conversations. Christine opted in general for "more inclusiveness," while some of the others of us felt it was better to go with what is already in our constitution, which says that postulants MAY be invited to participate in chapter. That assumes that in general, postulant are NOT included (except by specific invitation.)

This email is not going to them, and I would ask you not to discuss it with them. We need some place and space to talk about the community among the Companions who have already committed to it without the voices of those who have not. And this is it.

It was obvious at General Chapter that postulants and associates need to be present for meals, for recreation and for worship, because we need to get to know them, and they need to get to know us - but in fact it was not very helpful for them to have voice during the discussions, because they were not actually going to live with whatever they wanted to push us to decide - including how we choose to choose our leadership!  At the same time, it was also obvious that those meetings were important to David, who did not speak, but who listened and learned a great deal - and came away feeling even better about us, and the process of wrestling with difficult situations together.

So. What do you all think about that? 

Could we welcome them to some of the general chapter conversations (to listen, not to speak!) where we are  giving summaries of the last year, etc., and keep them apart in their own formation meetings during other parts of it?  The postulants do need to get together and share their process among themselves with the formation director (again, no matter who that is) , to ask questions, to do some serious discernment together. And because of distance this is their only time to do that during the year.  At the same time, some conversations belong to the professed members - to the actual companions.  For example, Joanne really couldn't give any fair assessment of the postulants' progress with them sitting right there! And it was awkward to ask her any questions about them, either. That was NOT her fault. It just happened. Buit it was unfortunate. We do need to do that. We have to be able to talk freely about whether or not we discern what they think they discern about their vocaiton to our commuinty. It is our responsibility to be a whole-community council of advice - all of us - to the Guardian, whoever that might be - and to the formaition director (whoever that might be) and to the chapters who are presenting individuals to the rest of us as postulants. And we can't do thaty in five minutes before a chapel meeting where they are accepted as novices - as if it were a "done deal" before we even came together. And of course there are other thigns too, that are simply not yet their business. 

We also talked about our chapters' regular chapter meetings (that is awkward wording, but I don't know a better way to say it!)  I know that in Memphis, it would be hard to have chapter meetings with only Billy and Joanne and Murray (but much better when Claudia and Joe can come!)  Right now Noel is there, but by Christmas she probably won't be. So maybe you need to include Gillian in everything simply so that there are people who can meet!  But in Memphis, you still have those wonderful Saturday gatherings where all people, including postulants get to see some of our "inside stories." You live close enough to your postulants tjhat you can se them at church, and otherwise socially,  individually or as a group. So it might be helpful to have chapter meetings that can be for those who have already put themselves "in the Way" that is Rivendell's and push each other towards a more radical following of the Rivendell"way" that is not fair to ask or expect of postulants. You will have to discuss that yourselves.
But we have found that including postulants in our chapter meetings has not been helpful to us. It was hard on us and hard on Eloise, for example, that she was expected to participate in chapter discussions that scared her, and confused her. We weren't as able to urge each other to greater faithfulness when we had with us someone who was absolutely NOT yet willing or able to go "there." Or even to understand where "there" was! She didn't know what she was even seking, really. It would have been better to invite her specifically when we knew we were going to celebrate someone s birthday, or a holiday or something where the conversation was more general - more focused on the event itself. But since we don't have anything like Saturday nghts, which is a real pity, there didn't seem to be another way to include her in serious conversation that was NOT too "much" for her . I do not yet see a solution to that, either.  

Well, this is already too long. I will write againin a few days. There is more to ask you to think about - and to do - but I dont' want to exhaust your willingness to read in one single day!

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