[RivCompanions] update

Virginia Brown mothervirginiadb at gmail.com
Mon Jul 14 13:09:50 UTC 2014

Dear Companions,

Since I first wrote about the issue involving marijuana at the Motherhouse,
several of you have had questions and/or offered comments, and it seems
that it would now be well to provide a little more information, including
something which has just come to light, so that we’ll all have the same
information, and be in a position to make better sense of what has
happened, and to make decisions about the future.

In my first letter I was somewhat reticent, wanting, I suppose, to avoid
any unnecessary damage to Susie’s reputation, and to protect those who had
come forward with information as well—especially since valued friendships
are involved.  Also, I didn’t and don’t want to state as factual matters
which are disputed.  (Nor is there any particular need to “get to the
bottom of it”; decisions were not made on the basis of disputed material.)

Of particular concern is that growing as well as using marijuana was
involved, although this is an area in which Susie’s assertions differ from
those of an eyewitness who reports being taken to see plants in two
specific locations, and being given to understand that there were others in
various locations around the property.  This, of course, is a more serious
charge legally.  Susie acknowledges only one plant, which was Abby’s.  We
have no reason to suspect that there was ever any selling by anyone, and
the Council of Advice required that all marijuana plants be destroyed
immediately—which we believe was done.

Sadder to me, I learned yesterday from a friend of the Community who has
been here for several retreats that at the beginning of November she and a
friend of hers, otherwise unknown to the Community, were offered marijuana
at the Motherhouse.  She says that she accepted—partly out of friendship
for Susie; she spoke with regret and contrition, for having done it in the
first place and for not having mentioned it.  She said that she felt that
it “besmirched holy ground.”  Her friend, who also works in the legal
field, didn’t participate, but apparently looked on with shock and
disapproval; it’s fortunate for all involved that she didn’t deem it her
duty to report the goings-on to the civil authorities.    As you know, a
similar incident of sharing pot with retreatants (one a friend, one
otherwise unknown) occurred on July 4.

One or two of you have wondered whether there might be some compromise
possible.   In a way, this *is* a compromise; an initial reaction to the
disclosures was, “Call the sheriff!”  I want you also to know that we’re
making efforts to be generous in helping Susie and Abby—and Ed—get settled
in a new situation, financially and in encouraging her to take whatever
furnishings, supplies, groceries, etc., she may need or want.   I’ve
thought about whether there might be some way of avoiding the need for
Susie and Abby to move, and I have to say that anything which would address
the situation or be even remotely acceptable to the Council of Advice
would, I’m reasonably sure, be completely unacceptable to Susie.

Finally, several members of the Community (and I’ve discovered several
others who are not members of Rivendell) have commented on observations or
suggestions, often from quite some time ago, that all was not well—smelling
marijuana, being concerned about levels of alcohol consumption, more
general concerns about Susie’s functioning.  In retrospect, I feel as
though I might have known what was going on; it was just so far off my
“radar,” my expectations.  I bear some considerable responsibility.  I
think we all wanted to do the best for Susie, and no doubt to avoid useless
conflict.  But maybe one thing we can learn from this—me included—is that
we really do have some responsibility for and to one another, and if we see
something amiss, it’s often better to address it—certainly if it’s a matter
of legal and/or moral wrong-doing.  Heaven knows, we’ve had all too many
examples of religious institutions failing to face problems, or covering
them up, and it just doesn’t turn out well.  Maybe we could have headed off
this situation before it grew to its present proportions if we’d been more
proactively our sister’s keeper.

Yesterday, in conversation with our members in Kansas City, David and Lisa,
we recalled that sentence in the agreement regarding sexual conduct which
applies much more widely, that members of Rivendell are expected to
maintain at least the level of ethical behavior expected of parish clergy.  We
are, in a special sense, representative persons; and we don’t go around
“besmirching the holy.”

Clearly, there will be significant issues to deal with regarding the future
direction of the Community and the Motherhouse in particular:  Can we keep
it?  If so, should we?  In what direction should we now move?  Does this
event, which can without exaggeration be described as tragic, open a
possibility for “repristinization” of the Rivendell Community?  (Thanks to
Cathy for reminding me of how fond I am of this word and concept!)

Therefore, I propose that we plan to meet, as many of us as can, in a
special general chapter, perhaps in late September or early October, giving
the dust a chance to settle and see where we are.  I think we will need
actually to be together rather than just to exchange emails.  I realize
that not everyone will be able to come, most likely, but I hope as many as
can will do so.  Suggestions for dates?  Is a weekend best for most people?
What about the weekend of October 4, Yom Kippur/St. Francis of Assisi?

Much love,

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