Contemplative communities need servant leaders. This means having no hierarchies. Such leaders are gatherers: people who are willing to invite participants, hold the intention of the group, and believe that everyone there is both learner and teacher. Our leaders expend minimal energy on institutional formation, seeking approval from authorities, organizing administration, or the care-taking of buildings. Gatherers gather, and preserve their energy and focus of attention for guiding and guarding a true community of divine diamonds.
Our contemplative community leaders begin each day with our own personal practice of God’s presence, knowing everything else flows from there. We watch out for the demon of “not measuring up,” and let go of expectations regarding outcomes as best we can. We form some contemplative groups which will dissolve early, (like one hospital-employee group did), and some which will end eventually, (like church groups do when there are no longer interested members). We accept that the cares of this world are always seeking to replace the priority of the one main thing, which is sitting in communion and reverence at the feet of the One who opens the gate of heaven everywhere.
On the other hand, we make bold commitments to keep showing up as long as there are at least a few other seekers who want to gather to practice the presence of God. Contemplative leaders easily share leadership. After all, how much expertise does it really take to call a group into stillness? One person might ring a bell or chime to begin and end. Another person might use a gong sound they downloaded onto their iPhone. Another person might share a brief prayer to begin and end. And another person might just say, “Let’s begin.” Rotating leaders to facilitate the practice each week can lessen the burden on any one person to always be there.
Facilitating contemplative groups can also involve sharing a brief introduction to a practice, so that newcomers have a sense of what’s happening. Leaders keep this introduction as simple as possible so that new people aren’t overwhelmed with instructions or ideas. The same can be true in studies where the facilitator is asking questions for group discussion. There is no long speech made by a leader, and there is a gentle effort to give everyone who wants to share a chance.
The contemplative group leader is seeking to hold the space for the sacred to appear on behalf of the whole group. This means opening our hearts to the needs and experiences of group members. And this involves trusting the Presence of God to show up and lead the group to experience the invisible web of divinity connecting us all. More about that web in the next episode.