It has been a very difficult few weeks, whether looking through the lens of focaliser, minister, colleague or friend. It has seemed impossible to find my voice and a place to speak from. It is frightening wanting to communicate yet feeling frozen about how, where, or what to say. Why share this? Because, although the experience is deeply isolating, I don’t think I’m alone in this.
(Note: this is one of two related articles. A link to the other, Initial framework of actions by Trustees & Focaliser team, is at the end of this article.)
Dear ministers and students, I dare to extrapolate, but not assume, that some of what is happening through our OneSpirit Facebook group is a surge to free voices that feel excluded or unheard, and to free patterns that need healing — not only those people who are speaking, but those who are reading and not knowing what to say. It is also the underlying work of our organisation: to free excluded voices; to free patterns that need healing; and to express ourselves: to express our sacred lives as our ministry.
We join the world in this task as serious instability rocks humanity, and every institution, country or family seems to be reappraising who we are now, what we want to become, and what that will require. I sense that here, in our own organisation, we share this struggle to express our truth, and we share the urgent need to find expression — both at the level of OneSpirit’s purpose, and in particular situations as they arise.
Our organisation is at a critical point, needing to digest and clear undigested material as we struggle to find a more authentic power patterning, and more authentic places to acknowledge our conflicts. Over the last three years the leadership team and trustees have been preparing to take our organisation forward. During this time we have been facilitating pathways and rebuilding foundations for a stronger, simpler organisation to face into the world. We have made sound changes. I believe that in the last two years we have strengthened enough not to fall apart now as we face this moment and what it invites. The organisation has become more simple and also more able to handle complexity, and it is a work in a relatively early phase, far from completion. In this compassion is needed.
Moving to a changed structure that brought in the focaliser role nearly two years ago has both focused and catalysed the potential for the transformation of power in the organisation. I think our communications about why and how we have been bringing in these changes have perhaps been inadequate. We need to find further ways to support a shared picture of how OneSpirit looks at, understands and works on its own leylines of power and information.
This is very difficult work that we are all involved in. The work of individual spiritual transformation is a gritty path, studded more with sharp stones than diamonds. The work of being an authentic organisation, willing to learn and willing to lead into the unknown future, is our parallel and courageous task. This work is in a relatively early phase and far from completion. We are vulnerable in this task. We are creating a spiritual paradigm that seeks to be inclusive even when we dissent.
Let’s not be confused about the dark divisions that lie at the heart of the religious paths inherited by all of us. This is the field that OneSpirit the organisation arises in and from. We arise as a body with hope-filled inspired visions, and also carrying inherited and lived memories and experiences of many kinds of exclusion — especially misogyny, racism and homophobia — while at the same time being a body that has choices about its own healing.
There is an energetic need for clearing all the way through: through me, you, and us, in order to be more wholly ourselves, and for the organisation to become more whole in itself. Part of this maturation will mean that we don’t all feel at one all the time.
I am hearing all the voices being raised in the Facebook group. I am also seeing our organisation growing in its 20th year, and what it is seeking to do as it approaches its 21st birthday. I feel the courage that is being expressed and that is called for in each of us. Together the trustees, faculty and staff are seeking to support the strands of energy emerging so we can engage thoughtfully and honestly to address the issues and what underlies them. We share some of our responses in the separate document: Initial framework of actions (see below).
Here I want to risk a more personal aspect. Stepping into the focaliser role two years ago has felt like a rollercoaster ride in the dark, feeling myself totally pulled out of my known centre – and hanging over a burning fire at times. In the first year, 2015, I was totally unprepared for the dark fall into shame and loss of confidence.
I share this not to abuse the privilege of this space, but I hope rather to express something about how leadership unfolds, and as a parallel process for what I hear from so many of us after ordination. I think our work is essentially about our inner leadership, about journeying through our patterns in relation to power, authority, and the edges of our capacity for healing our ideas about who we are.
I have been learning to both lead, and to separate from what happens – to be less fused and I hope less confused. In the second year of the role I’ve felt courage growing in small but sure shoots, to feel less alone, which I have never been, but can feel because the journey must take us into emotional, spiritual and outward power structures that need to be transformed. This journey is inherent to the creative process, and being a minister is a call to the most creative expression of my and each of our lives.
I want to share that I identify with the voices that have expressed concerns about the difficult and painful struggles with power that those of us who work here may have felt. I am not surprised, though I have been shocked, and it has been hard to be at the coalface of some of these relationships. I have also felt ‘done to’ at times in this dynamic and demanding organisation, and have also had to work very hard to heal these relational spaces, sometimes successfully and sometimes not at all. And I am here for the conversations that need to be had now.
I also want to re-state my deep commitment to helping to create conditions for the education and support of spiritual leaders, drawing on the full diversity of humanity; transforming the ways that learning and healing are approached; and infusing the world of form — including our bodies and our organisations — with the vision and miracles that spirit-inspired choices can bring.
Nicola Coombe, Focaliser
The related document can be seen here: Initial framework of actions by Trustees & Focaliser team.