The Leadership Development Module in Montreal ends today. Here is a reflection on the impact of the LDM by facilitator Ted Dodd…
The Montreal Leadership Development Module (LDM) is coming to an end. I am privileged to be co-facilitating with recent CCS grad, Marcie Gibson. Two students have used the course to discern that the diaconal diploma program is in their future. We had two students from Ontario taking the course as part of the United Church Designated Lay Ministry (DLM (I know the acronyms are confusing!) program. One Saskatchewan participant is here as part of his sabbatical. One participant has been newly appointed as a Conference Personnel Minister. Another is a deacon in the Methodist Church in Barbados. And we have one Anglican.
Rich has given me permission to tell this story.
Rich is a candidate for ordination to the diaconate in the Anglican Church of Canada through the Diocese of Ottawa. In his retirement, he, and wife Nancy, a retired ELCA pastor and an accomplished iconographer, live on an island in the St. Lawrence River, on the US side of the border, across from Upper Canada Village. They operate a small respite ministry, and Rich offers spiritual care in a Cornwall hospital as a chaplain. Although he has all these rich experiences of diaconal service and an abundant educational background in religious studies and Anglican formation programs, his bishop asked him to take CCS’s LDM as part of his preparation. I am so glad that the bishop allowed me this chance to meet this amazing child of God.
As someone with tendencies toward unfocused randomness, Rich indicated he needed structure for his life and learning. In order to do well in school and university, he had to apply disciplined concentration and the force of his considerable will. He had spent two periods of his adult life in the U.S. military where he valued the clarity of roles and attention to organization. In his spiritual life, Rich also sought structure.
Rich is a friar in the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. Members of this community, within the Anglican Communion, follow a common rule and regular discipline of prayer, study, and service to the church. On the opening day of the LDM, Rich shared the rule, in its booklet form, as his introductory symbol. Later in the course, Richard donned his habit and led us in a service of Episcopal Morning Prayer.
Being in Montreal, he was finding the noises and constant activity of the city, unnerving and unsettling. At the LDM, he was experiencing the emphasis on community building disarming; his military background had trained him to deflect personal connection. He was labelling the stress on emotions and self-awareness as a bit “touchy, feely”; during times of personal sharing, he seemed very uncomfortable, distracted and unengaged. The participatory approach of experiential learning was beyond unfamiliar; it was disturbing and he wanted un-watered-down instruction. During the first week, his reluctance to participate was obvious. His playful “class clown” persona exuded a passive aggressive anger and resistance. But the graciousness of the program, and the steadfast, unwavering welcome of his student colleagues, let him settle in at his own pace. And, Rich was enjoying being re-introduced to the practice of theological reflection. He was relishing the rigour of our spiral model.
To our collective surprise, yesterday, as he shared his faith journey, this man revealed some of the pain and injustice of his childhood. Today in worship, this man, who had been methodically trained to control his emotions, shared his tears. Today in a small group, this man who had buried fifteen years of grief at the loss of his former spouse, revealed his sorrow. Today, in our LDM, this man declared, with integrity and authenticity, that he had withheld his love from this group, and that he was not being the person he wanted to be, or the servant he felt called to be. He wanted to apologize.
This is my last teaching “gig” after seventeen years as staff at CCS. I was so moved by this moment. It felt like I was witnessing such huge courage. Thank you for this extraordinary gift, Rich.
CCS is not personal therapy. The LDM is not a pseudo counselling session. Nevertheless, it offers the opportunity for emotional processing where people can enhance their ministry of grounded presence. In a circle, our students cannot sit in the back row texting their friends. In our educational process, you cannot send your head to class and leave your body and soul at the door. I believe our participants develop sensitivity and understanding which can only result in servants who offer their compassion with wholeness and authenticity.
Thank you to all the students who have offered such amazing moments of self-awareness, such touching experiences of transformation, and such compelling willingness to open themselves to new insight and wisdom. I am deeply blessed to have been a part of so many journeys of growth and learning. I am overwhelmed.