I have been fortunate to have some outstanding friends and colleagues over the last twenty years. Together we have wandered, and charged, our way into important work that has been impactful. Together we have dared to listen well for what our hearts called us too, which included going against a norm or two. Together we lended, and received, courage to be in some of the meaningful work of our times.
One of those outstanding friends and colleagues is a person I spoke with yesterday, Kathleen Masters. She’s in the picture above at the event we first met at (black sweater, glasses) — The Art of Hosting Faith Based Communities, from 2012. Kathleen reached out to me in 2012 first asking about bringing 3-4 people. She called back again asking about 5-6 people — would it be OK? She did the same again and asked about bringing 10-12 people. It was awesome — we made it work, which I didn’t know in 2012, but “making it work” would become a cornerstone for our good efforts together over then next seven years.
I want to underline “outstanding” with Kathleen (and Kathleen, I ask for your patience as I write a bit about you — just enjoy a tea as you read, and know that there are many of us that celebrate you!).
Our context for speaking yesterday was a continuation of coaching sessions that have now taken place over the last seven years. That and several significant projects that brought some of the participative leadership set of frameworks and practices to Kathleen’s work with The United Methodist Church, Church and Community Ministries.
It’s a challenging time for the UMC. Soon they convene to vote on splitting their denomination. Kathleen and I spoke a bit about that yesterday, with some heartache, and reiterated a principle that we discovered and practiced together — “don’t blame each other for complexity (when it is a property of a system that has emerged from much more than any individual action. Rather, remain awake and in relationship.”)
Kathleen is winding down her formal job with UMC. She’ll transition to retirement soon. I have to name that it has been utterly fulfilling to offer some accompaniment to Kathleen as she has offered her gifts with her colleagues. I have to name that it was really something to write The Participatory Leadership Journal with her a few years back. It is a primary resource that I continue to offer to people in faith communities seeking to improve their leadership and hosting skills.
Kathleen is a very thoughtful and kind person — this is how I’ve known her over these many years. She’s generous in spirit and deed. I’ve seen her stand for those marginalized and underrepresented. I’ve seen her do so with notable cleverness, skill, and big heart.
In yesterday’s conversation, this dear friend and colleague named a bit of what was important learning for her. I could say, “these days,” knowing that there is particular challenge and heartbreak in the UMC tradition. But Kathleen was speaking a bit more broadly.
“In times of tumult, it is important that we speak honestly and openly about that. We must speak truth to one another. We must do out best together, everything from drafting off of each other in support to sharing the burden. We must acknowledge a lack of external control, but do all that we can, despite this, to cultivate internal peace, kindness, and generous spirit.”
Kathleen — your gifts are many. I’m grateful for these years of journey together.