Sunday, October 5, 2014

On Leadership and Direction

Dear Workers,
I'm feeling that now is a propitious time to assert my leadership role in MCW by offering the group a re-articulation of my original vision for a Catholic Worker in Madison. Your many thoughtful emails and posts over the past few weeks have been encouraging and I'd like to enter this digital conversation more actively by stating clearly what I hold to be the goals of our group. I want to offer too a few of my strategies that I have attempted to implement as to how to achieve those goals. If you will permit, I'll write this initial installment and look for your responses.

First, I want to express my gratitude, enthusiasm and optimism for what we have built as a group to this date. What began as just an idea between Adam and me while sitting in the Dane County Jail chapel several months ago has now grown into what I consider a respectable and committed group. I was reminded of this when at our last brunch gathering I counted over 20 of us in attendance. I believe we are on to something and feel more committed than ever to accompany each of you in living out the unfolding story of Catholic Worker of Madison. I believe that Dorothy, Peter and the communion of saints are with us in spirit and guiding our first steps, however clumsy, to create a house.
I want to reassure you that I continue to hold the dream of one day nailing our MCW sign to the front of a building, rented or purchased, that we will call our home. I sense that this is a shared hope, one that each of us holds up in prayer and expectation. I see it as an essential part the glue that binds us together.
From the start, I felt that the establishment and running of a Catholic Worker House would require the love and patience of many skilled and brave Workers. We'll need savvy people with both the dream and moxy. While starting a CW House appears to be no more complicated than putting up a sign on a front porch, the successful management needed to insure a consistent presence will come only after the group learns to work in a community of trust. 

If we are intent about encountering Christ crucified in the economically disadvantaged brothers and sisters here in Madison, then we will need to take certain steps to prepare ourselves for this unique, sacred and oh so challenging work of mercy.

The first steps needed was to attract others of like mind and heart. By word of mouth and through the fine website that Adam assembled, we cast a wide net and to my delight, brought many of you to us. It took a few months for the size and shape of the group to stabilize, but now I am sensing that we have reached critical mass.  

Once the group coalesced, I had in mind that the next steps would be to begin to offer opportunities for each of us to “Come and See”. I wanted, and still want, us to meet the people of Madison, namely, those with whom we intend to work. And equally, I want a few of them to meet us. My question is simply this: Will we want to work with this culture? Will they accept our offer of companionship? Or simply, will we like each other enough to want to commit time, money and energy into creating a CW house of hospitality and prayer where we can come together to share our lives? It seems essential to me that before ever embarking on starting a house, that we have to know a bit about how each of us will act and react in this world we wish to enter. For when the chaotic demands of starting and running a worker house push each of us to our limits, I want to have at least a basic level of trust that we will stay the course. We need to be “field-tested” so to speak. I anticipate for myself and for all of us having to confront what I'll simply call culture shock. I'll say more later on this.

My invitations to spend an evening at a food pantry or a morning at at drop-in shelter are my attempts to take us to streets, to immerse ourselves, however briefly, in situations that will both inspire and at times may threaten us. What skills will we each need to acquire to stay the course? Will we as a group have the maturity and mettle to effectively and compassionately confront our fears, misconceptions and biases in order to carry out the works of mercy listed in our brochure and website? I want to explore this with you by offering my “come and see” invitations as a means to reaching our stated goal opening a CW house. We need training and immersion experiences as a group prior to launching our dream.

Finally, speaking of vision, I'd like to offer you a glimpse into what I hold to be sacred, my cosmovision if you will. Dorothy Day and her movement represents for me the closest expression of my own Catholic Christian understanding of how to live a meaningful and happy life. I am passionate about life, and have chosen to live out my remaining years of it in ways that honor and seek after a loving and intimate God who suffers with their people. I find my hope of personal and societal redemption in the Cross. 

OK, so where do we go from here? Not sure, but sensing the faith and energy of the group, I feel certain that together we will find our way. As you may have sensed, I am, like Moses, a reluctant and perhaps thick tongued leader. I do hope that we will continue to give each other the opportunity to try our out leadership skills, and be able to support and affirm each other in these sometimes awkward attempts. We may need to wander in the wilderness from time to time. Let's pray for patience toward one another. I am grateful for Maggie, Tim, and Adam who have contributed so much to bring MCW to where we are today, and look forward to supporting others who find the courage to lead as we journey forward.
In the Trust of Christ,