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Monday, March 17, 2008

Mysterious Ways

This past weekend I got to go on a retreat with fifty-two other Quakers who identify themselves as having some sort of “ministry” or service they feel called to. It was wonderful to be away from daily responsibilities—no laundry, cooking, dishes, or email!—and wonderful to be with so many good people, talking about our spiritual lives. It was also fun to have the space to notice and appreciate serendipity, starting with Friday night.

It was during the opening session that the power went off in the Catholic retreat center we were renting. The irony was that one of the presenters had written a piece ahead of time about how she tends to get overly anxious about leading retreats and compensates by preparing many handouts. In the dark, she was robbed of this crutch, which prompted some reflections on trusting God even, or especially when we can’t see where we are going. The power came back on, but Friends decided to turn off the lights to keep the quiet atmosphere.

During the Friday night session we had two opportunities to pair up and share. It turned out that my two partners, whom I had never met before, were both people who had also worked on issues around race and who became real allies during the weekend. (I met another ally near the end of the retreat.) I felt blessed to meet these Friends and resonated when someone commented that “God works in mysterious ways.”

There were other little mysteries. As I was packing for the trip, I had an intuition to pack my digital tape recorder, just in case I met anyone whom I should interview for my book. On Saturday morning the sense came to me that I should announce my project and ask if there was someone who felt led to be interviewed. I was clear that I didn’t want to just ask for stories about community (the chapter I’m now working on) because I’m sure that group would have had many stories, and I really just wanted people who felt led to respond. As it turned out, no one came forward to be interviewed, and by Saturday night I was wondering why I had had the impulse to make the announcement. Then a woman stopped me and said that I needed to talk to Friends in Durham, North Carolina because they had had an amazing experience of building community through the process of building a new building. She said they had managed to include every person in the meeting and keep their unity through years of planning and were eager to share their experience with other Friends. Now as some of you know, my own meeting has recently approved building a new meeting, so this connection seemed fortuitous. It may or not have anything to do with my book. Maybe that was just the tool God used to make this connection.

Just now when I went online to look up the Durham web site, I found an email from an Irish-American member of our meeting with this link to the story of how a slave became the patron saint of Ireland. It seems fitting to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, not with green pizza (which was on the news this morning), but with an acknowledgment that Patrick’s story is certainly an example of God working in mysterious ways.


Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I see Patrick in a rather different light. I'm so glad that your project is being led so well, though.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

I confess I don't know much about Patrick for someone with my last name, so feel free to say more, Lone Star Ma. Do you mean he was a religious imperialist?

9:15 PM  
Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

Yep - famous for driving the 'snakes" out of Ireland.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I've posted on my own eco-mom efforts on the blog! You inspired me!

1:45 PM  

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