I've just returned from my last official session of Women Touched by Grace, a Lilly-funded program for women pastors. Since 2008, we 20 pastors have gathered at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana, to reflect on our work as pastors, to connect with each other, and to learn about Benedictine spirituality.
I expected to enjoy the program, to be stretched by it, to learn from it. I didn't expect to be changed by it. But I have been....in deep, rich, and powerful ways.
In our last session of prayer with the sisters, we were invited to gather around the altar while all the sisters-even the ones sitting in wheelchairs in the balcony-raised both arms and sang us a blessing. Later, at the very end of the prayer time, they sang the goodbye song that ends with this line: "Until we meet again, know you are loved."
As we sat and allowed these kind, generous words to wash over us, it hit me, "Love is what has changed me." The love of the sisters, the love of my fellow pastors. The love of this community has changed and is changing me, much for the better.
That thought led to the next: I wish everyone could experience this kind of love, this kind of acceptance. If everyone could experience this kind of love and acceptance, I've no doubt the world would be transformed.
Isn't that what we all long for-the love and acceptance of a community? Isn't that the one thing we'd give nearly everything to find? Isn't that what drives so many of us to Facebook and Twitter and chat rooms and other online social networking entities? We just want to be connected. We just want to be known. We just want to "know that we are loved."
How do we find those groups? How do we find a community of people to love us? How do we find a place where we belong?
Maybe it's not so much a matter of finding that kind of community, but creating it. Too often we seem to think the best things lie outside ourselves. But maybe with this, loving community, maybe this is something that already exists inside us. Maybe the answer to our loneliness isn't so much seeking out communities that will welcome us as it is welcoming others into community with us.
Peace for the journey...