newsletter logo: Sangha Reflections

Community Gathering Digest*
compiled by Mary Hillenbrand

Date: November 17, 2002

Present: Jeanine Cogan (facilitator), Steve Sidley, Richard Brady, , Carolyn Bluemle, Sara O’Brien, Joe Toole, Bill Menza, Joseph Byrne, Mary Hillebrand, Carolyn Cleveland, Carrie Rose


Operations Committee

Retreats — Jeanine Cogan reported the results of the summer survey on retreat preferences:

a. People generally want practice opportunities including meditation, walking meditation, noble silence, and dharma discussions at WMC retreats.

b. Few expressed interest in theme-oriented retreats.

c. Friday evening to Sunday after lunch was the most popular time-frame among respondents.

d. The majority of respondents said they are open to the inclusion of families and children and said they would attend family-centered retreats.

e. Very few respondents expressed interest in a winter (January) retreat; most said fall and spring are their preferred times. Despite this fact, the WMC will hold a winter retreat January 24-26, 2003, because the Family Committee requested an opportunity to offer child-specific activities (see Family Committee report).

— Jeanine also reported that the fall 2002 retreat had higher than usual turnout, perhaps because the survey helped boost awareness that the WMC holds retreats and also let WMC members know they have a role in creating their retreat experience.

— The WMC is forming a new committee to plan, operate, and evaluate retreats, building on the momentum generated by the summer survey and well-attended fall retreat. Jeanine agreed to head the committee and is seeking volunteer members.

— Suggestion: Make the schedule of events for each retreat available in advance — perhaps in a flyer — to help people decide whether to attend.

Community Care Committee

1. Welcoming Ceremonies for New Children — Carolyn Bluemle reported that the first such occasion, a "baptism" for Rob DeBara’s twin girls, was "very wonderful"; the event, planned with the help of the CC Committee, provided the WMC an opportunity to support parents and a model to work from when assisting other parents in creating or planning their own welcoming ceremonies.

2. Second Body Practice — Steve Sidley reported that the current round is going smoothly, with 14 people participating at the start.

— Changes implemented in fall cycle: a new 1-1 paired format is being used, instead of the 1-1-1 groups formed in the past;

— Early observations about the changes: there is "a lot of energy behind it," Steve says; people like the 1-1 format because it makes contacts easier to schedule and facilitates deeper interactions.

— 1-1 format’s challenges: Because each person in the pair plays both the roles of speaker and listener, participants report tendency to fall into "conversational" mode instead of deep listening and mindful speaking; some pairs find it challenging to divide the time evenly during each interaction to enable each person an opportunity to speak and to listen; some participants noted that it is easier to determine how the time should be split during face-to-face interactions than during over-the-phone interactions.

Communications Committee — Joseph Byrne and Mary Hillebrand reported:

1. Several new pages about the Dec. 7-8 weekend of prayer for peace have been added to the WMC web site.

2. The WMC directory, distributed to WMC members who have agreed to have their contact information included in it, will be updated and distributed with the fall newsletter; Joseph continues to work on a directory sign-up form for the WMC web site.

Family Committee — Steve Sidley reported:

1. Childcare on Sunday nights — The committee will provide childcare for parents during the first half of Sunday evening sits that are preceded by a WMC Peace Walk (currently the 3rd Sunday of each month).

2. Family-oriented Events — The committee organized an Interbeing Scavenger Hunt for adults and children in November to create an opportunity for families and children to interact mindfully with other members of the community.

3. Retreats — Nearly all committee members have committed to attending January 2003 retreat and organize events for children; Irene D’Auria volunteered to be registrar and Annie Sidley volunteered to head the cooking team; Steve will work with Richard Brady and Joanne Malone on preparations; WMC must bring in at least $850 to cover the cost of the retreat hall.

Committee on Mindful Politics — Carolyn Cleveland reported:

1. Interfaith Prayer Vigil and Peace Walk — See page 1.

2. Carolyn’s personal project — bring Thich Nhat Hanh to address Congress, either by speaking to the entire body, holding a retreat with some members, or speaking as a guest at a program; working with Faith & Politics Institute and looking for opportunities for WMC members to get involved.

Practice Council — Richard Brady reported:

1. Live Dharma Talks — will continue in 2003; Bill Menza will join the group of Washington area dharma teachers, after receiving the lamp transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh in January; Bill will give live dharma talk on February 2.

2. Suggestions for future Community Gatherings: more time for open conversation of issues, not just committee reports; hold on different night from Sunday (makes for long Sunday evening when held before evening sits) and combine with potluck; be clearer about what the Community Gathering is when announcing it beforehand; examine ways to encourage more WMC members to participate.

*Full minutes available at <>

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