Thomas Keating OSCO and Richard Rohr OFM
By Jim Babin
The conference schedule was broken into two parts. The first 2 days were attended by over 200 leaders and was dedicated to the work and business of the Contemplative Outreach organization. Reports were given by the various officers and coordinators of the programs, ministries, and regions of the USA.
Voting members and observers participated in a review and refinement process to the "Vision Statement of Contemplative Outreach" and "Theological Principles of Contemplative Outreach" which has been developing for several years and has been opened to input from all of it’s members. A facilitation process was used as we "chewed" on this work. It was somewhat awesome to participate in the process with this many people involved. We worked at eight person tables and periodically half of our table would shift to another table to compare view points and to work at establishing a consensus of that particular work. This was not an easy feat for the facilitator but was handled skilfully. Our work will be sent back to a committee for final rewrite. Everything was done very peacefully and respectfully.
All in all, when all was said and done, as we adjourned I left feeling that the Contemplative Outreach is sound spiritually, financially and organizationally. I also felt that while it is experiencing expansive growth and depth of its members and an increasing demand for its services, it is rising to meet the challenges of the future.
As a leader new to this level of the Contemplative Outreach I was somewhat overwhelmed by all that is going on through out the country and beyond. I feel a need to examine my role and look towards the future of our Minnesota Chapters of Contemplative Outreach.
I was able to connect and meet with Contemplative Outreach staff and other Contemplative Outreach leaders including the "Prison Ministry" and "AA Eleventh Step Ministry" Coordinators. These contacts will be valuable for our future local activities.
Fathers Thomas Keating and Richard Rohr spoke through out the conference, individually and jointly. They were very enriching and inspiring.
I purchased books that had just been published and am showing them around. Of particular interest, is a book called "Journey to the Heart, Centering Prayer for Children." Another new book, which I just finished reading, is titled "Centering Prayer and the Healing of the Unconscious." authored by Murchadh O’Madagain. It is a good resource book. It covers the relationship of CP to other types and kinds of meditations and answers various criticisms of Centering Prayer. I also viewed a copy of a new book that is just being printed, titled "A Pathway to Freedom". It is a workbook introduction to Centering Prayer for prison inmates. I forwarded an information sheet to Sr. Mary White and she will order a copy for possible use in our prison ministries.
Short video clips of a new nine part video series is being produced. It is titled "Heartfulness, The Path of Transformation in Christ" featuring Father Thomas Keating and Doctor Betty Sue Flowers. They aren’t exactly sure how they are going to use it. One possibility is a TV series. We will be hearing more about this in the future.
I visited a number of information booths and picked up literature for future use.
While the business half of the conference was somewhat gruelling because of the amount of activity we covered in a short time, the second half was a joy to behold. Our ranks swelled to almost five hundred people and we filled the grand ballroom wall to wall.
After a joint meal, our evening session began with "Sacred Sounds" by musician Jodi Roberts who played a series of different sized Tibetan singing bowls. The melodic rhythms settled us in for the program presentations. Timothy Koock, local coordinator from Houston and Gail Fitzpatrick Hopler, President of Contemplative Outreach welcomed us to the conference. Thomas Keating OSCO and Richard Rohr OFM spoke to the group. We finished the evening with a Taiz’e Prayer service. It was indeed a sacred time.
Saturday was filled with, Centering Prayer sessions, presentations by the featured speakers. There were several 12 step meetings available. These meetings were well attended. Meal time was a great opportunity to mix it up with a variety of attendees. Meals were eaten at eight person tables and we were able to sit with a different group at each meal. We connected with folks from Canada, Australia, Mexico, South America, Hawaii, Africa and other areas of the world. The group was very diverse and represented many different cultures, work situations and backgrounds. I felt elated at being able to connect with all these different groups. A significant group of Hispanics were represented from several areas. It was wonderful to hear their language flow through out the group activities. The busy day finished with a banquet, served buffet style in the open areas of the main floor of the hotel. The highlight of the evening was a concert featuring local choral singers and musicians playing stringed instruments. This was hosted and sponsored by the family and friends of Timothy Koock.
The conference closed at noon on Sunday. The morning began with Centering Prayer/Meditation, an optional Roman Catholic liturgy and breakfast. Father Keating closed with final words and a blessing.
The scripture theme for the event was from Philippians 4:8-9
"Finally my friends, whatever is true and just, whatever is pleasing and pure, whatever is gracious and beautiful, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on the good in others, and what you have learned and received, and heard and seen in me, put into practice: and the God of peace will be with you."