Today was our 1st full day though not too full. We had orientations and ice breakers and very interesting inputs by our facilitators, one of whom is also British, Sarah Broscombe. They opened up for us the process which will be followed over the next 10 days starting with ‘How are we feeling today?’
As CLCers do, we were allocated our Harbour Groups which will walk the 10 day journey with us, and mine were from Japan, Macau, the Caribbean and USA (photo on right). This is what I love about our CLC world community, the level of trust in the groups and the amazing life stories shared in community.
It took me ages to sleep last night and this morning I woke to the sounds of people moving around and a door repeatedly squeaking. My clock showed that I had loads of time so I came to slowly, reaching for my phone to check the news, only to discover that my alarm was set to English time and I was running very late. It was a rude awakening but was also a grace as I simply decided to stay in my room, eat the hot cross bun and banana which we hadn’t needed on the journey and, of course, to make myself a pot of tea! I rather appreciated that quiet time before we gathered at 9.00 am for our opening Mass in an outdoor courtyard with a canopy roof.
Mass was special, our first experience here of a multi-lingual liturgy with singing in the three official languages of world CLC: English, French and Spanish. It was super-organised, with a diagram appearing on the screen to show us the way to communion and crosses on the floor for the priests distributing communion. There was one little glitch when we ran out of hosts and someone sped off to get some more. At that point we started to sing ‘nada te turbo’ (let nothing disturb you) and there was a lot of laughter in the singing! There’s a fantastic atmosphere here, with everyone very friendly and open. It’s very good.
The welcome session (photo at the top of this post) which followed was a gentle introduction to the Assembly which stressed that despite our being seated like an audience in an auditorium, the Assembly is about participation by all and about openness to the Holy Spirit. Our three facilitators, Sarah Broscombe, Beatrice Castaing de Longueville and Flávio Bottaro sj, introduced us to the process of the Assembly, running us quickly through the theory of Otto Scharmer’s U Process (I’m not sure I got it all but I plan to google it when I have time) and how it relates to the process of the Assembly. It feels as if it will be fruitful so I’m full of hope.
After lunch and a bit of a rest (this is a very sensible programme!) we gathered outside again for a bit of a fun icebreaker. At one point we were asked to group into our mother tongues. I was particularly struck and humbled by the fact that less than 20 people were in the English group with the largest group being those for whom their mother tongue was not one of our official languages. I appreciate that some of them are fluently and easily bi-lingual (if not tri-lingual) but far more are struggling with language. We were told later in the day that an essential qualification for the ExCo was an ability to speak English. We must lose so much talent because of that! And it must be so tiring to engage with sessions and with people in the break always in a language in which you are not fluent.
We then moved into our harbour groups, small listening groups which will be our anchor points throughout the Assembly. Mine was good too! We were simply asked to introduce ourselves, say what we are bringing to the Assembly and what our best hope was for it. After a coffee break we gathered to hear practicalities and guidelines for the elections which will take place on day 10 and we ended the formal part of the day with an Examen, led by Sarah Broscombe.
I promised to reveal all about the practicalities of this venue. It’s a Jesuit school, it’s clear that it isn’t set up to be a conference centre and I gather that we are using it as a bit of a favour. We’ve been asked to bring towels and a pillowcase and when we arrived we realised that the school has provided no bedding. Rather, the ‘Phileas’ organising team (who are doing an amazing job) has bought a flat sheet, a sleeping bag and a small camping pillow for each of us. Most of us are sharing rooms. We’d been told that the swimming costume was to preserve our modesty as we entered a shower cubicle from a communal washing area but where I am, at any rate, the showers are in small cubicles with a tiny but adequate shielded area for your towel and dressing gown. So it’s not anywhere near as bad as I’d feared, O me of little faith!