Thursday, February 21, 2008

community of faith

As I've mentioned before, our little community is now down to one sister who doesn't (yet) have the bug. Most of us are coughing, sneezing, sniffling or some combination thereof... One has bronchitis and another goes for a chest x-ray today. (She may have pneumonia.)

Yesterday sister made us soup: a hearty barley for lunch, and chicken vegetable for supper. We've suspended all corporate worship for a couple of days and are only gathering (if at all) to eat. Some are having their meals taken to them on trays. Last night it came out, that while there was great relief that we had declared this bare-bones schedule, there was also a good deal of guilt and fear around the decision.

"In the old days..." this would not have been possible. The reverend mother/founder of our order was apparently a real stickler for performance at any cost. One sister related her story that once she had an ear infection and was in great pain. Another sister had suggested she find a substitute for her teaching duties and the reverend mother had said "NO! She will teach her classes today!" So she did.

The good old days were not always especially good. Our approach now leans in the direction of compassion over performance. Of course there will always be those who will take advantage of this approach, no doubt about it. But an overall suspicion that everyone will take advantage is just plain paranoid. We did not take on a life of service in order to shirk our responsibilities. And we did not all get sick at the same time on purpose. Our cook's grandmother did not die on purpose either, leaving us without a cook for the rest of the week. Stuff happens. We had two choices: scale back, or try to kill ourselves maintaining the fourfold Daily Office, guest ministry, and business as usual.

I answered the door yesterday to two guests who were checking in. They were not happy when I explained that the evening meal had been suspended. They had invited a friend to come for dinner to "chat with the sisters." I explained that during Lent we don't chat on Wednesday evenings anyway, except for Sunday, all are silent meals. They were unhappy about that.

This is one of the reasons we're scaling back our guest ministry. We don't exactly run a hotel, but people expect hotel amenities. And there are not enough of us (even when we're well) to give them that service. We are a community of faith. We can provide a clean bed and room, bathrooms and showers, and sometimes meals. It's a crapshoot.

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