In September we welcomed lay minister Linda Stevens to the interim board. Linda practises with the Lions Gate Buddhist Priory in Canada. We are extremely pleased to have her on the board, replacing Pam Hunter Johnson. Both Pam and Rev. Master Jigen are stepping down after two years of invaluable service to the Order through their roles on the board. We would like to thank both of them for their generous giving of their time and experience and skills to this work – we will miss them.
We have been unable to find a European monk to replace Rev. Master Jigen on the board so we are looking at other ways that people can help us. One way would be by helping on one particular project or piece of work. If you are willing to be approached to help in this more specific way do please let us know.
Much of our time continues to be devoted to supporting the working groups. We are also concentrating on a way of presenting to the Order all of the outstanding concerns that have been brought to us so that it can be decided what (if any) further work needs to be done.
The interim board has been in contact with Rev. Master Haryo about the organisation of the 2013 Monastic Sangha Gathering and our possible role in helping with that. Rev. Master Haryo will first be putting together something to inform everyone of the nature of the gathering and after that a group will be formed to organise it.
We have created a resource document on confidentiality classification of documents, which has been made available to the working groups, and we are writing a document on methods of consultation with guidelines as to how, why and when to use them. We have been involving working group members in our board meetings once a month, which has proved to be very helpful to all attending. We continue to look at ways to involve more people in the work of the board.
Structure & Function Group
Most of our energy has recently gone into creating a questionnaire for distribution to monks and lay ministers. The areas to be covered have been largely agreed and we are starting to finalize the questions themselves. There will probably be some multiple choice questions as it is felt that this format makes the questionnaire easier to answer. Most questions will also have space for comments and ideas, since multiple choice answers don’t provide detailed or specific information. There will be a question written by Rev. Master Haryo and probably an open-ended “do you have any other thoughts, comments, etc.,” question. We are also carefully considering confidentiality so as to ensure that people feel able to respond freely. There will be a preamble to the questionnaire describing its aims and the remit of the working group.
Neil Rothwell and Willie Grieve kindly wrote an initial questionnaire after the Wiki page we were all working on got too confusing, and that has given us the possibility of discussing each question one by one until we get it into a form acceptable to all. It is surprisingly hard to draft good questions that say what we mean and are not leading. The process is, however, generally harmonious in spite of our diverse points of view, and we are cheered to find how often consensus can be reached. The preamble and the issue of confidentiality will also require big chunks of discussion, and it can be sobering to realize how long it can take to come up with something that appears so simple as a questionnaire. In addition we are working on how to analyze the responses when they come in. The whole process is a wonderful opportunity for training in patience and close listening, and within that we find in ourselves a wonderful respect for each others’ views. It seems good to take the time needed, rather than to rush, in the hope that the results will be better grounded in wisdom and compassion.
Since our invitation to help move along any documents which are in the preparation stage last month we have not yet received any requests for help or information on projects pending so we remain in a state of keen anticipation and readiness.
Having heard that PDF documents are often not compatible with e-readers (e.g. the Amazon Kindle) we have been researching how to create e-books so that we will be ready to supply these as an option when finishing publications.
Earlier in the year, we welcomed Rev. Master Koten to the group, who brought much welcomed insight to our work. Rev. Koten has recently resigned from the group. We are very grateful for his input.
The Ethics working group recently met with Rev. Master Haryo to discuss our ongoing remit of reviewing, clarifying and strengthening the ethics and grievance rules, policies and procedures for monks and laity training within the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, following which we submitted recommendations to Rev. Master Haryo and the interim board which we consider will strengthen our current rules and procedures for raising an ethical concern. We have also submitted a document containing our perspective on priorities and future work. We consider this to be the completion of the first phase of our work and are now awaiting feedback.
On completion of these two documents, lay minister Doug Carnine, who has been with us since the formation of the Ethics Working Group, in spring 2011, has stepped down. We are very grateful for all Doug’s hard work. We have found him a very knowledgeable and grounded presence and his contribution will be missed.
Lay Communication Working Group
Following the break taken by members of the Lay Communication Working Group over the summer, Jim Gore-Langton decided to step down. We would like to thank Jim for all the energy and creativity he has brought to the work of this group. The remaining members of the group, Sally Brown and Rev M Meiko, together with Mary Neinast, met with the interim board for an open discussion of how they might restart working on developing methods that can underpin communication and networking within the OBC lay sangha. They are now boiling down their ideas into a proposal that can be discussed with Rev. Master Haryo. Depending on the specifics of the proposal, the group may be asking for more volunteers to get involved.