Celtic Spirituality in Kentucky

Monday, May 01, 2006

Critique of Celtic Spirituality Conference, with Dr. Newell

Follow up with Celtic Spirituality and Dr. Newell. Critique.

We met Sunday p.m. April 30, at the Episcopal study hall with Dr. Newell for a final Question and Answer session with ministers. When only about 16 showed up we moved from the hall to a sitting room and sat in a circle.
We were supposed to start at 3:00 p.m. but did not get started until 3:30. To my surprise Newell began by taking some 20 minutes to summarize his themes. My Benedictine brother priest and I were the only males. Only about four of the women seemed to be pastors or clergy. The questions and discussion for the next twenty minutes were about where to go for more study, what to visit in Ireland / Scotland, and about his affiliation with Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. One or more had not attended the previous conferences from their comments. No one had a question about the content or his presentations until my friend and I spoke.

Dr. Newell's ease in continuing in that session to be recognized as the Expert and the ease of the conference organizers in allowing that format to continue even in the final Q & A session demonstrated to me: 1) none of them have an adequate or meaningful model of adult learning; 2) They do not know the key steps necessary for human change; 3) they do not value listening and learning from one another; 4) Dr. Newell does see that his applied theology- in the way he organizes his presentation - contradicts his Celtic message; and 5) None seem to know how to create new community.

He ended no session with asking those present to discuss with one another the concepts just presented or how they related these to their current views. There was never an invitation to learn from one another, to practice any listening, although LISTENING was the great value proposed.

The Celtic view is that each of us is a Word of God. Then as a group we are a gathering of Words of God. This means that we can speak to and learn about this Mystery with one another. The Kingdom is already present among us. This truth was not valued in any thing done over three days conferencing on Celtic Spirituality. (It is a value we have held and practiced weekly for 16 years in our Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky.)

Allow me to suggest how people learn and change. Brief background. I teach Ethics, World Religion, Business Communication at Midway College and Coordinate the Human Resource Management program. All adults, average age about 37, with much work experience.
I also organize and conduct change programs for addictive offenders, repeat offenders, often many years in prison, often with experience in other rehab programs.

What I want to suggest is that Talking does not change anyone. Talking about new ideas has no effect on human behavior. People do not change unless three steps are taken.
1) There must be a dissatisfaction with the Current Situation. Or the Status Quo
2) There must be a vision, a hope or a persuasion that things can be better.
3) Practical first steps must be taken.

Without all three, there is no change. How do we learn as adults? Not simply by new information or persuasion, but only by some mental engagement: what does this mean to ME? How can I begin to use it now? What challenge do I find in it? What is my next first step if I am to apply this idea? Actual planning and doing of this practical step is absolutely necessary for any change to occur. Otherwise we are too much creatures of habit.

All three are necessary for change. We stopped in every sessions short of #3. However brilliant the ideas or moving is the gospel good news we cannot assume any personal engagement unless and until people talk to one another about the meaning for themselves of what they have just heard and begin to apply it, concretely, in behavior. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus often complains to his disciples: You have been with me all this time, and you still do not understand. . .

Any change requiring stepping out of our usual behavioral boxes means we must have a different experience of ourselves, must involve new behavior. We learn by doing, not by talking.

Since we are each Words of God, we have words to speak to one another in sharing when, how and where these truths can be applied, here and now. The Kingdom is now, already among us. Whenever we stop short of how to apply this, we miss the learning “Discipling” moment.

When any adult education does not allow, nay encourage this kind of interaction and application, it is vain, remains notional, and is a kind of romanticizing of a vision that will have small effect.

Remedy: Allow Time in every presentations for this kind of adult engagement, learning and application, small group discussion. Without Envisioning the first practical steps among us, the facilitator has missed the moment of the Spirit ready to emerge diversely among us.

Now I am passionate about this Celtic view becoming more effective in the world. I also put the responsibility for this failure to envision Effective Learning and Application on the organizers of the conference. Too often the old academic classroom model, or the pulpit model, or visiting Expert model of education prevails. I suggested that each session end with a round table discussion of 5-6 persons of what an application of this Celtic view would be for themselves and their community. We are each Words of God. We need to talk to one another to recognize and affirm that Truth.

In the organization of this conference and in its preferred style of presentation, we lost a valuable opportunity to begin to create a new community via new authentic listening and learning from one another re this Celtic vision. Can it still be done? Yes. But the opportunity to do this in each session, that unique teaching / learning moment with whoever was next to whoever was still lost. Many new relationships might have been begun. We are each a Word of God.

We have been practicing this kind of learning and listening and respectful silence in the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky for many years. Visit our web page and blogs for more information. Www.lexpages.com/SGN

Paschal Baute.
May 1, 2006