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I really like watching good musicians play live, especially bass guitarists. When I played bass trombone in a swing band, the rhythm section held the band together. The drummer and the bass kept the groove alive and kept all of us players together. When I see a really cool bassist slap out a funk rhythm, I am filled with joy. Rhythms are the stuff of life, stuff we dance to, provides stability for all the joy going on over top of it. Soloists are able to swoop and rob time only because of the steady rhythm of the rhythm section that holds everything together.

There is a rhythm to the life of any group too, including a Clergy Peer Learning Group’s life. At the beginning there is a covenant that the group decides on together. The covenant will be explicit with each group setting of expectations for how the members will hold each other in love and trust. The covenant is a commitment to a steady beat of respect. Next there is a challenge and confrontation, testing and living out the covenant together; stumbling and forgiving is all part of the good rhythm. Then there is cohesion when the group gels because they faced conflict with frankness, vulnerability and in love, holding to the steady beat of the covenant. Finally, co-mission; meaning the group has a renewed purpose together.

When I first joined the 18-piece swing band, it was hard work getting into that rhythm and finding my voice instrumentally. I had to practice. I had to show up. Some nights I would rather have stayed home after a funeral and three meetings at the church that day. But I got myself to practice that evening. And I was glad I did get there even for the possibility of musical joy that sometimes showed up.

I think it sounds backwards to say, “Hey it’s great to be part of a clergy peer learning group”, when you and I know that it will sometimes be hard work of living through a time of challenge and confrontation. Why would we subject ourselves to that?

From my own experience and from hearing others, there is something that opens up in us when we get together with colleagues in a circle of trusted friends. I’m not saying every time your group gets together that collegial joy will show up. But even the possibility of Spirit-filled transformative moments and learning and friendship just by showing up together can be enough.

It’s up to you.

Shining Waters will provide administrative staff support to help you and 6-7 others to gather maybe once a month for a year. You choose 6-7 other colleagues and let us know who they are by registering here: https://shiningwatersregionalcouncil.ca/pastoral-relations/flourish/clergy-peer-learning-group-application/

Come to the February 8, 2023 day of orientation and development for all the members your group at Lansing United Church, Toronto (9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and let us help you feel the rhythm and get you started.

And once started, groove.