So, the last remaining business of the interim board is the writing of an “end-of-term” report, and ensuring that the information we have assembled over the last two and a half years can be made available to whoever may need it in future. To this end, we are envisaging that the interim board website will continue to be online for at least a year.
This group (Sally Brown and Rev. Master Meiko) dissolved in February. We thank Sally and Rev. Master Meiko very much or all the work they put in to this project.
Structure & Function
In March the Structure and Function Working Group completed the writing and editing of the survey that we have been working on for some time now. The survey, together with a cover letter from Rev. Master Haryo, was sent out to monks and lay ministers at the end of March. We have asked that responses be returned to us by 15 May. We are currently considering how we will process and collate the responses that we receive, with the intention of writing a summary report of the survey results. It is intended that this material will be the basis for discussion at the Monastic Sangha Gathering at Shasta Abbey in September.
The Resource Sharing group received research done by Mo Henderson and Dan Brodribb. It gives an oversight of unfortunate incidents/situations between Buddhist masters/teachers and disciples in recent years and the responses given to this by the respective sanghas. We are presently editing the research so that it will be easy to read and compare - and hope to post this on the Resource Sharing web page for monks. We also will upload a second talk by Rev. Master Daizui on Preceptual behaviour.
Rev. Master Hakuun
We have been fairly active in recent months, as we now have four documents that we are preparing for publication. They are all in the Rules Awareness category. The first of these, a leaflet titled 'An Overview of the Rules of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives' has been sent out to monks for their feedback and we have received many encouraging comments, which we are in the process of collating. Once we have gathered all the suggestions we will, in consultation with Rev. Master Haryo and the monks who originally drafted the text, finalize the wording and layout before deciding on how to distribute the end product.
The second publication 'A Digest of the Rules of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives' is also ready to be circulated with an invitation for monks to offer comments. This will go ahead in about a month, once the deadline for submissions in response to the survey by the Structure and Function working group has passed. It was thought that it would be better to send out requests for feedback sequentially rather than concurrently, so that monks do not have too much of this kind of work to do at any one time.
There are two other publications in the works: 'An Index of the Rules of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives' and 'Related Keywords Used in the Rules of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives' These will be circulated for comments once the other material has finished the feedback stage of the process.
We are aware of one other document that will be created; we will start work on it when we receive the text. The (provisional) title is: ‘Guiding Principles for Spiritual Counseling and Teaching Relationships'.
In other developments: Our working group is now only two members since
Marianne decided to step down. We are very grateful for the help she has given this group and wish her well. This leaves just Chris Loukes and Rev. Roland in the group, though after some reflection and consultation with the interim board we did, on their suggestion, ask Rev. Master Zensho if he were able to offer help, as it was felt his greater familiarity with American conventions in publishing could be very helpful. He generously agreed to act as an advisor when needed.
We created a Recommendations Document that contained suggestions and ideas concerning the Rules, from an ‘ethics’ point of view. This document was sent out to senior monks and lay ministers on 3rd February 2013 for feedback by 15th March.
We also considered it to be appropriate to put down on paper what we considered the overall priorities should be, again with our ‘ethics’ hats on. So we prepared a list of ethical priorities with a suggested timeline. This was sent out to senior monks and lay ministers on 8th March 2013 with a request for feedback by 25th March.
We then forwarded a synopsis of the feedback to Reverend Master Haryo on 26th March 2013. To allow some identification of the respondents, we noted on the synopsis whether they were lay or monastic and by whether they were European or North American. So, all comments contained within the feedback found their way into the synopsis.
We received two pieces of feedback after the due date and after the synopsis had been sent. Reverend Master Haryo asked that this feedback be included in with the original replies. We have amended the document to include these latest comments.
Rules Awareness & Education
The group produced a new version of the leaflet entitled “Guiding Principles for Spiritual Counseling and Teaching Relationships” incorporating the comments that the group received from selected monks and lay ministers in the various countries where the OBC functions. This draft is being circulated to all senior monks and lay ministers for comment. We hope it should only need minor changes before it is sent to the publications working group.
The new leaflet “An overview of the Rules of the OBC” produced by the Rules Digest and Cataloguing working group could become the principal way that lay trainees are introduced to the rules. However, the group surveyed some of the priories to find out how postulants become familiar with the rules. This survey will extend to all priories where postulants train.
In December the board emailed members of the Order with the collection of topics of concern that had been in our basket, suggesting a next step of forming discussion groups on each of the topics. Due to the rather small response, we contacted the interested people to suggest they might form their own discussion groups if they so wish, without further involvement of the interim board, unless they need any technical support.
This being so, after talking with Rev. Master Haryo, it seems good to start a process of winding up business for the interim board, and not take on any new issues. Together with the working groups we will work out arrangements to provide any support they need to get their projects completed or ready for discussion at the Monastic Gathering. When we committed ourselves last September for another year, there was the possibility of our arranging for the organising of the upcoming Monastic Gathering, but the present understanding is that Rev. Master Haryo will make those arrangements himself.
We will take time in the coming months to write a report on the interim board, its development and lessons learned, and will seek contributions from those who have been part of this effort over the past several years.
Of course we are still around for a while and we continue to be happy to talk if there is a need.
18 Month Public Statement Review
Rev. Master Haryo has asked Rev. Master Leandra and Richard Potter (lay minister) to prepare a report of our progress with the 17 points we agreed to undertake at the 2011 General Meeting. They have contacted the groups who agreed to work on particular areas as well as the chief priests of our temples, and have asked for feedback by 23 February hoping to have a review of our progress by the end of March. This is seen as a fact-finding task.
Structure & Function Group
The Structure and Function Working Group has been working hard for some time finalizing the questions for the survey it hopes to send out soon to members of the OBC asking for their thoughts on the current structure and function of the OBC and if or how it might be improved to meet current conditions. Those questions have finally been completed and we have turned our attention to refining the Preamble, which serves as an introduction to the questions. We have done much of that work, and when it is finished we will send the completed survey to Rev Master Haryo for comment. After that it will probably be sent to a focus group, which might include Rev Master Haryo's Advisory Council and several other monks. Once this has been done it will be distributed to members of the Order.
In addition we have discussed issues related to confidentiality and anonymity of the responses we receive to the survey and how to go about analyzing those responses so that they can be written up into a report. Progress is being made on all fronts, and we hope to have the survey out soon.
The Rules Digest is nearly ready, the Overview of The Rules leaflet and webpage are almost ready and the Rules index is just being started. Marianne Florian has stepped down from the group and we are hoping for a replacement.
Following a meeting with Rev. Master Haryo to discuss ethical recommendations outlined in two documents, the Ethics Working Group has revised these accordingly. The first has been circulated and the second will be circulated when it is confirmed whether Rev. Master Haryo wishes his comments and annotations to be included. The group continues to meet regularly, in the interim. Karen Richards intends to retire from the group once the circulation of the documents is complete.
Rules Awareness & Education
The working group first met on 24th March 2012 and has now met 9 times. Mo Henderson and Tony Loyd, who were originally “researchers” for the group, have now agreed to become full members, joining Rev Masters Shiko and Ando, Rev Chandra, and Chris Hughes.
The group produced a draft leaflet, entitled “Guiding Principles for Spiritual Counselling and Teaching Relationships”. A focus group consisting of 7 monks and 4 lay ministers provided comments on the draft, and some of these comments are now being clarified. Assuming agreement to a draft text can be obtained within the focus group, the next step will be to send the draft to all senior monks and lay ministers for comment.
The group was tasked with producing an introduction to the OBC Rules. However, the pamphlet “An overview of the Rules of the OBC” produced by Rev Master Zensho and the Rules Digest and Cataloguing working group provides such an introduction.
The working group has also started work on a survey of how OBC temples make the OBC rules available to those who practice there, and whether the monk(s) in charge take any particular steps to make new members and others aware of the rules.
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.
The Resource Sharing Group will be posting the first two of Rev. Master Daizui’s talks on the Vinaya on the monks resource page of the OBC website by the end of the month. Rev. Master Daizui was appointed Vinaya Master by Rev. Master Jiyu, and he covers the most important rules, drawing particularly on the Pali Vinaya and the Mahayana Vinaya text The Scripture of Brahma’s Net. He clearly shows how the foundation and continuity of our own rules are based in these traditional guidelines and at the same time discusses aspects of observing rules in a contemporary context and as an integral part of our meditation practice.
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.
Structure & Function
The group has started by examining some of the issues that influence the Structure and Function of the Order, including what the purpose of the Order is, and different ways in which we use the word ‘Order’. The researchers and consultants have begun looking at the structure of other groups that have some similarity to the OBC, to give some idea, for purposes of comparison, of what other approaches to governance are being used. The group has also started to consider the possibility of a questionnaire, perhaps to be distributed to monks and lay ministers, in order to gain some insight into what perceptions there are of the current structure and functioning of the Order.
OBC Website Development
The new OBC website has been launched and we invite everyone to see the new site at: http://www.obcon.org. Also, we have worked to integrate the OBC Journal into the new site and the Journal part can be seen at: http://www.obcon.org/journal. We hope that you find the sites helpful and informative; our intent is to continue to add more content and your feedback or suggestions are most welcome. RM Haryo thanks all who have helped with any aspect of the work on the website.
This group is on retreat until fall. However, we are in communication with each other, showing up at meetings, reading all the websites, and Facebook pages. Bright Moon has launched, and people are beginning to catch on to using it - both lay and monastic as was intended. The Facebook page has had some interesting posts and people who communicate using that social networking tool are getting up to speed. The European part of the lay Sangha has done some good communication work, and I am hoping we can copy some of it for use in the United States when we return. Thank you for your patience, this time of quietude is part of the process.
The Resource Sharing Group – which includes Rev. Master Hakuun in Europe and Rev. Helen in North America – has been meeting regularly to identify topics of interest to be shared on the new OBC website’s Monastic Resources page. An invitation is being sent out in early July to senior monks of the Order asking them to submit articles, talks and other resources to be shared. We are also looking forward to identifying resources for lay ministers and the broader Sangha. Lay minister, Mo Henderson, from France and lay trainee Dan Brodribb from Canada will be helping with this aspect of the work.
A letter has been sent to temples to gather information about what leaflets have been created that might be shared and the responses are being collated. The finished list will be ready to share in early July. Information is also being gathered about leaflets that have been created and could serve as templates for future publications. We will soon be consulting with the OBC Treasury monks to see how printing of leaflets can be financed.
We have discussed which software could be used to enable temples and meditation groups to edit and produce documents for their own use. We hope to facilitate temples and meditation groups, and the OBC itself, to prepare content to go on the web for downloading, to be optimized for on-screen viewing, or to be printed.
The Ethics Working Group currently comprises two monastics and three lay ministers, who have some background experience in the area of safeguarding and the promotion of ethical principles, within a range of different settings. At the request of Rev. Master Haryo and the interim board, we have been meeting regularly since April 2011, with the purpose of reviewing, clarifying and strengthening the ethics and grievance rules, policies and procedures for monks and laity training within the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives.
In that time we have looked at the rules of the OBC, making proposals for amendments, which have since been adopted, at the autumn 2011 Conclave and produced a document, which outlines how anyone who practices, within the Order can raise an ethical concern, should they have one. This document has undergone further amendments and is currently being reviewed, in an attempt to implement an effective system, that is as robust as possible, whilst also being acceptable to the majority of monks and laity.
Our work is challenging; not least because the group reflects the diversity of opinion, within the OBC, about how our ethical interests are best served. Additionally, changing procedures and getting new ones adopted, has proved to be a protracted process, under the present rules.
Keeping up the momentum and our spirits is a point of training as well as having practical considerations. Two monastics from our original group (one European and one American) have since moved on to other things and we have recently been joined by Rev. Master Koten Benson, who has brought a different and much valued dimension to the group. We currently have a vacancy for a European monk.
We continue to work in collaboration with Rev. Master Haryo and the interim board at developing the current procedures for raising ethical concerns into a clearer, more helpful and accessible process that will help to safeguard everyone.
Rules Digest & Cataloging
Rev. Master Zensho has completed a draft index of the Order's rules along with an introduction to them and Rev. Margaret has completed a draft of the rules digest. All of these documents are currently in the process of being reviewed and edited.
Rules Awareness & Education
An updated version of the OBC Rules was published in March 2012. The Order then set up the Rules Education and Awareness Working Group. Its purpose is to improve understanding and awareness of the OBC rules, including those that define appropriate behaviour in teaching relationships, and how they apply to monastic and lay practice.
The working group first met on 24 March and has now met four times. Its members are Rev. Masters Ando and Shiko, Rev. Chandra, and Chris Hughes, assisted by Mo Henderson and Tony Loyd. The working group is initially concentrating on producing two leaflets that were committed to in the OBC Public Statement, covering “appropriate behaviour in teaching relationships” and “an introduction to the rules of the Order”. Members of the group are currently reviewing a first draft of the text for the former, and researching existing work that would contribute to the latter. The working group is also taking the first steps in making contact with other Buddhist groups that may share their experience of improving people’s understanding and awareness of those groups’ rules.
For five days in April members of the interim board met together at Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple in southern California, Rev. Master Phoebe's home Temple. Rev. Master Saido, Bob McGraw and Rev. Alicia flew over from the UK, Pam Hunter Johnson drove down from northern California, Rev. Berthold drove down from Shasta Abbey, and Rev. Master Jigen joined the meetings from the UK via Internet connection. Andrea Spark came too, to support us by preparing our meals and refreshments, for which we are hugely grateful. Sadly, Rev. Master Phoebe's mother passed away shortly before we were all due to arrive, so she flew to The Netherlands, returning after the meeting was over but in time to spend a few days with the three UK board members before they flew home.
This is only the third time, since the board's inception at the conclave of September 2010, that we have met together face to face. We usually meet twice a week online, which is an extremely useful facility to have, but meeting together actually in the same physical location has great benefits, not just in terms of the amount and quality of work we are able to do, but in terms of the stronger Sangha relationships that result from meditating, working, taking meals, walking and relaxing together.
Our main purpose for this meeting was to review all the outstanding tasks, suggestions and concerns that have been brought to the interim board and to form a work plan for the next six months. The interim board, and associated working groups, work on behalf of Rev. Master Haryo and the Order and the work comes to us from many sources, including the tasks involved in implementing the decisions announced by the Order in the Public Statement made in September last year, individual submissions made by monastic and lay members of the sangha and items and concerns raised at recent conclaves and general meetings of the Order.
We identified items that we can pass to existing working groups, and others that are already being taken care of in some way. We created a list of the matters we thought could fruitfully be discussed within the Order and/or wider Sangha. We then prioritised and grouped together all the remaining items.
As we are all working on behalf of the Order, a strong theme was how to make it easier for the interim board & working groups to be more open and accessible to the wider Sangha. We also talked about how we work together as a board, how we can be more effective and make the work more sustainable for ourselves. A large package of work has been delegated to the working groups and this is our, and their, major short-term emphasis. Meanwhile we can be consulting with Rev. Master Haryo and the Order about what areas to tackle next and how.
We held our final session on Sunday morning and then joined Rev. Master Seikai and members of the Pine Mountain congregation for a festival ceremony, Dharma talk and lunch.
We wish to express our wholehearted thanks to the monks and congregation of Pine Mountain Temple who made us so welcome and provided everything we needed, from good food to good company, space to meet and space to relax and most especially for creating such a beautiful and inspiring place of training and making it available to us.
We are pleased to announce that a number of new working groups have recently been formed to address many of the practical steps that the Order resolved to take at the September 2011 general meeting of the Order, and that were announced in the Public Statement that was issued following that meeting.
Structure and Function Working Group
This group will review the Order's current organizational structure and governance function, addressing such areas as its leadership, greater transparency and accountability and giving consideration to the recommendations from the FaithTrust Institute report and making any suggestions for modifications or changes that could better serve the Order's current and future needs.
Resource Sharing Working Group
The purpose of this group is to assemble resources on sexuality, celibacy, teaching, counseling, and healthy boundaries, relevant to monastic life and lay training.
Publications Working Group
The purpose of this group is to prepare for publication material produced by the other working groups, to publish and distribute it and to recommend ways that it can be kept up to date.
Rules Awareness and Education Working Group
The purpose of this group is to identify how the Order can improve everyone’s understanding and awareness of the OBC rules that define appropriate behaviour in teaching relationships and to determine the best ways to make rules awareness and education materials available.
Rules Digest and Cataloging Working Group
The purpose of this group is to produce a digest of the rules of the OBC that are most relevant to the safety of all who train with our Order, and to create a rules subject index.
These groups are made up of monastic and lay trainees. They will be working collaboratively with the Order and the wider Sangha and will be asking for comments and feedback at various stages of their work. News updates on their progress will be posted here from time to time.
Two new board members
On 8th December we were delighted to announce the addition of two new members of the interim board: Rev. Master Phoebe and Bob McGraw. You can find out a little about them both by clicking here.
Implementing the 2011 general meeting decisions
Much of our effort over the last two months has been directed towards a plan for implementing the decisions that were listed in the public statement that was issued by the Order after the conclave and general meeting in September. In November we met with Rev. Master Haryo to go through our ideas with him, and by the end of December we hope to have sent out an email detailing the new Order working groups that are to be formed and inviting people to join them.
Lay Communication Working Group
Members of the interim board have been meeting with the Lay Communication Group (formerly called the Bright Moon Board) to help them get new members and clarify their purpose. This is a start-up group of people that has initially focused on development of the Bright Moon website, and are ready to broaden their work to opening up communication among the lay sangha and between the lay sangha and the monastic sangha. Two monks have recently joined this group: Rev. Master Leandra (UK) and Rev. Master Meiko (US).
OBC Website Development Group
This group was formed in November, with Rev. Leon Kackman from Columbia Zen Buddhist Priory in South Carolina as project manager. See a report from this group in the sidebar.
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At the rules conclave and general meeting of the Order held at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in September the interim board was requested by the head of the Order and the assembly to continue its work for another year. This is the first board meeting since the conclave.
Board member changes
Andrew Taylor-Browne has retired from the board since our last meeting. We are immensely grateful to Andrew for all the work and skill that he has contributed since the board was formed, and for his willingness to continue to be of help in a consultative capacity. Rev. Master Meiko also wishes to retire as soon as a replacement can be found - we will very much miss the ability and experience that she brings to the board and are grateful that she is continuing for the time being. We will soon be sending out an email to members of the Order asking for one monk and one lay minister to join the board.
The Public Statement issued by the Order at the end of the general meeting in September lists decisions made in response to the recommendations of the report of the FaithTrust Institute. This will entail the setting-up of a number of new working groups. We are starting to look at this list and work out what groups need to be set up. Once this has been done we will be issuing an invitation for people to take part in these groups. This has also prompted us to think about how these groups function and interact with the board and the Order and to start writing some notes that can be given to new groups.
Ethics working group
This group presented their work so far to the general meeting in September and we are in the process of confirming the details of their continuing work.
OBC website development group
An invitation to join this group, which will oversee the creation of the new site, was sent out in September and responses have been received. A couple of board members will be getting together with Rev. Leon, the project manager, to select the members of the group and send out an email announcing its formation.
Communication with the wider sangha
We still have no direct means of getting information out from the board to the wider sangha and this is something we will be working on.
Over the last six weeks the following topics have been on our agenda:
OBC Website Development
This working group has completed their task of evaluating the current site, identifying clear needs for update and developing a site outline. Their proposal was sent out on 2nd August to monks, lay ministers and others who had responded to the initial survey, with a request for feedback by August 15th.
We were all saddened to hear of the death, on July 14th, of Iain Robinson, who contributed so much as a member of this group and as a lay minister. Iain was a truly kind and generous person and will be sorely missed.
Ethics Working Group
The first report from this group, entitled ‘How to raise an ethical concern’, was sent out to monks and lay ministers on 29th July with a request for feedback by 15th August. The group has also sent suggestions for rules changes to the conclave planning groups and is working on another document describing the principles underpinning their work.
Shasta Abbey Assessment
The FaithTrust Institute submitted a draft report on the 17th July for the attention of those who were directly involved in their study so that these people could ask for amendments and clarifications to the report before the final report is delivered some time in August.
Over 50 lay sangha members responded to the invitation to get involved in a working group on lay sangha communication and dialogue. A start-up group of 7 was formed and they have contacted the others to clarify areas of interest and come up with discussion topics. They have also initiated a Bright Moon website design & development group. The idea of local and regional discussions is being piloted – around 50 people, which included 5 monks and represented 10 meditation groups in the North of England, met in Leeds on 23rd July for a day retreat on the theme of ‘How can we best support each other in deepening our training’.
We continue to receive submissions. Recent examples include topics such as gender in scriptures, ownership and sale of temple property and the use of language in the interim board’s communications. At one of our meetings we discussed what constitutes a submission and concluded that any proposal, idea, comment, view, request that we receive is potentially useful input to our work and we continue to encourage people to talk to us and let us know how they feel about what we are doing and how we are doing it.
Confidentiality of documents
We wish to be as open as possible with information and at the same time respect wishes and needs for confidentiality where they exist. To help us with this we are working on a simple way of classifying each piece of information we receive.
In September the monastic members of the Order, along with four lay minister members, will meet at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey to review and update the rules of the Order. After this work has been done there is time set aside for the interim board to give a report of its work over the past year including areas we think should be addressed next. We will also ask if people feel it is important for this work to continue and, if so, whether they wish the interim board to keep going or if the Order should proceed in some other way. As the conclave gets nearer we are concentrating more of our efforts on this task.
The week of June 13th to 17th 2011 saw the interim board meeting together at the farm in Cornwall where Andrew Taylor-Browne and his wife, Julie, breed alpacas and carry on a variety of other farming activities. Pam, Rev. Berthold and Rev. Master Meiko flew from the US and Rev. Master Jigen, Rev. Willard, Rev. Master Saido and Rev. Alicia traveled the length and breadth of England to get to West Cornwall.
We started with supper on Monday night and talked a little about the arrangements for the next four days. We had planned to have our sessions facilitated by a congregation member who had offered her professional facilitation skills and a wish to help the board in our work, but to everyone’s regret she fell ill at the last moment. Nevertheless, we benefited from her help in planning the event and we decided to take turns facilitating the sessions.
We spent time the first day identifying a number of different ways of viewing what the Order is, both from our own perspectives and those we have come across, including images such as a boat and a jewel. From there, we came up with as many of the possible purposes that the Order serves that we could think of. This gave us a starting point for expressing more explicitly what we understand the Order to be doing, grouped into larger categories such as providing support and maintaining governance. Over the next two days we talked about each category and developed questions that could form the basis of a review, by others, of each area of activity.
Between us, the members of the board have a wide range of experience in the Order, and we have established a way of working together that promotes open and honest discussion, so our days together in Cornwall, whilst being quite intense and challenging, were very productive and also personally rewarding.
On our last morning we talked about our next steps. One of these is to write a report on our activities with suggestions for further action; we plan to get this out at least a month before the conclave in September. We also recognised the importance of personally involving others by having one-to-one conversations in which we actively seek feedback on the work we are doing and use that to inform how we proceed.
And we had some fun – meeting the alpacas and looking around the farm, an evening walk with the dogs at Church Cove and an afternoon tea at Porthleven.
Huge thanks to Julie and Andrew and all at the farm, both 2- and 4-legged, for hosting us and helping to make it such a delightful and valuable week, and to the OBC and others for their donations and support which made it all possible.
Photo attached below.