A Chapter Reflection from Br. Juniper, OEF

I am so grateful that I was able to attend Chapter 2016. It was an amazing time. I am willing to drive twenty-four hours with members of our little Order, twelve hours there and twelve hours back. I helped pay for and arrange the meeting. All because when we are together, my life changes and I am closer to all that I am.

Traveling for hours with Helen (Kiwi), John Michael and Romero, there was time for reflection, laughter, prayer and joy. As the beauty of the Pennsylvania mountains turned into the spectacle of the endless corn fields, an intimacy deepened in our Franciscan walk together. We arrived at Just Plain John’s in Richmond IN at about 2:30 AM and John shuffled us off to bed. We all awoke to the howl of the wolf pack and to a vision of what Franciscan life is in Richmond. After a substantial breakfast, it was off to Indianapolis to help pick-up sisters and brothers arriving for Chapter.

Our trip back was missing Kiwi (sigh). Undaunted, John Michael, Romero and I went to Muncie, IN to help with the community Sunday lunch, with Markie and crew – great fun. Then we were off to NYC, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to drive through Mike Vosler’s hometown of Piqua, OH. We continued through the corn fields, back through the mountains, arriving at David Delacroix’s in Altoona at about 1:30 AM and to be put to bed by David and Yoseph. In the morning, we shared a rich breakfast and deepening connections and then got back in the van to return to New York.

I always get a little nervous when a group is forming, and as we collected and gathered on Wednesday and Thursday, the tension was there. But the joy of seeing first one, and then another, and then another for a couple of days overcomes the nerves. OEF people are not mostly friends in the traditional sense, neither family, but rather you are the people of my hope and of my vision of the future. When I gather with you, I enter another dimension of my life and faith.

The highlight of the weekend for me was when Br. Robert, Anne and Masud came to me in the middle of a pun that would not stop, part of the Juniper Cup competition (and I mean competition) — to say that the selection of the new Council has resulted in a tie, two sisters had the exact same number of mentions.

What to do? Do we have a run off? Do we redo the selection? Do we increase the number of

Council members? How to proceed? Time was not our friend as we had planned a Council Institution celebration that was supposed to happen in an hour. The gathered community discussed, disagreed, sat in shocked silence and worked to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Let me say that again: worked to discern the worked to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst!

In retrospect it seems to me that the Spirit was asking the gathered OEFers if we are serious about discerning the Spirit or do we really intend to fall back on human, political processes. OEF gathered at this Chapter gave Br. Robert, Anne and Masud a quarter, instructed them to flip it as we all prayed for the will of the Spirit. The Spirit provided us with our Council!! It will probably never happen again and certainly not in quite this way. It was a moment in my life, and [I] guess, in the lives of all who were gathered. I am very grateful.

Chapter had a wonderful profession, lots of laugher and discussion about money and giving, times of service, plenty of walk and chats, and lot of hugs. I am so glad I was there.


About John Michael

Pastor, teacher, husband, dog walker, gardener, petrocollapse agitator, contemplative, hiker. Currently serving as a Formation Coordinator for OEF and Dean of VT/NY conference of Lutheran Synod.

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