Group Spirituality, Public vs. Private
From: Axon Instruments (
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 95 01:02 CST
 I've got a question/concern about the spiritualism of our group as
perceived by potential new members.  As a warning of my agenda, I come
from a background where first impressions are very important and I am not
able to (or more probably, do not wish to) shake that value.  Also, I
cherish those who are able to make life decisions based on spiritual
belief but generally don't put myself that category.  However, I am a
founding member of our cohousing group and have worked for the cause on a
weekly basis since 1988.  With all that disclaimer I'd like float the
following and ask for comment:  Our group states in it's Mission Statement
that it welcomes diversity in religion and political persuasion. However
in practice, it seems that if one has beliefs which I pigeon-hole as New
Age spiritualism, then that persons' values are more easily fit into the
group mind than say someone who would align themselves with the born-again
Christian community.  Over the years, we have developed some consistent
times for gathering and celebration. One of the biggest ones occurs around
Thanksgiving. In November last, we entertained roughly 60-70 people for an
afternoon feast loosely based on the American tradition. We have always
cast a large net for this event by inviting previous members, people who
have shown interest in joining plus our architects, lawyer and other
professionals.  The spiritualism question was raised when I suggested
prior to the event that we tone down any show of spiritualism which could
be construed as representing the group as a whole. My concern came out of
a situation the year before when an "invocation" before the meal included
asking all the guests to stand and hold hands as one of our members passed
by each guest with a bowl made by Tibetan monks which makes an incredible
humming/glowing sound when rimmed with a small fur covered stick.  The
invocation was much more non-denominational this year. The bowl was not
present but hands were still held. However, my questioning of the public
spiritualism of the group has touched a nerve and it will be one of the
topics of conversation at our annual retreat next month. Each year the
members of the group rent enough houses to fit us (presently two large
vacation homes) and we spend the weekend with our process mentors (Kay and
Floyd Tift, formerly of Findhorn) working through the big issues.  Here's
my view. I enjoy the spiritualism within the group as long as the
assumption is not made that this spiritualism represents the group as a
whole. When we are in a position of public outreach, such as inviting
possible new members to a function, we should not appear 'New Age' any
more than we should appear rabid Republican or pro-beef. If the marketing
materials we mail to people say " ... we welcome diversity in age,
religion, affectional preference, political persuasion, and financial
status" then we have the responsibility the give people the first
impression that our written statement is genuine.  We need more members I
am concerned that if we provide an atmosphere to prospective members which
is beyond pro-neighborhood or pro-extended family we will end up
disenchanting more potential cohousers than it will attract.  The counter
argument is that if the group doesn't appear to endorse any specific set
of values, then it comes off as milquetoast and appeals to no one as is
tries to appeal to all.  Comments please, I'm a bit stumped.  Rich Lobdill
Grell CoHousing Group San Luis Obispo / Oceano CA

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