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Emergence Reflection

by Greg Buckland, Lucy Stone Cooperative Planning Team Member & UU Community Cooperatives board member
Shared at Worship at First Parish in Brookline on Sunday, April 10, 2011.

For the last 10 months or so, my day job has been with a carpenter in Jamaica Plain.  We are rehabbing a beautiful old house whose interior had been destroyed by water damage and flood.  The backyard at the construction site is hard packed dirt. The grass, shrubs, and flowers that once grew there have been worn away by the comings and goings of heavy boots, demolition debris, and construction materials. The remaining earth is muddy and barren.  Over these past few weeks, though, some bold little plants - maybe crocuses - have pushed their way up through the dirt, and made their presence known. Their fresh green shoots stand out brightly against the dark brown dirt, and the piles of grey gravel.

Someone, I'm not sure who, saw these three or four little patches of green, and decided to protect them. They placed bricks in square formations - small, simple barriers [walls? fortresses? castles?] - around each patch. These little brick structures remind us not to trample the emerging life underfoot.

Over the last three years, I have been involved with the emergence of the Lucy Stone Cooperative. Through scores of one-on-one and small group conversations about what the cooperative might be or become, we assembled a Planning Team – a group of individuals committed to help birth this new mission and concept.

Over untold hours of planning meetings, weekend retreats, and hundreds of cups of tea, we co-created a mission, a vision, and a plan. We have reached out for support from those around us, raised thousands of dollars, incorporated a legal entity, searched for and purchased a suitable property, and begun to build a home.

The process has been beautiful, stressful, chaotic, nourishing, frightening, exhilarating, tedious, and powerful. And the co-op is still a toddler – just starting to take its first wobbly steps into the wider world; just starting to learn the questions: “why?” “how?” and “what for?” – the questions that I hope will help us learn and grow for years to come. I hope [beyond hope] that 30 years from now, Lucy Stone Co-op will be as rich a place for learning and living as it has been for me, these past three.

In many ways, Lucy Stone Co-op is like the crocuses. In our time and place, the landscape can seem muddy and barren – piled high with the gravel of greed and destruction. We are alive at a time of ecological peril, spiritual crisis, and social upheaval. The heavy boots of consumer culture have worn thin the precious gardens of our connection to each other and the holy. The debris and waste of our economy are poisoning our natural back yards – and the people and creatures who call them home. The cacophony of political schism has frightened away the sparrows and chickadees of peace, and good will.

And yet, good will persists. Peace persists. Life persists. There are bold little shoots, emerging from the hard landscape – yearning for freedom and sunlight. Their roots may be young, but their heritage is deep, and they can draw sustenance in the most surprising places.

The core values of Lucy Stone Co-op emerged at our first planning retreat in the summer of 2008: spiritual practice; sustainable living, and social change. These values, like the crocuses, stand in bright contrast against the dark, mucky surround – they are fragile, and they need protection and encouragement. But they are dogged and clever and surprising.

We have begun, at Lucy Stone Co-op, to build little brick structures – to form little supports around this emerging life. We sing together on Sunday nights. We take a collective breath or pray to open and close our meetings. We covenant together to be gentle with one another and ourselves. We are learning to say “no” when we must, and to mean it when we say “yes.” We have begun to learn how to ask for support and help, and we have begun to understand what it means to be steadfast without being rigid. We have begun to see that when we can form up these little bricks, what emerges in their midst can be beautiful, bold, and a little wild.

We will not be here forever. Like the crocuses, a whole new garden – a new landscape will one day supplant us. But in the meantime, I pray that we can add a little brightness – a little life – to our surroundings, and that with grace, luck, and a little help from our friends, we can learn to live, and gently to persist.