Over the next number of weeks, we’re entering a series of reflections on SoulStream’s values and commitments. These values and commitments really are what bind us together, connecting us to one another in our sincere desires as we engage our lives, wherever we are. The reflections on the values will be offered to us through the voices of our Founding Partners: Steve and Jean Imbach, Jeff and Joy Imbach, Andrea Kastner, Sue and Tony Vander Woude, Karen Webber. Thank you to these dear people for laying the foundation of our beautiful community of SoulStream. We are deeply grateful.
Today, Jeff offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process they went through when first developing these values and commitments – the process of SoulStream emerging as a dispersed community, the community to which we now all belong. Thank you so much Jeff for sharing this backstory.
From the beginning of SoulStream, the Founding Partners were busy planning and facilitating spiritual direction training (2003 and on). Once a month the facilitators and spouses would gather for an afternoon and evening of work, sharing, food and fun.
Facilitating as a team rather than as individuals was considered essential, creating an open and honest context where participants could be real in their experience of God. At one of our gatherings the question emerged about what was the heart of SoulStream – teaching or community. Were we a group of people teaching courses or were we fundamentally a community? We began to realize that fundamentally we were a community together. As a community we offered courses, but the courses were not the essential thing. This was partly evoked because participants often inquired about finding support after completing the course.
We wrestled with what this deepened understanding meant. Through a slow but amazingly graced process of praying together, talking together, being confused together, and finally discerning together we gradually named our fundamental commitments. We wanted the community to be founded in a contemplative life in Christ and to have a deepening commitment: an open, receptive response to God’s loving presence and the Spirit’s movement, a welcoming presence to others, and an orientation toward justice and peace.
And how strong did we intend these commitments to be? As a note from that time reflects, “On one of our trips to King’s Fold, as Karen, Jeff, Andrea and Steve were discussing the problem of how to include others into the community of SoulStream without becoming a complicated institution, Jeff raised the idea of a dispersed order. It seemed so right! The feelings of connection, peace, excitement that we felt were palpable and common amongst us all.” Very strong! Like a monastic order – not living in one place but strongly bonded nonetheless.
As you can imagine, the wording was important! We eventually chose the term “community” rather than “order” and the term “commitments” rather than “vows.” Less technical but still intended to strongly bind the community together. And while we were at it, we chose the term “Partners” rather than something more passive like “friends” or “members.” We wanted each Partner to feel invested in the community, with a real voice, and with a sense of contributing to the wellbeing of the whole.
The articulation of values came a bit later. We weren’t interested in drawing up a doctrinal statement or creed. We simply wanted to deepen our heart understanding of what we knew to be bedrock under our commitments as we responded to God, to community, to inclusion, and to justice and shalom. Jeff, Laurie McGillivray, and Rob Peterson provided a first draft of these values.
So here we are! Exploring together. As a community together. Let’s enter into reflection around the values and commitments these next weeks with open hearts to deepen our embrace of this gifted community that God has given to us.