Katherine Walker
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The Rector of St. Mary's has kindly extended an offer to me to continue to blog. I will share here some of my journey. I am, as some of you know, beginning year 2 of a 5 year transformation.

A mentor of mine named this transformation as being turned from a hawk to a dove.

After 12 years of serving as an above water warfare specialist in the RCN, I was chosen for a chaplain development program which has brought this sailor ashore as a Postulant for the Diocese of the Isles and Inlets, a seminarian at VST, and as your summer intern this year. 

I am settled back into my Vancouver abode, and tucking into my fall semester. The focus of this semester is on languages, leadership, spirituality, Anglican polity and mission, and an internship at St. James in Vancouver.

I learned a very catchy Greek alphabet song which you can listen along to here (you can thank me later!)

In our leadership class, we were to present a 7 minute presentation of a leadership virtue. Things like courage, humour, vulnerability, compassion and humility. I chose compassion and will share with you what I presented. I hope you enjoy it.

Compassion is powerful. Compassion, for me, grows my agency as a human being, and helps me in coming to know that there is a love in which no fear can take hold in—and that this love actually casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18).

Yes, I’ve heard of this love that is patient and kind; that does not envy or boast; that is not arrogant or rude. I’ve had glimpses of this love that does not insist on its own way; that is not irritable or resentful; not rejoicing at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Cor 13:4-6). I have seen this love at work in others. I have felt this love. I have seen it at work in the Church and in the world. 

This Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor 13:7) becomes available to me through compassion.

Compassion allows me to experience that love. This is the love that I wish to extend to myself and to my neighbour, but sometimes I have a little trouble in getting there… 

Working in an acute care hospital while learning how to provide spiritual care this summer before coming to St. Mary’s, a patient helped me in identifying one of my obstacles to compassion. This young woman was living out some multi-generational violence, poverty, street and addiction conditions. Domestic violence saw both her and her partner shot at close range. Both survived but her unborn child did not. This hospital, with its acute care focus, discharges people as soon as physically possible. Not much time. Every word counted.

So, a day before she was discharged, this beautiful and tough young woman was describing the daily grind of being on the street to me. Hoping to move towards some sort of belief system, I asked the question, ‘where do you find strength out there in that world?’ Her head tilted as though I had asked a completely incomprehensible question. She paused. And then she looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘that world? What other world? There is no other world. There is only one world.’ And that’s when I was shown my obstacle to compassion. 

I have since done some interior work over this obstacle, and I have come to understand that not only do I exile people to other worlds, I banish myself to these realms also. What do these realms look like? Well, they are quite solitary. And be it through maximizing/minimizing, superiority/inferiority, right/wrong, yes/no, the result is the same. No compassion. No mutuality. No ‘alike-ness.’ No ‘thou.’ Only the outsider remains, only a terminal uniqueness.

Now, my outsider is incredibly strong and resourceful. My outsider is a juggernaut of an obstacle for me. This outsider has taken me to complete isolation despite being physically surrounded by like-minded people, working towards the same mission, wearing the same uniform as me and living and working very closely with me. With that being said, there is much valid information that my outsider brings to me—but then, as juggernauts do, my outsider gets a little carried away and the next thing I know, I am alone, I am separate, I am other, and I am cut off. 

But, there is hope! There are potent ‘outsider wrangling’ practices available to us that lovingly bring in the exiles from their banishment. This practice builds strength in holding the paradox of the human condition.

Compassion practice

So, get centred with yourself. Get peaceful, however it is that you do that and then, turn to the person beside you. (Yes, a partner is required!) So, turn to your partner, and make eye contact with them. It doesn’t have to be laser eyes that are unbreakable – it can be intermittent. If that is too difficult today, you can pick up your partner's hand. 

This person with you, has known suffering. This person with you has known loss and will know more loss. This person has known joy. This person has known happiness and will come to even happier times. This person with you has been lied to and has also told lies. This person with you has had good days and has had horrible days. This person has at times possessed courage, and, at other times, possessed none. This person has regrets and has deep satisfactions. This person has both asked for and given forgiveness. This person is a part of your life right now and is a beloved child of God.

So now take turns addressing your partner. Please begin by using their first name, and then recite after me. Katherine, you have known suffering. You have known loss and will know even more loss. Katherine you have known joy, you have known happiness and will come to even happier times. You have been lied to and have also told lies. You have had good days, and horrible days. Katherine you have at times possessed courage, and at other times, possessed none. You have regrets and you have deep satisfactions. You have asked for and given forgiveness. Katherine, you are a part of my life right now and are a beloved child of God.

{time for the partner to do the same}

Peace,

your blogging-summer-intern,

Katherine

ps. And, if you want to just secretly whisper this to yourself while regarding someone that you just cannot stand - that works too!