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Slater on camino

Striving Valiantly and Daring Greatly at Diocesan Convention

The Rev. Scott Slater is bringing Theodore Roosevelt to the diocese’s annual convention, September 29-30 in Carbondale. In a manner of speaking.

Slater, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Maryland, says he will draw deeply in this keynote presentation on the insights of Brené Brown, whose research into vulnerability, shame and courage is distilled in three New York Times’ best sellers and a TED talk that has been viewed more than 30 million times. Brown, in turn, draws on an idea that Roosevelt expressed in one of his most famous speeches.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Roosevelt said in his “Citizenship In a Republic” speech, delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”

Slater will have a few things to say about striving valiantly, daring greatly and spending one’s self in a worthy cause in his convention presentation, “Moses, Jesus, and the Diocese of Bethlehem: Walking with Curiosity and Courage,” scheduled for 11:30 a. m. on September 29 at the Carbondale Grand Hotel & Conference Center.

The diocese spent the year between its 2015 and 2016 conventions on an internal “pilgrimage” that culminated with the articulation of three priorities: to connect, communicate and collaborate. Slater, a certified facilitator in The Daring Way, a methodology developed by Brown, says he will come to convention with some “c’s” of his own.

“I hope to facilitate connection, because we are social creatures, and to cultivate curiosity, because to be more in touch with our emotions we have to be curious with our emotions to start with—Why am I afraid? What am I afraid of?” Slater said.

“I also hope we can foster more collaboration,” he added. “Congregations now need to be more collaborative either within their own denomination or other congregations in their community.

“And I hope we can inspire courage and a willingness to try new things.”

In an afternoon session, Slater and the Rev. Anne Kitch, canon to the ordinary, will facilitate small group conversation. He says Brown’s research on courage and vulnerability may be especially instructive for the diocese. “One of the things she discovered when she was researching vulnerability was that when you feel vulnerable yourself, you think it is weakness, but when others see it in you, they see it as courageous,” he says.

“For a congregation, vulnerability might be initiating conversations with the Lutheran church across the street on collaborative ministry. In the Diocese of Bethlehem, it was the pilgrimage. I am curious as an outsider what is happening next.”

Although an “outsider,” Slater is familiar with the diocese and its recent history, having led two diocesan clergy days last year.  He likens the diocese’s experience of pilgrimage to his own experience walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain (pictured above).

“On the first day, everyone is nervous,” he says. “‘Are we going to make it over the Pyrenees?’ But relationships form as things go on. Sharing deeply personal stories with strangers becomes the norm. A pilgrimage invites you to a deeper relationship not only with God, but with other pilgrims.

“Part of the way you do that is being vulnerable with the other pilgrims you walk with. God wears you down through the interactions with God’s other creatures… That’s what I hope the diocese discovered on its pilgrimage. Rather than being a bunch of silos, people have begun to share. Collaborating deepens relationships and it helps ministries to flourish.”