Surrender and trustworthy leadership

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

The Taize service last night at Ascension Catholic Church was beautiful, prayerful, reverent and peaceful as usual.

But something else hit me.

David Anderson is the leader of the service—has been for 22 years.  I estimate that there were 400 people packed into the worship area.  And every one of them followed David's lead.  His voice was amplified I think, but that was the only electronic thing going on.  All the instruments played were acoustic. 

Taize involves singing simple chants over and over, as many as ten to fifteen times.  To make it a little more interesting, David will have the instruments stop playing for a few rounds so the human voices predominate or he'll slow down the pace and then speed it up.  What struck me is that everyone wanted to follow his lead.  No one wanted to be the lead singer.  No one wanted to improvise.  All 400 of us wanted to let him lead us to places we couldn't go to on our own.

We trusted him.

Most of us had been to Taize services many times.  We always liked where he led us in the past, so we willing surrendered to his directing.  It was a wonderful feeling.  To let someone else lead me.  To give up control for an hour and be taken to places I couldn't go on my own. 

In group building, sometimes a group will engage in an exercise in which one person stands on a platform maybe 3 feet off the ground and the rest of the team stands on the ground in two parallel lines with their hands stretched out towards each other.  Then the person on the platform allows him/herself to fall backwards and be caught by the other members of the group.  It's quite a rush to allow yourself—without bending at the waist as your falling—to let go of your self-preservation instincts and be caught as you are falling.

Again, trust is the all important factor.

In my men's group, which has been meeting for 22 years now, we only make progress when we become vulnerable, when we take the risk of exposing our feelings to each other.  We sometimes struggle with that.  Our instinct tends to be defensive.  But over the years we've allowed ourselves to fall backwards, so to speak, and to be caught by our brothers—well, most of the time anyway.  The times when we haven't been caught challenge us to say "that hurt" to each other, be listened to, and then get back up on the platform and fall away.

Trust is a very precious thing.

I listen to the reporting on the black young people killed by white cops, and I feel the anger and/or defensiveness being expressed way before all the facts are out.  Part of the reason is that there is very little trust between black youth and white cops, Republicans and Democrats, men and women, young and old, the 1% and the 99%.

Trust is a big deal.

I never heard of a pre-nuptial agreement when I was a boy.  When people said "I do" almost everyone believed that when they fell backwards, they would be caught, and in one form or another they were.  We trusted our leaders—cops, clergy, teachers, coaches, athletes, presidents—to lead us to places we could get to on our own.

Remember the song, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me"?  Maybe we need to paraphrase the lyrics and sing "Let there be trust in this community and let it begin with me."  Most of us don't have a lot of power to wield, but all of us have some power.  Let's commit ourselves to use our power in trustworthy ways. 

Turning this endemic mistrust around has to begin somewhere.

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