The Grail in the USA

A Grail Tale (of Activism), Judith Blackburn

I went home from the GA fired up to do something about fracking in my home community of Longmont, Colorado, just as our City Council was considering applications from Big Oil for leasing public land east of town for drilling.  Joy Garland and Kate Twohy had already given me a “heads up” about how tricky it is to oppose fracking, and I had seen the DVD Gasland.  But most of my neighbors and the majority of our seven city council members seemed woefully uninformed about what was going on.

Anyway the part of this tale that I want to share here is how appreciative I am for all the years of planning and facilitating meetings I’ve had, thanks to my work in the Grail.  A small group of us here in Longmont is just beginning to organize ourselves to oppose fracking at nearby Union Reservoir and within city limits.  We’ve had three opportunities to speak (for three minutes each) during city council meetings, and we’ve helped convince the council to enact a four-month moratorium on fracking.  However, the moratorium merely delays the drilling.  We’ve got major work to do in the interim. 

What has become immediately apparent is that our little band of anti-frackers is well informed about the dangers inherent in fracking and passionate in their opposition to it, but they don’t know much at all about working together.  Although most of them are diligent researchers and thus full of ideas about action steps, at our first meeting it became immediately apparent that we might implode internally.  One group wanted to advocate for strict regulations, and others wanted to pursue a citizen rights ordinance (I won’t go into the intricacies of the complex reasons these two approaches differ).  Furthermore, people were anxious and either yelled at each other or held back in silence, threatening to withdraw from the struggle entirely.  I felt like the new kid on the block, but I volunteered to facilitate our second meeting since no one else was willing and/or able.

I think I caught them by surprise since I was an unknown quantity.   It’s not that I did such a fantastic job facilitating the second meeting, but I do know how to make use of the white board for setting an agenda, how to establish some ground rules, and when to request that participants limit their speaking so that others can be heard.  And—need I say it?—I’ve had my share of experience facilitating “fractious” groups (pardon the pun). After that second meeting, one woman came up to me and said, “How did you learn to run meetings so well?  I want to learn that.”  When I told her I learned it from the Grail, she wanted to know more and asked if she could become a member.  You can bet that I whipped out my Grail business card and  invited her to my home “sometime soon” to learn more about the Grail.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t report that the third meeting, which I also facilitated, did not go so well.  Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get that group to listen to each other.  I’m trying hard to let my ego get out of the way and to do this activism bit as a servant of the Holy Spirit, so it’s a definite learning process for me and very humbling.  However, my point is that my Grail training is playing a big part in my ability to step forward on the fracking front out here.

Once again I learned that when we think of what the Grail “is doing in the world,” we have to take a large view—Grail in the world is not just our shared, united communal actions, but also our individual efforts that actualize Grail values and experience, especially if we pay homage to that legacy as we move forward

  • Beth Wasmer says:

    Well done Judith.Thank you for sharing I’ll bet there are a lot of other stories out there . It would help us all keep going to share them like you did.
    I also was struck by your giving the woman your Grail business card…..
    Makes me think that we all should have them for just the same opportunity to follow up with interested women.

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