Monday, June 14, 2010

New Ventures

Benedictines have survived for over 1500 years both because our way of life speaks to the deep desires of the human heart to get to know God more deeply and because we continue to change and adapt to the needs of the times. The ways in which we seek God and share our life with others continues to respond to the needs of the times.
On example of that adaptability is the amazing new project starting here at the monastery. We just opened our new bed and breakfast to the public. We have taken the ground floor of our guest house, totally remodeled it and opened the Inn at St. Gertrude Bed and Breakfast. So far as we can tell we are only the second monastery in the country to operate a bed and breakfast. (The other one is in Chicago, so I don’t think we are competing with each other).

Opening the bed and breakfast has been a long process that highlights both our response to changing times and our continuing values. About six years ago we decided that as a community we need to focus on income development as one of several goals for our future. With fewer members we knew we needed to be creative in generating revenue to support ourselves.

Benedictines do not do things without extensive collaboration. Decisions are not made unilaterally or without consultation. Community is our core value, our future is in the hands of all of us. With this in mind we formed a committee to explore new ideas. One early idea was to take an under-utilized building and turn it into a bed and breakfast. Two of our very creative oblate members proposed what this building could look like if it was re-done. The proposal was discussed by the whole community. Every member was invited to talk about the idea and to give feedback to the committee.

After feedback and more exploration the committee concluded that the building we were considering wouldn’t lend itself to a bed and breakfast. So after more committee meetings (do you sense a pattern here?) someone came up with the idea of using the ground floor of our guest house. Much discussion ensued, the community as a whole was consulted, the advice, help, time and energy of many people went into almost two years of very practical work on this project.

The result is a beautiful set of rooms that are now open to the public and are already proving very popular.

But perhaps the most important piece of this whole project is how we have done it. Opening the bed and breakfast has been an amazing model of generosity and collaboration. There were many frustrating moments when we tried to create a business with a committee, probably not a model that is taught in most MBA programs! But through everyone’s patience we managed to create a new business that combined the efforts and creativity of our monastic community, our employee, our volunteers, our oblate community and many others.

I think this is Benedictine values at their best. Together we are able to create something new that honors both the concerns and the gifts of everyone. None of us got exactly what we wanted, no one was able to impose their will on everyone else. All of us who worked on the project had to practice patience, flexibility, forgiveness and tolerance. This has been a truly collaborative project.

And thanks to the gifts of so many people we are able to share the gift of our hospitality to new people. We will give them a small taste of the gift of the gift that Benedictine community is able to offer to our fragmented world.

Want to experience it yourself? Check out

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