What Exactly Does “Cloister” Mean?
Especially when electronics make it so tempting to find out what’s happening “out there”.
The concept of cloister–separation from the pressures and distractions of everyday life–helps to form the Tres Dias experience. But in practice the cloister walls have always been porous: meal servers come and go, special musicians perform then leave, and mananita and serenade visitors sing their special blessing. Moreover, some communities invite non-pescadores to closings to introduce them to Tres Dias. Others ask the rector’s spouse to team up in giving a “living the fourth day talk.” And then there’s the issue of cell phones. Pressure continues to mount for clear policies that would allow candidates and team members to keep their cell phones, but control their use.
At its March meeting, the International Secretariat’s Policy Committee attempted to untangle the complexity by producing a position paper titled “Review of Cloister as it Applies to the Tres Dias Weekend.” The paper lays out a series of best practices and encourages each community to prayerfully consider these practices as it determines its own policies. Some of the highlights follow.
The committee felt that it would be counterproductive to impose an outright ban on cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices. Rather, the position paper states that “the devices may be permitted on a weekend, but in as controlled manner as possible. . . .” and suggests the following as best practices.
Modify the rector’s introductory comments on Thursday evening to include the following:
A clear explanation as to why we strongly encourage people NOT to use their cell phones, laptops, tablets or other electronic devices to contact others. (Most adults will respond to requests when the rationale is explained, rather than when presented as a blanket rule).
Ask the candidates to seriously consider committing the next 72 hours to focus on their relationship with the Lord and to try to hear what He may be saying, without the distraction of the outside world.
Reassure the candidates that they will be notified immediately if there are any emergency communications of which they need to be made aware.
Educate sponsors so they will be able to encourage their candidates to leave their devices at home. Make certain they understand the reasons this is important.
Make it a firm rule that cell phones are not to be used for phone calls in the presence of other weekend participants. Again, explain the reason for this.
Sample script for the rector’s introductory comments on Thursday evening:
Most of us are so attached to our devices and being distracted every moment with email, Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc that we have forgotten how to just live in the moment, and rest! When we’re out in the world, we’re pretty much available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to almost anyone who wants to reach us. What I’m asking you to do this weekend is put those things aside and spend the next three days insulated from the world.
If you’ve brought any electronic devices with you (cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc.), I’m going to ask you to turn them off and put them away.
While you’re here, you won’t need to worry about the time because the auxiliaries/chas will keep you on schedule. And if there’s any sort of emergency, I promise you’ll be promptly notified.
Guests at the closing and other “outsiders”
When does the cloister end? Some of the Tres Dias founders made the Apostolic Hour the defining boundary, even though the contiguous 72 hour period specified in the Essentials would extend cloister to include the closing. The latter point carried the greater weight for the committee. The recommended best practice: only pescadores should be allowed to attend the closing.
In considering the mananita and serenade, the committee concluded that so long as there is no personal communication between the singers and weekend participants, these practices do not break cloister. The same is true for special music, which the committee recommends should be offered during mealtimes only.
The committee’s most creative ruling came with reference to the spousal talk: “Recognizing that according to scripture the husband and wife are one flesh, the Policy Committee deems it acceptable for a rector to include his or her spouse in the fourth day talk . . . .” The talk must be no longer than five minutes, follow the outline in the Team Manual, and be critiqued during team meetings.
For a copy of the report, write to Jeff Mehl, PolicyChair@tresdias.org