Sangha Care Coordinator: a New Practice Role at BZC

October 3, 2023

Dearest Sangha Jewel,

We are joyously announcing a new practice role at Brooklyn Zen Center: the Sangha Care Coordinator. Sangha – Spiritual Community – is one of the Triple Treasure of Buddhism, and it is the life of our practice. As Shakyamuni Buddha graciously expounded to Ananda, “Spiritual friendship is… the whole of the holy life”. Here we hope to introduce the reach of the role and our intentions for practice with it.

With the creation of this role we hope to formalize and uphold the care and mutual support we each bring to the realization of Sangha, not only by serving at the temples and while sitting zazen, but also through the direct material, emotional, and interpersonal support of each other in our personal lives. As occasions inevitably arise when we need support from Community, this role will serve as a nexus for communication and coordination, hoping to relieve the burden of receiving support from the ones who need it, often during times when mental and emotional strains run high. Situations that might call for such coordination may be difficult times such as sickness, death and grieving, injury, acute financial or resource strain, and other forms of suffering; they might also be joyous but taxing, such as a birth, marriage or vow-taking, transitions and transformations. The Sangha Care Coordinators will be available to attend to requests for support and create individual plans for action as appropriate and needed.

In addition to working with those receiving support at a given time, the Coordinators will work with the greater Sangha to give support. Practicing sincerely with the emptiness of giver, receiver, and gift, we hope to encourage the Sangha to give support, knowing that giving and receiving are two sides of generosity and that we all will be at each position many times. Requests may be made to give food, visitation, help with chores/cleaning, boarding, or other ways of taking care of each other. This sangha shows up so beautifully, and the hope is that this formalization of communal generosity can only encourage this intention for sangha-realization. By offering material and practical resources, we make it possible to take caring refuge in Sangha and move against the constricting stream of this society in profound and impactful ways.

Further, we hold the intention of looking with discernment at how we show up as a community for each other, and what communal karmic patterns emerge. Which do we collectively want to keep as wholesome, and which may be unwholesome that we want to make an intention of transforming? As supportive and caring roles are implicitly expected to be performed by people of color and those conditioned as and seen as women within our society, we intend to care for these patterns of expectation and manifestation as part of our Bodhisattva work of mutual liberation in systems of oppression.

We do acknowledge that both receiving care and giving it can bring up deep and intense karmic responses, and we intend to practice with respect for that karma in this role. Accordingly, we want to be thoughtful in how requests are addressed, and will practice discernment in how to best care for the community based on each individual case. Requests for aid may thus sometimes go out to the whole of the community, and sometimes to specific individuals. As Coordinators we intend to practice this discernment with upright care in skillful means with the teachers and Practice Council as support, and as sangha we’ll be collectively working with emptiness of the three wheels and recognition that it is not personal.

As we continue to develop this role the processes for giving and receiving will become more streamlined and efficient, but we intend to always practice with each person and situation in context, with mindful care and the full breadth of inherent dignity and nuance. The Sangha Care Coordinators will act in consultation with Sarah Dojin Emerson, our Tanto at Boundless Mind Temple, and the Practice Council.

This role is initially being taken up by Andy Greenberg and Kashin Emmeline Blong. In addition to years of deep Buddhist practice and recent receipt of the Bodhisattva Precepts by both, Andy brings 25 years of union organizing experience to the role, and Kashin brings her experience as a Medicaid Care Coordinator and LMSW. They are jointly reachable here.