I sit here writing this post through my tears as I remember my dear friend and mentor Brian Bainbridge, who died yesterday morning, in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack.
Brian was a Catholic priest. We were invited to his 40th priestly celebration a few years ago. It was an odd event for us – we were proud to be there as his friends, and probably the only non-Catholics in the room. I still recall the puzzled faces as people asked my connection to Brian. “We work together,” I would answer, “in Open Space.”
Brian began as my Open Space teacher, advisor and mentor. We became friends and colleagues. We delivered Open Space training together, plotted the odd gathering including a World Open Space on Open Space (WOSonOS) in the now destroyed town of Marysville, travelled to WOSonOS events in Vancouver, Goa and San Francisco, and met often for lunch. He would drive down here for dinner, staying over night and quietly slipping away early in the morning as if he’d never been here.
In fact, that’s how he died. Quietly. In the manner of an Open Space facilitator – invisible, no fuss. But his impact on the world is anything but invisible. He lived an open space life. He opened space for others and was unendingly generous in his support and encouragement.
He was proud of what he achieved in his Parish, using Open Space, to transform it from a traditional hierarchy to a more democratic and inclusive way of being. It was not always easy. He persevered. He quietly opened space and allowed ‘whatever happens to be the only thing that could’. I’m glad he wrote it all down, in his eBook The New Parish Priest.
And it’s also his work in the world that I celebrate. His contribution to every single World Open Space on Open Space – USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, ‘Swenmark’, India, Russia, Ukraine, Taiwan. And his opening of space in places as diverse as rural Australia, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, USA…
I remember him sitting in a circle – it could be any gathering, anywhere – quietly, listening no doubt to all the babbling around him. He would listen and he would wait, and then POW! He would say something that would have everyone reconsidering, thinking, nodding, puzzling. He would tell a story. And conclude with “I reckon”. Or if he was writing, it would always include, IMHO.