What a lovely event this was, the Rocky Mountain Conference, a regional conference for the United Church of Christ. It is an annual meeting, this year being the 37th convening. There were about 160 people that attended. Ministers. Delegates. Lay people. The theme was “Life is Different Now.” I was invited by my friends Erin Gilmore and Glen Brown to meet with Conference Minister, Tom Rehling. All of us together, imagined and designed a 2.5 day format that supports some of the imaginings of “new church.”
There are several things that I loved about this gathering. One, working with Erin, Glen, and Tom. They are each and all brilliant, clear, open, courageous, creative, purposeful. Two, the participants. Stellar. Welcoming. Inviting. Enthusiastic. Three, this is an example of deliberately evolving the large conference format to be highly participative. It often requires more letting go. It invites more trust and welcome of the people in the room. It was a courageous call, particularly from Tom. He and his staff were the ones that fielded questions and concerns about shifting format. In the end it feels simple. But it takes commitment to get there. There was much appreciation, many “best ever” comments from participants. Appreciation for the feeling of retreat. Welcome of the aliveness from being designed to support a next level of wellness and wholeness.
Below are several links to helpful and important resources.
Slide show with a few of the photos I took (5 minutes). With credits to Ben Lee and his song, “We’re All in This Together.” Buy it. I did.
The same photo set on Flickr, as used in the above slide show.
Landscape map photos on Flickr, a few that I drew to show some of our design and content.
Haiku harvest video (from Open Space, to go along the harvest forms posted here)
Invitations Teasers (a few that I created to send after the original invitation)
UCC Newsletter Followup (from Tom Rehling sent to UCC community)
Video Reflections, Hopes, Testimonies (Interviews from Chance Percival)
It was a gift to meet earlier this week with my friend and colleague, Sandra Erickson. Sandra is Principal of Braemar, a school in support of young, unwed mothers in Edmonton, Alberta (and forty years ago, it was another format, my elementary school). We met in her office. Over a cup of tea. To check-in. To reconnect in friendship. To be curious together. To share stories of our work and lives.
Sandra asked me a question that I’ve been sitting with since. “What do you notice is different when you come back and work with people?” Sandra was a participant in an Art of Hosting training that I co-lead in early 2010. At one level she was asking about follow-up with participants and their organizations.
I spoke some of the hope and the experience that I know. “My hope is that there is a change in leadership culture. That there is a shift toward more authenticity. A welcome of the things that we don’t know. An instinct that when we don’t know, or when we have problems, or when we have dreams, or when we want to imagine together, that we know in our guts to turn to one another. That we lean into all of the bits of “I don’t know but we do.” It is an instinct and memory to touch more of the essence of what is invoked into reality from the perspective of “we.”
There are so many levels from which to speak this. Holism is one. My hope is that people, all of us, come to taste more of that holism and work from that world view. Thankfully, in post-industrialism, many are coming to remember this and other world views that revision separate and together.
It was good to share this with Sandra. It surprised me a bit. And I welcomed it. It was an expression beyond the traditional outcomes of training. In this case, learning participative methodologies or social methodologies. The part that I really want is for all of us to reclaim the instinct to turn to one another. Not because it is nice. Or even kind. Yes, I appreciate these. But mostly, because it is brilliant. Helps us to be in our brilliance. I’m aware of how that may not sound like much — remember to turn to one another — yet, to have that imprinted in any culture, from teachers with unwed mothers at Braemar to other forms of community work, to leadership teams in all sectors — that’s significant.
Thanks Sandra. A gift of time and tea together.