Changing the Way We Approach Meetings

Erin Gilmore is former pastor at Holladay United Church of Christ. She is now with a congregation in Colorado. Over the last four years (it feels like longer given the quality of friendship) we have done a lot together. Hosted Art of Hosting trainings. Explored strategy and future with her UCC Council. Met with another UCC friend for curry dinners.

Recently Erin wrote these words below, her reflections on what the Art of Hosting has done for her from a perspective as a faith community leader. Erin has a quiet stillness in her. A depth that becomes is very clear in her words. I post Erin’s words here, with her permission, because what she has spoken applies well beyond the context of working with faith communities. I know many people in many organizations that yearn for this clarity.

Thank you Erin.

Art of Hosting has changed the way I approach meetings – whether its a large, all-church, annual meeting, a small group meeting, or a board meeting. Even the invitation to the meeting is different. It’s common to hear in church, “we have too many meetings!” or “people don’t want to go to more meetings!” That’s true – if the meetings are disconnected, not engaging, and don’t seem to accomplish much. But if we are honest – “”meetings” that is, people coming together for a common purpose, is central to church. We aren’t going to get rid of meetings. But we can change how we meet. And that is a big part of what Art of Hosting has given me. We don’t meet to just get through an agenda, to check off the list of items as quickly as possible. We meet to connect to one another, to the Spirit. We meet to listen for the wisdom that is present in each of us. We meet to learn from one another. We meet to discover what is at the heart of our ministry. We meet to empower one another. We meet to build energy, to gain momentum, to pay attention to what truly matters in what we are doing together. Art of Hosting has given me not only specific tools and practices to change the way we meet, it has given me greater awareness and ability to speak of the gigantic shifts taking place in our world today and language that helps us move in this time of awakening and emergence. Art of Hosting has given me new hope for the church and for the role we can play and are called to play in the midst of this great turning. 

Art of Hosting has changed the way we do our annual meeting as a conference. The first year we built our conference annual meeting using Art of Hosting practices people left saying it was the best annual meeting they had been to in a long time. When asked why they said that the loved having the opportunity to connect on a deeper level and to be in meaningful conversation about issues and concerns that they were passionate about. They felt their voices were heard and they felt empowered to continue working on the things that mattered to them. They didn’t come and just listen to other people talk, they were invited to share their voice. There was more on the table than just budgets and nominations. There were questions about the future of the church, and our purpose as the Body of Christ.  In the two years since that initial meeting, we have had more churches and more members from churches want to attend the annual meeting because they know its something that is worth their time and that will feed their soul. It gives “church meeting” a whole new face. 

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