Once upon a time, my little hometown made its best effort to pull off the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method of breaking down a community’s strengths, using them to grow constructively better, socially richer & spiritually deeper. AI starts with the intriguing & insightful assumption that communities, like all organizations, are social constructs “created, maintained and changed by conversations.” Following the AI initiative as it is intended & designed proved a bit much for the naturally VERY hierarchical small town, but it left hearts minds energies engaged & seeking.
This month, the church that is the heart of my little hometown introduces two new initiatives, both natural builds on the Apprciative Inquiry work of several years back. Like AI, neither is unique to my town or church; unlike it, both are part of a broader effort across many groups sharing common beliefs, albeit in different ways. Glorious!
GODLY PLAY “teaches children & adults the art of using religious language and to help become aware of the mystery of God’s presence in our lives… The wonder of God is opened… (It) focuses clearly and deeply on the child’s spirituality. This evolves, enhances, supports and enlarges the quality of relationships in other activities for children and their families… (Godly Play) is about engaging the child to be a member of a circle and to wonder about God’s inclusive presence through story.”
That gives me goosebumps. I plan to take part in the 3-day training – once I figure out how to find & fill out the registration form!
The CIVIL CONVERSATION PROJECT kicked off Sunday a week ago in the cathedral social hall, led by a team from the non-traditional New Church LIVE team. The heart of the project, birthed by Krista Tippett & her team out of their fifteen years producing On Being’s radio broadcast & podcasts, “an emergent approach to conversations and relationships across the differences of our age.” Through a variety of resources & events, it helps large & small gatherings of others – friends, strangers, pleasant acquaintances or (often most daunting) close intimates – engage in genuine conversations grounded in generous listening, open & kind sharing. It aims to help a culture often depleted of connection find ways & means to initiate & carry on conversations, especially around topics that typically spin us into discomfort or upset.
Language ~ conversation ~ initiating & sustaining tender discussions ~ enlarging inclusive circles ~ deepening our appreciation of each other ~ embracing & putting language around God’s mystery & power ~ giving all of that & more, much more a place in our lives. I’d say it was a spectacular eight days, with the promise of so much more – – this Wednesday is a 3-hour online training that offers a deeper appreciation & greater skill set for encouraging initiating growing civil conversations within groups & across chasms; this weekend (once I figure out how to register) is the 3-day Godly Play training.
It’s exciting to see how both of these freshly minted church endeavors connect back to the Appreciative Inquiry efforts of several years back. Plant a seed & see what blooms – might be what you expected, might be a surprise, but the blossom is wondrous, no matter how large or small, lush or modest, glorious orchid or sweet daisy.
Appreciative inquiry, civil conversations, godly play – each is rooted in INSPIRED INQUIRY. Each embodies & reflects the subtitle of Krista Tippett’s must-read book, Becoming Wise – – an inquiry into the mystery and art of living. Of living wisely & well.