(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Collectivity

This blog was originally published
October 21, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Collectivity

Collectivity

I could have called this blog community – but I think that would be misleading. Well, perhaps not misleading, but shallow? Superficial? Hollow?

My understanding of community continues to deepen as I travel along this wee journey called life. Recently, I have had two experiences that have returned me to the idea of community and the nuance of collectivity.

The first catalyst has been this month’s edition of Geez magazine. This month’s focus, and perhaps, not surprising has been about collectivity! With all of its challenging articles, reflections, poetry and art a swirl in my head, the second spark was a recent and engaging conversation about Appreciative Inquiry (AI). In the chat, we explored how AI speaks to The United Church of Canada (UCC) in this time of change. Specifically, though its organisational processes are helpful, we discussed the way its philosophical lens invites us to let go of cynicism, apathy and fear.

How these two ideas connect, therefore, have helped shape this musing. As an institution, especially as ministry became more professionalised during the 20th century (some call this modernity), there was an ongoing shift to the professionalization of leadership (ministry).

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not intending to imply that this is good or bad, it simply is how the church (system) organised itself. The challenge – nonetheless – is that the world beyond the walls of the institution have changed (some call this postmodernity). One question, therefore, is how will we respond adaptively and robustly during the significant changes that are occurring in the secular world, in order to share our vision and mission (some call this the Good News) beyond our context?

This is, in essence, a call to review how we understand leadership. This is something with which I believe AI helps. More importantly, it reminds us of a significant history that reaches back to the egalitarian model of the early church. Some have framed this changing context in this way:

Modernity = Sage from the Stage
Postmodernity – Guide from the Side

It is certainly fashionable in the secular world to embrace the word community (some call this tribe), especially in areas of marketing and branding. Yet the early church beckons us to realise this word is less about simple a gathering of people (consumers), but the way the collective is connected. The metaphor often used in the Christian tradition is that the collective includes all the various parts of the body. And – this is the important part – the body cannot function without all parts: there is no one part that is more important in this collectively connected relationship.

Wisdom's Steward

Wisdom’s Steward

This reminder – maybe remembering is more concise – is intrinsic to the AI philosophy. The system (the body), as a collective connexion, possesses the wisdom to respond to the future based on the best that it has experienced in the past. This does not mean continuing to do what has already been done – after all this will only repeat the past and that’s not so helpful moving into the unknown. It’s an invitation to look to the places where previous intention/practice reveal experiences that are extraordinary. Once that wisdom/memories are unlocked/claimed, the exciting task is how to translate that into new and innovative practices!

The intrinsic trust in the community as a connected collective, therefore, ultimately has implications for how we understand leadership. This shift, therefore, can feel threatening for those who have been nurtured in an education and institutional model that places people in the role as the expert, manager and/or professional. To be clear, I do not think this threat is usually about ego, as much as it is about feeling ill-equipped to do one’s work (in the church this is vocational and is referred to as ‘Call) in new ways.

For the collective (such as a congregation) this shift is just as daunting. Often the community has looked to the minister, pastor, or Reverend for direction and guidance in a manner that is now different outside of our walls. To be invited to claim agency or equal part in the collective requires just as much trust in claiming this new role, as it does for those who are confronting shifting from Sage to Guide. It’s not an easy time, to be sure, but it certainly can be exciting!

If you are wondering how, just consider this church specific example: social media.

Social media has revolutionised the world. Political revolutions have been organised through media such as twitter and protests such as #IdleNoMore have reminded people they have both voice and agency. For the church (the UCC), the reality is that to engage in this organic and relational milieu cannot be one person’s job. There’s just too much to do and too many opportunities and considerations for our previous leadership model. How we awaken to the collective response in this one medium, therefore, I suggest speaks to how we might (re)consider imaginative and creative ways to continue to bear light into shadowed places. Ultimately, this is both an honour, and when done collectively, it is a “burden light!”

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Generations

This blog was originally published
February 26, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry
Image: Appreciative Inquiry Commons

There I was, surrounded by 60+ people who were sending one another off into the world. We were holding hands and had named ourselves as a family. The synergy and energy that connected us was palpable and the gratitude for that was clearly evident.

As we checked out with affirmations, we recognised the innovation that had been created, imagined the creativity yet to bloom and honoured the wisdom of the elders in our midst. I thought to myself how amazing and humbling it was to be surrounded by a room of “teenagers” – though dressed in different ages and stages of life – who not only passionately held on to the ideal of changing the world, but who were making conscious choices everyday to do that very thing! It was a rather remarkable gathering!

Now it might make sense if you assumed I was talking about a gathering of United Church peeps, perhaps a spirituality exploration or study, or even a missional dreaming opportunity. And – though that could make sense – the reality is that I was being embraced by fellow practitioners, from across North America, Europe and Nepal, of Appreciative Inquiry (AI)!

Each of us, who came from different contexts and places, gathered to explore, reflect and embolden one another with this philosophical outlook that takes very seriously the idea that the groups, families and systems in which we walk everyday possess the wisdom to embrace change with vibrancy and generativity. In particular, it emphasizes that the wisdom in our stories contains rich resources, which will allow us to transform what was good in the past into what is great in the future.

Anishinabe

Anishinabe
Image: Seven Generations Education Institute

As one Sister in the Christian faith who is also an Indigenous Elder describes, AI is like standing in between the generations. Looking to your left, you see those from whom you have travelled and those to your right those toward whom we are journeying. The gift, with such a breadth of view, is being able to make choices now, grounded in what was, so that they will positively impact children whom we will never meet!

As I returned from this time of learning and community, which is part of my own ongoing PhD journey, I began to reflect on the changes that lie before us. As we who call ourselves The United Church of Canada confront structural changes that can seem daunting, it is sometimes easy to feel like we are unmoored from identity. As the structures that once moored us become loosened, perhaps even obliterated, it is easy to lose sight of how we might ensure that the generations before us are nurtured and stewarded well.

I do not think there is any right or cookie-cutter answer for us, no matter how tempting it might be to desire a quick fix. I think that what this experience reminds me of is that in each of our lives and stories, the passionate past can embolden a life-giving future, if we recognise that it is in God’s abundance that we are sharing. And – as those called to bear bushels of wheat – we are called to share that abundance extravagantly, even with abandon!

For me, AI is a constant teacher, reminding me that our passion takes us into places unknown, sometimes even that are dangerous. In Christian language, this sometimes is referred to as bearing the Cross. In this Lenten time, when shadows gather, remembering the core of our passion promises to enable us embrace the choices that will ensure that the children whom will never know will awaken to the Blessing they are. Sometimes, even if sacrifice, loss or sorrow are the places into which we walk, it is that passionate core that continues to remind us we not only can, but that we are called to be co-creators of the Kingdom, which is constantly coming and which we will never fully see in this mortal journey called life …

Blog links:

 Image: Appreciative Inquiry
 Image: Anishinabe
 Wikipedia: Appreciative Inquiry

 Wikipedia: Lent
 Wikipedia: Seven Generation Sustainability
 Vimeo: On Leadership … with Christien Oudshoorn

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Remembering

This blog was originally published
October 23, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

At the heart of most spiritual practice, what is left when we move beyond form and language, is simply remembering. Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember those who have gone before us and shown the way. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true. Remember that you will die, and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live. Remember your aim …

-Anonymous

Remember

Remember
Image: justine warrington

Often – while trying to navigate change – there is a tendency to ask: “Who am I now?” Frequently – following conflict that has transformed – there is an inclination to ask: “What now? What next?” And – all to regularly – people and organisations that try to navigate uncertainty can find themselves paralysed, fearful and uncertain not only about what to do, but whom to trust. The church – as a body – is no different.

As mainstream Christian denominations imagine what ‘great’ might look like in the future, it becomes an exercise in imagination. Such endeavours, however, become difficult when it is unclear who we are supposed to be, not only to one another, but in respect to a secular culture with whom we seem – at the least – out of sync – and at the worst – irrelevant.

No matter how many experts we hire, no degree of a consultant’s wisdom, nor the depth of immersion of reading this or that, in my experience, is as richly rewarding or enabling as recognising that an intentional journey of remembering is where a community awakens. Remembering can be difficult, as it might highlight the assumptions that have developed over time. Remembering can be dangerous, as it holds the potential to lead us to places not only of lament, but to begin to risk. Remembering can liberate us from the anchors with which tradition and assumption weight us down.

Remembering is not an easy fix. Commitment to the work has to follow the passion to be part of something new – even if that new (in our Christian language) is very old: sharing the Good News! Remembering who we have been called to be, reconnecting with how we have done amazing things in the past, can rekindle us with the purpose that leads the Christian experience to risk, even if that means both literal and figurative death. Resurrection – not resuscitation – is central to what it means to be an Easter people!

Resuscitation, in my experience of rich conversation about church change and congregational development, can be symptomatic of our forgetfulness. Resuscitation holds onto a reality in which church has devolved to being a social club, intent on self-preservation. A history that continues to connect us with a short-term memory of what it means to be risk-averse, to be those who have been complicit in power. Resuscitation is – ultimately – grounded in a desire to be like we were with little to no change. Resuscitation is – in the end – about wanting what we had, so we can keep doing what we have done.

Stay Awake

Stay Awake
Image: Denise Krebs

Resurrection, however, is about dying and being reborn. It is about seeing in new ways to share old messages. It is not about a redo, retry or play-over. Resurrection, invites us to connect with a church not at the centre of state, but one on the margins, free of the machinery that oppresses and harms. Resurrection is a remembering of being called to care for not just one another, but, also to help a world hurt and obscured from itself in the ensuing shadows of human systems. Remembering is vitality in the midst of sacrificing who we were, in order to be born again.

There is – however – no cookie-cutter model to remembering who we are. Each community, each person, each congregation possesses a wisdom longing to be (re)discovered. Yet – as the mystics have long taught us and is often forgotten in Protestant memory – it must begin in the discipline of study, prayer and contemplation. Listening – deep hearing – is not about solutions, but responding to a Creator who longs for us to recognise we are blessing, Beloved and meant to shine. Yet that awakening to remembering does not come quickly, but it does unfold richly.

So – in this time and place – with drawn breath on the precipice of awe, who might we hear we are called to be, who might we be reminded of who we are, if we listen …

Blog links:

 Image: Remember
 Image: Stay Awake
 Wikipedia: Recall (Remembering)

 Wikipedia: Resuscitation
 Wikipedia: Resurrection
 YouTube: Remind Me Who I Am (Jason Gray)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Campus Chaplaincy

This blog was originally published
October 9, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Souvenir of Winnipeg (1889)

Souvenir of Winnipeg (1889)
Image: Courtesy of University of Manitoba
Archives & Special Collections

In my most charming and playful way – of course – I have the great privilege to walk into congregational ministries and ask:

  • So, am I here because you’re tired?
  • Because you want more bums in the pews & more coin in the coffer?
  • And, is it possible, I am also here because you want to make sure that there’s a way you can continue to transform lives, in the midst of change?

In other words, I get to ask deeply personal questions: ones that resound with pastoral concerns and missional understanding. Ones where our Elders deserve to expect that rituals of death will be present in their dying and also where our own finite concerns are balanced by those generations, who will follow and for whom we believe the Gospel will resonate. At first glance they – present and future – may seem to be competing, but they can indeed coexist.

For instance, in spaces when the Holy is present and there is trust, I have been able to ask:
“In this dying time, how might you also ensure that there’s a legacy of this faith community that still helps people heal and transform 20 years from now?”

And in other settings, where resurrection is unfolding, I might ask:
“In this time of change, what might you try – and at which you might possibly fail brilliantly – that’s new in order to share the Good News?”

And sometimes,
that which was old
is new again …

In the last week, I have had the gift of an ecumenical Sister reaching out, sharing her ministry as a Chaplain at one of the local universities and issuing a challenge. And in this challenge – as with any good ‘ask’ – a financial number and time commitment was attached with an appropriate implicit question: what’s it worth to you? To us?

I would frame her challenge as grounded in her own context and also a recognition that the Good News that will be shared in the future (in such academic environments) will require new relationships between denominations that once competed, cajoled and judged one another. Her invitation, therefore, was sincere and I believe prophetic.

I’m not sure where this unfolding relationship will take me – in my current role with The United Church of Canada – but I can indeed see rich potential and possibility. The question, however, is are we (as church) willing to risk this – and other – opportunities to fall forward?

Administration Building

Administration Building
University of Manitoba
Image: University of Manitoba (Archives)

The reality is that the change that is swirling in our midst can feel overwhelming and frightening. It is also a reality that there is abundant opportunity to try new things. Both realities can coexist and, at some point, choice presents itself: “should we stay or should we go?”

The reality is that chaplaincy touches lives on a scale that celebrates a theology grounded in diversity’s sacredness. At the University of Manitoba alone, there are 30000 people who enter a world in which fundamental question of society and self, culture and family come under a microscope. In these places, change begins and transformation looms. The difficulty with any transformation is that dying from the old to the new is not simply metaphor or mystical. Such dying from the old to the new cannot occur in isolation, but requires community.

In an academic context, grounded in the Humanities – a tradition of reflection and action – people re-examine everything from race to sexual orientation. And the gift of chaplaincy is that there is the possibility to create safe space for us to dig into the roots of our being and realise the interconnected web that binds us all. The reality – however – is that without such a resource, self-hate, external violence and death are always threatening. Transformation often requires midwifery and this potential is beautifully awful. Question is: what if we aren’t there?

I’m not sure where our denomination will be in 20 years, but I do know that our theology that helps others move through change to transformation and resurrection is too important to abandon, let alone be lulled by apathy. We may be tempted by an illusion – an idolatry of deficit – but the Spirit is showing us vibrant and abundant ways to fail in ways that offer healing for ourselves by knowing the Other. It isn’t a question of whether such possibility has, does and shall occur, it’s whether we are willing to be those who take those tentative steps to be those who reply …

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Vignette|A Basement

This blog was originally published
September 25, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

mogosoaia Image: fusion-of-horizons https://flic.kr/p/aAE53C

A Basement
Image: fusion-of-horizons

It’s nice to see – I must admit – that even though you continue to care for me (as the years have proceeded) that your Property peeps are more representative of your diversity. In other words, not all men!

Oh how I remember one Fall Supper – now when was that? Maybe ’63? – and the women were in the kitchen and the men wanted to fiddle with the stoves, what a row! Mrs. Murphy finally shouted, when she could not longer endure the disruption, “Dennis, if we can feed 300 people in a sitting, trust me, we can not only change a fuse, we can even do the rewiring!” The pause that followed that and seeped tensely into the following months would – most fortunately – not occur now. Just one of the great memoires I have down here!

So there you were – Property peeps – I like that word ‘peeps.’ I admit I’ve borrowed it from the Scout group when they’re here Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Their crafts have certainly become more intricate. Once it was wood and carving. Now there’s also soldering, electronics, and the math, wow!

So there they were, trying to plot out where to hold this year’s Fall Supper – or to be more accurate, when! Seems that Tuesday and Wednesday nights the basement houses Girl Guides and Scouts. Monday, the AA Group gathers as they support one another to heal. Of course Thursday to Friday there are the yoga sessions – both the youth GSA and new mom’s group have to rotate biweekly for one of the spots – and on Saturday the labyrinth group. I loved when you put that tiled walk into my floor. The tears that have fallen as people awaken in silence to the Divine is bloody brilliant, by the way! And – just as frustration was dawning – they found one Sunday night: usually the Syrian community gathers to share stories, grieve and laugh since you welcomed so many of them. But on October 25th they were not going to be here! And there was much rejoicing …

For a moment, I thought Sandra (Mrs. Murphy’s grand-daughter no less) almost derailed the revelation. There – in that moment – she almost started to shift the conversation to the Hall upstairs. Now I don’t know much about up there, but I am pretty certain by the rest of the group’s body language, it’s just as busy there! Wow – what a place!

It really is amazing what you have done over the years – though I think you’re just starting to see it. I think Rev. Meadow helped with some of that movement during that Appreciative Inquiry gathering you had in September. I loved her line, “I’m not trying to jolly you up, but have you ever looked at it this way?” she asked. Not sure if it was rhetorical, but there was a pause and then did you listen.

She got you talking about those laments you ‘ve had for years. Oh and you know the ones I mean, when you whisper them like prayer or protest: Once the Sunday School filled the basement, once there were so many youth groups that even little Micky, who got stuck behind the furnace playing hide and seek in ’72 (no way that would happen today!), found it difficult to remember – now that he is Leadership Team Director – most of his friends no longer attend. Rev. Meadow let that hang … I think she would call it ‘honouring silence.’

FullRoomFacingEast Image: Womb Gallery https://flic.kr/p/gc8dhw

Balloon Painting
Image: Womb Gallery

Then – this is brilliant – she stymied you: “And holding onto that loss, what happens now in this space?”

Well … there was a pause. I could hear your brains working – I really could! Sort of like when you let the youth group paint the walls down here in ’92. You said ‘yes,’ they said ‘our way,’ and you agreed! And before the big reveal, were you ever imagining what you would find. Balloons filled with paint really do colour-up-drab-grey-walls was their mantra! Still looks pretty good to me on the one wall you have left with that year’s name of graduates and everyone since then who has left for trade school, college or to bravely enter life’s unexpected journey after high school …

And that – my friends – is when it seemed you awoke to what you had been nurturing in new ways, even though you had not recognised it (of course I kept trying to tell you, but who listens to me?)! What were once just renters or community groups, you decided were friends and partners. Now … I’m still not sure about this one as I have no idea what outside looks like you’re considering partnering further to build again! Not a sanctuary or church this time: but a space for more community groups – yes I know partners is the new buzz word – to have access to affordable physical space, but who might not otherwise be able to gather in as private rentals are so expensive!

All I can say it – you r0x0r! Keep up the good work … not sure what’s next for you. I know there’s still all that budget and stewardship stuff that sometimes seems tedious – well it does to me! But you seem more energetic than you have in years! Seeing you embrace what you now have, sure seems healthier than holding on to a time so tightly you couldn’t see the new abundance. And, fwiiw, I think Rev. Meadow would call that seeing with new eyes …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Trust & Hope

This blog was originally published
September 11, 2015 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Behold

Behold
Image: UCC

Hope can exist without trust,
but trust cannot exist without hope.

I think this leads to a very difficult set of assumptions and – especially in context of change –reveals a stark set of implications. Most of which are too often life-draining and – in respect to faith communities – can be soul-devouring.

As many who will be reading this first blog following General Council 42 will already know that – as an institution – The United Church of Canada has been exploring change with some intention for the last several years. In our context, this has been carried out under the leadership of the Comprehensive Review Task Group (CRTG). Regardless of the many differences of opinion around this process, the reality is that substantial imagining has and is occurring in our midst. In turn, this has led to a series of steps to change the church structurally and culturally.

Though there are many rationales for this change – for me – the one that is most energising is to imagine how the church might become more nimble and responsive to a culture that changes as quickly as the next YouTube video or cell phone release. In a disposable culture, I believe the church has a mandate to find ways to allow people to embrace that they – as just one part of Creation – are blessed, valued and NOT DISPOSABLE.

So after several years of exploration and study, listening and dreaming, the CRTG work was passed onto GC42. The gathering of this Court had the mandate to approve, change, tweak, or modify the work. With over 400 decision makers present, it obviously created an interesting way to move an institution forward that finds itself 10 years from its centennial birthday.

So – as I listened to most of the live broadcast and subsequent conversation with others who were in attendance – I am struck by two reflections:

GC 42 Worship

GC 42 Worship
Image: UCC

  1. There is a real love and passion for this faith expression that is lived out as The United Church of Canada; and,
  2. The model of decision making that we use is not grounded in trust: in fact, its birth and evolution arise out of a place of distrust that was intended to ensure that change was VERY difficult. The context comes from an era in which debate and adjudicative language preferenced a particular gender, educational experience and societal class. We have moved far from those days with much to celebrate – much that defines an egalitarian movement of justice-living, as opposed to justice-talking – and yet we must acknowledge that much of that system remains in place.

As one who loves organisational change and development, in particular from an appreciative perspective, here’s the challenge: if you always do, what you’ve always done, you’re gonna get what you’ve always got. As we endeavour to change, if we continue to use the same decision making processes that have formed us, then we will likely not experience change that is transformative.

The questions with which I am left, therefore, at the end of this blog are also assumptions that I think would be helpful for us as church – and anyone experience change in general – upon which to reflect. I offer them as neither final nor authoritative: rather to continue to move us into that which we might be through the catalysts of dialogue and story:

  • We are longing for change: what ways might that occur in order that all might share their very best experiences of transformation?
  • We are longing to trust: if we know that where we are is not where we imagine we might be, what ways might we explore new ways to make decisions that includes everyone?
  • We long to be embrace diversity: what might need to be changed in how we interact with one another, in order to not silence voices that long to speak? How might we shift a preference for debate and argumentation to one in which consensus is generative? And,
  • We are a people of hope: as Christian community, we are informed by a way of looking at reality through the lens of Easter. If we are seeking renewal – resurrection – what is it that is keeping the old alive and keeping us from dying into that which will be? How might we find ways to honour that which is without judging those who have come before us?

Blog links:

 Image: GC Logo
 Image: GC Worship
 UCC: 42nd General Council

 UCC: Comprehensive Review Task Group
 Wikipedia: Appreciative Inquiry
 YouTube: The New Moderator: Rev. Jordan Cantwell

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Appreciative Inquiry

An edited version of this blog
was originally published November 7, 2014
by the Canadian Leadership Network

An Appreciative Approach

An Appreciative Approach
Credit: Appreciative Inquiry Commons

Conversations are interesting things. In a recent blog, I explored what having different conversations might mean for the church. When we engage with one another, sometimes we realise that if we keep doing the same things we’ve always done, we are likely to end up with what we already have. Having rituals that offer a sense – perhaps even illusion – of stability, therefore, may not be that helpful as we navigate this time of change.

It’s one thing to name this, it might be another to answer, ‘so what?’ Or – perhaps – what are our alternatives? I do not claim that there’s a cookie-cutter solution, but I thought I would offer one possible resource. In this shifting landscape, in which the church finds itself, how might we share our faith in Creator and the wisdom that comes through our experience of Jesus the Christ? My experience and use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) feels like something I might share as a way to continue the dialogue.

If you are interested in the particulars of AI, I have provided some links. The community that is involved in nurturing this process – though more significantly the underlying philosophical lens – utilises an open source or Creative Commons approach to the experience, knowledge and learning that the community generates. This ethos, I believe, is just one aspect that connects with our faith community’s experience of sharing our gifts without an expectation of getting something in return.

The particular pieces that I would like to highlight at this point are two that allow churches to reconnect with some of our core beliefs. More specifically, I believe these allow us to reclaim these concepts of faith that too often get obscured, lost and even forgotten in deficit-driven and consumerised world often finds its ways into our meetings, worship and evangelism. I believe AI allows us to look to our past, in order to begin moving now to a great future – which in turn allows us to share the Gospel.

Appreciative Inquiry: Asset & Deficit

Appreciative Inquiry: Asset & Deficit
Credit: Appreciative Inquiry Commons

The first aspect of AI that I think translates well to a faith based context is the role of story. It is through our stories, that not only might we begin to create new things – be generative – but also by hearing our stories, we actually create a sense of identity. In Christian language, this insight is important to (re)embrace that metaphors such as the Body of Christ are more than figurative. When we share our stories as the resource with which to move forward, we also humanise one another. We gain understanding of one another – and this is central. It is in understanding that not only are we humanised, but we are also less likely to be drawn into stereotype or assumptions of the Other. We are – to be clear – much less likely to cause hurt to one another when our story is held by one another.

The second aspect of AI, which I believe connects with church, is the idea of abundance. Central to AI is that the system – community – possesses a wealth of wisdom that is rich, abundant and beyond value. To harness this resource, a system that may be experiencing apathy or inertia, is awoken through remembering what good has looked like and what great might look like. And – if people are open to letting go of ‘control’ and listening to one another (and in our Christian context to discern the Spirit’s movement) – rejuvenation and revitalisation begins. This reminder allows for a recognition that central to our own Story – as seen and experienced in the Gospel – is that blessing and abundance are always present. The temptation of deficit is exposed for the illusion that it is when we read – whether throughout the Psalms or Letters of the Early Church – that gratitude for Creator’s gifts is core to our understanding of church (ecclesiology).

I will end this brief exploration of AI and church by sharing one last (surprise connexion): I am not trying to sell you something. Evangelising should not be about conversion or debating. To share the Good News as an engaged and active way to model faith is invitational. So, all I can say and offer, is that this has been a powerful lens to embrace and has enriched my own sense of faith as a Christian. What might that mean, therefore, for you? Perhaps, we might have a conversation, perhaps we might share … and should we come to some new understanding through our sharing of story, something new and rich might come to be. Perhaps, if we as church continued this conversation within our larger community, we might not see the future before us with eyes dressed in numbers’ loss, but potential not yet dreamed …

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