It’s been said that if you change the conversation, you change the community.
Of the many valuable things I’ve learned from my wife Allison is something called Appreciative Inquiry, a form of conversation. This is a process for groups of inquiring into and supporting their shared life together. Leading the process is a focus on appreciation and the stories of group members that engender a sense of aliveness and express the best of the group’s purpose. Recently the Transition Team, charged with helping the church through the transition from pastoral departure to the arrival of a future settled Senior Minister, met for an extended session with Appreciative Inquiry as a guide. The stories and wishes and hopes shared were inspiring and touching. That appreciative energy helped us then to deal with some of the disappointments and hurts and concerns about our life together as a congregation.
Just like active hope, it is a paradoxical truth of Appreciative Inquiry that gratitude and appreciation come first. They form a supportive foundation for working through the difficult stuff; the disappointments, hurts, and grief.
I’ve seen that in my life.
If I begin with gratitude and appreciation, I am more likely to carry out the encouragement given to the early Christian communities to speak the truth in love, both to myself and to others. And, for communities to be healthy and vital, they need both truth and love: to speak their truths and to speak them (and hear them) in the love that nurtures community and seeks the good. Such an atmosphere encourages transparency and truth-telling because there is a wave of supporting appreciative loving energy to surround these needed conversations.
And there is good energy here to be appreciated, celebrated, and nurtured.
In my short time here, I’ve noted so many examples: over 330 people at a music filled Easter service (plus those online), a special Earth Sunday worship, touching Open and Affirming testimonies, positive financial trends, an official designation as a Creation Justice church by the UCC denomination, vital and important conversations in various meetings I attend, teamwork and solidarity amongst the staff, over 60 people at a recent Wednesday night gathering, and a soon to be announced special monetary gift to the church to supplement social justice, the endowment, and our worship experience.
I look forward to more such experiences and conversations that fuel our being together and our service in the world.