Last weekend, I had the great privilege of spending a day with close to 30 people that have a deep love for the church. The people that were in the room were regular, everyday saints that gave up a day of their lives to seek wisdom through conversation. I was in the midst of a crowd of people that understood that the things happening in the life of our parish need good lay ministers to lead them into the next phase of life, and they understood that their voices shape how our parish moves forward as we seek to walk into the future that God is holding open for us.
It seems that conversation as an act of leadership was very true on that day. Our entire day was spent in conversation with each other about various ministries and topics. From the Vestry Covenant created by the vestry to the open space conversations proposed by lay ministers in the room, we sought to host conversations that created and held open a space for individuals to collaborate together on questions of great import in the life of our parish. Through the conversations that were hosted on Saturday, a group largely composed of lay ministers sought to declare possibilities for our parish.
Each conversation, hosted by ministry councils of our parish, invited the lay ministers to consider and to discern a way forward for each council. The councils each hosted brave conversations that, I think, will lead us into new futures simply because the lay ministers present had the courage to host and participate in the conversations last Saturday. They were willing to go to name truths that need to be explored by the ministry councils, and they were willing to recognize that the wise action needed for a given council might require additional conversations in the future.
Perhaps part of the reason we were all willing to have these courageous conversations is partly because we set good expectations for how to practice the art of conversation. At the start of our day, we sat down to learn about the Four-fold Practice from the Art of Hosting.1 The practice is a way for us to be participants and co-creators in a conversation that is important in the life of our community. It helped us to create and hold the space for our conversations to unfold, and it helped us to understand that each person in the room is a co-creator, a co-host of that conversation. Although it was new to most of the group, our practice of the Four-fold Practice yielded some really amazing conversations across our ministries!
The truth is that we cannot get better at a practice if we do not make the time to practice, practice, practice. It is the same with conversation as an act of leadership, and it is why invitation needs to be the first conversation we have. We have to practice these things in order to get better at them. As we practice them, we will make mistakes, and we will find there are times that we stumble in the practice. It is in these moments that we are able to learn and grow the most. For this reason, I am hoping that each of our ministry councils will use the Four-fold Practice as a model for hosting conversations as we move forward. The more we practice this model of leadership and of seeking wise action, the better we will get!
Last Saturday was an amazing day filled with hope and with looking at a future that holds a ton of promise for our parish. It was apparent that the love for our parish is deep in the people that were in the room. It was also apparent that there is a need for even more people to join us in this work. If you were not able to make it last Saturday, I hope and pray that you will be able to join the work of one of our councils at the next Parish Council meeting. We need your voice at the table in order that each of our ministries can discern wise action and in order that our vestry can empower and support the ministry councils in the vital work they are doing.
- The Art of Hosting – Four-Fold Practice. https://vimeo.com/69785461. Accessed 19 February 2020.