Capture the moment

 

 

No pictures, please!

“Needing to have reality confirmed

and experience enhanced by photographs

is an aesthetic consumerism

to which everyone is now addicted.”

Susan Sontag

We live in a very visual world. There is almost no mystery left; everything is made visible. By bringing it to light (developing the negatives), the positives reveal, what we interpret as truth, reality or experience. We have seen pictures of the surface of planet mars. And even knowing, no human being has ever been there, we state, that it is true and real. We believe, because we have seen it. It is almost like John 20:24-29. The urge of doubting Thomas to see arises from his longing to find out the truth, or how Susan Sontag puts it, to “have reality confirmed and experience enhanced.”

There are almost no barriers for visual documentation: ultrasonic sound pictures show tiny embryos and security cameras are monitoring and observing stores and public places. But this visual documentation is not only entrusted with professionals like photographers, camera operators or CCTV technicians. Through the widespread opportunities of image recording in cameras, cell phones and other mobile devices, the participation in this process is widespread too.

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Emerging conversation

 

Respectful conversations

In may 2013 Harold Heie, Senior Fellow of the Colossian Forum (TCF) and Rob Barrett, TCF Director of Fellows and Forums launched an online project called “respectful conversations.”

They felt the urge to initiate conversations. It was their goal to take immediate steps to encourage and help facilitate forums for respectful conversation regarding important contemporary issues. This conversation was designed to host heterogeneous opinions in an communicative surrounding. And despite the contrasting opinions, the idea was to originate “respectful conversations” as a way to engage those disagreeing.

Respectful conversations project is designed on three levels: providing resources, initiate conversations online as well as lectures and consultations.

The main focus of those conversations dealt around topics about future expressions of Evangelicalism in America. The conversation just started, but the themes the project already focused on were:

  1.  Evangelicalism and the Broader Christian Tradition
  2.  Evangelicalism and the Exclusivity of Christianity
  3.  Evangelicalism and the Modern Study of Scripture
  4.  Evangelicalism and Morality
  5.  Evangelicalism and Politics
  6.  Evangelicalism and Scientific Models of Humanity and Cosmic and Human Origins
  7.  Evangelicalism and Higher Education
  8.  The Future of American Evangelicalism

Starting in may 2013, every month a new topic, symbolized by a new “chapter” was put online. So called “primary contributors” launched the “respectful conversations” and also provided “leading questions” for readers to interact and comment on.

In a inner-denominational setting (and even more in a ecumenical setting) respectful conversations around hot potatoes of main theological questions are pretty rare.

 

image

Emerging conversation

A setting in which I experienced healthy, respectful and enlightening conversations in a ecumenical horizon was the emerging church movement.

Searching for new ways to live Christian fellowship and community and also yearning for multi-denominational inspirations, I joined Emergent-Deutschland (the German branch of the Emerging church movement) some years ago. I read the books and blogs, started blogging myself, went to barcamps and forums.

Apart from the inspirations, I was yearning for, I got something even more valuable, that I wasn’t expecting: a desire to provide save places to communicate, to get to know others and their (faith) backgrounds and to discuss hot potatoes.

Communication is one of the essential basics of the emerging church movement. And through discussions with others I did not only learn new perspectives provided by others, but also I clarified my own profile.

image

Emergent Forum

Each year Emergent Deutschland hosts a small interactive conference called the Emergent Forum. This year, the title was: “Spirituality: Rhythm and encounter.”

Heterogeneity is one of the main pillars engaging with the topics, the organization committee chooses. Attendants of the forum are aged 20-65 years old. Male and female. Lutheran, Reformed, Evangelical, Catholic, Baptist Independent, Non-denominational and many backgrounds more. Ordained and lay.

The forum usually includes a service or devotional time, inputs, workshops, interactive panels and a lot of time to communicate while a cup of coffee, a beer or a nice dinner.

Apart from the conversations during the forum, the emerging forum also stimulates a process of further online discussion. Most of the speakers of inputs and workshops also provided their material after the forum online to enable a further local conversation in the contexts and settings of the attendants. Resources, pictures, music, media, retrospect’s and reviews are supplied online.

Spirituality of balance

I was honored to be asked as the main speaker and to hold on input lecture on “spirituality”. (It can be reached here: Spiritualität ist Balance in Bewegung, in German though).

Arranging the lecture, I was really challenged to provide plural approaches on the topic of spirituality. During the discussion after my lecture I could sense the heterogeneity of the audience in their questions during the communication process. For the lecture and the following discussion I tried to foster a respectful conversation atmosphere.

My aspired attitude to welcome all opinions and to open save space to communicate are quite similar to those, Harold and Rob Barrett use as “ideals” for their project “respectful conversations”:

  •   I will try to listen well, providing each person with a welcoming space to express her perspective on the issue at hand
  •  I will seek to empathetically understand the reasons another person has for her perspective
  •  I will express my perspective, and my reasons for holding that perspective, with commitment and conviction, but with a non-coercive style that invites conversation with a person who disagrees with me
  •  In my conversation with a person who disagrees with me, I will explore whether we can find some common ground that can further the conversation. But, if we cannot find common ground, I will conclude that “we can only agree to disagree;” yet I will do so in a way that demonstrates respect for the other and concern for her well-being and does not foreclose the possibility of future conversations.
  •  In aspiring to these ideals for conversation, I will also aspire to be characterized by humility, courage, patience and love

(quote and more info here)

 

What ideals would you mention as main principles to foster respectful conversations in your ministry context?

schöner scheitern

Ein Post aus meinem Promotionsprogramm. Er ist (zwar) auf englisch, beschreibt aber eine Erfahrung, die wir mit Kirche2 gemacht haben und stellt ein großartiges Buch vor, das ich nur wärmstens empfehlen kann:

 

Barcamps are highly participatory user-generated formats, where people meet to network, share and learn. Attendants of barcamps provide the content themselves. This participant-driven concept seeks to enable exchange on an eye-level.

My organization Kirche2 planned two barcamps for November. We thought of it as a further step for our project. After a big conference, we hosted this February with 1400 attendants, we now dreamt about a more regional and participatory format. So we started to search for locations, caterers and began to advertise it. We got good feedback online: People were excited, that the story of Kirche2 went on, saying that they like the ecumenical and regional concept and they would love to attend. But the number of registrations stayed under our expectations. So we started a campaign of advertising to attract more applications.

open-your-source-bigger

The number of attendants stayed low.

Two weeks before our first barcamp was about to take place, we had to cancel the events.

We were disappointed and frustrated. The first challenge was really to call the whole thing off, but the second (and a lot harder) challenge was, to communicate it.

Social media and an authentic and transparent communication have always been important to us. So we decided not to talk around it or to lie, by making up a lame excuse. We put our failing straight.

We wrote a post in our blog and linked it to all our social media channels (twitter, facebook etc.). In that post we started by citing the story of the tower builder in Luke 14: 29-30.

For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it,

everyone who sees it will ridicule you,

saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

 

We acknowledged that we failed preparing stable foundations. We shared the reasons we assume to have led to our failing. We were transparent and authentic by making ourselves vulnerable and sharing our disappointment. We mentioned new visions and ideas. We concluded by asking for comments and ideas.

After posting this, we got a flood of responses. There was not one single negative one amongst them:

  • “Bummer! Too bad for you and us…”
  • “You did an awesome job planning…”
  • “Perhaps the date was difficult…”
  • “’I would love to help you out, if you’re trying again”

Those were positive responses on a relational level.

Then some also wrote suggestions, how to improve, what to do better and what they wish for the next events.

Those were thematically responses.

And then we also realized, that some commented and used the word “we” as a sign of tight identification. It was no longer Kirche2 on the one side and the attendants on the other, it was a “we”, that grew.

 

In our second blog post about it, we started of with Isaiah 43:19:

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

 

We shared the impact the comments and mails had on us. The growing identification showed, how out of or failure something new emerged. Perhaps it would have never grown, without us failing and sharing our experience. It’s no invitation to failure, but it proofs how important and valuable it can be, to fail in a good way. We never gathered more traffic on our site and more comments than with these two blog posts.

This week I read Charlene Li’s “Open Leadership. How social technology can transform the way you lead” and it fits well, with our experiences. Charlene Li offers broad social media thoughts and links them with effects they have on leadership. She enfolds strategies that help to improve communications to positively influence leadership and the culture in organizations.

In chapter nine (“The failure imperative”) Li writes about unavoidable failure and about good experiences companies and organizations made.

She mentions examples of Google (Their motto: “Fail fast, fail smart.”) and Marc Zuckerbergs Communication strategy while trying to change the terms of service on Facebook.

Li derives four insights:

–       Acknowledge that failure happens.

–       Encourage dialog to foster trust.

–       Separate the person from failure

–       Learn from mistakes.

It was interesting to see, how our investment in “communicating the failure” in all four steps already paid off: for our project and for your leadership.

Why is it still so hard to be open and honest and communicate that way?

 

 

Unfinished symphony

We live in a leadership-toxic climate. The system is toxic itself, because we live in a chronically anxious society, almost like a seatbelt-society, that is more oriented towards security than adventure. In this circumstance of anxiety most of the time a resistance to leadership doesn’t occur out of problematic issues, but merely out of the fact that someone took initiative and responsibility (a.k.a. simply by being a leader).

These are not my thoughts, these are the thoughts of Edwin M. Friedmann in his book “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix”, I read this week.

His main thesis in the book is: there is a “failure of nerve” in society (especially the US-American society) today: Anxiety, that harms many forms of healthy leadership today. For Friedmann there is only one solution to our leadership crisis and that is by dealing with the anxiety of others by a clear, decisive, well-defined leadership. To do so, the leader has to manage self-differentiation: the emotional process of regulating ones own anxiety.

„There exists throughout America today a rampant sabotaging of leaders who try to stand tall amidst the raging anxiety-storms of our time. It is a highly reactive atmosphere pervading all the institutions of our society — a regressive mood that contaminates the decision-making processes of government and corporations at the highest level, and, on the local level, seeps down into the deliberations of neighborhood church, synagogue, hospital, library, and school boards.“

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