Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

Allen T. Stanton: What can the rural church offer a declining community? Hope

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

Photo illustration Bigstock / Arrant Pariah / Rubio

Allen Stanton
Rural church fellow, Institute for Emerging Issues

Many rural communities face decline. The church has a unique ability to stand in the hard realities and still preach hope, writes a rural pastor.

About a year and a half ago, I met with a group of pastors, nonprofit leaders and laypeople to talk about how the rural church could strengthen its impact in the community.

We started by sharing stories about the needs that we saw: high poverty, few jobs and limited education. We also talked about what we saw working in the community, like the way the farmers market had begun accepting SNAP benefits.

Finally, we discussed what we thought each group could bring to the table, ending with the question, “What can the church do for the community?”

This is familiar territory for me, since I serve as a rural church pastor in North Carolina and previously worked in public policy.

What surprised me was that the most theological insight came not from any of the pastors but from the county planner.

In a struggling community, she said, where everyone is craving better days, the church does not have the luxury of pessimism. The church has a responsibility to cultivate an atmosphere of hope.

Her frame of reference was practical. After all, a hopeful and optimistic community is more likely to entice new businesses or attract potential residents.

But I think her comments also had a deeper theological meaning. In a community of decline, hope becomes countercultural. While it would be wrong to foster a false sense of optimism or to promise that manufacturing and young adults will return, the church has a unique ability to stand in the hard realities and still preach hope.

After all, our faith is rooted in a hope that comes even while staring at the face of death. We believe that hope persists even when our data and statistics tell us otherwise.

Chatham County, where I serve, benefits from its proximity to the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Still, large swaths of the county are impoverished, and many of the small towns farther from the ever-expanding suburbs are struggling. My parishioners, like their neighbors, are not immune.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my lay leaders and I shared a five-hour car ride. During the drive, she told her story of starting a small business. Like many during the Great Recession, she lost her job when her position was eliminated. Along with her husband and son, she started a business making and selling jerky. They perfected a recipe and began producing the jerky in a community kitchen.

She learned how to get a small-business loan for rural entrepreneurs and how to pass a USDA inspection. Eventually, the product was stocked in retail stores across the state.

She said that she thought it would be worthwhile for her to help others learn to create effective business plans. After all, hers was successful, and she knew what it took. She could share that know-how with others.

Slowly, the conversation wound its way back to our church. We thought about all the resources in our small parish. In my congregation, we have retired teachers, small-business owners, nurses, scientists, a retired farmer and a salesman, among others.

Many other organizations, we realized, worked hard to amass a group like that. For us, though, it’s just our church. We gather at least once a week to show the world exactly what a community looks like.

As we drove, we dreamed about how our congregation might leverage those resources to help our community. We imagined what it would mean to deepen our participation in the conversation on the future of our county.

What if we could help others develop skills? Or connect people to job opportunities? Recently, we received a funded summer fellow from a secular nonprofit with whom we had previously partnered. With that resource, we hope to move those dreams toward reality by creating sustainable plans to capitalize on our existing partnerships.

I am convinced that churches can and should learn a discipline of evangelism that confronts difficult realities yet still teaches the hope that God is at work in our world. On the surface, it might feel weird to talk about evangelism in places of decline, particularly since many rural communities are struggling with a shrinking population.

At its core, though, evangelism is about inviting people to participate in the kingdom of God, to see and experience what Christ is doing in the world around us, with us and through us. Our rural churches have the ability to present good news — to offer hope — in places that have given up on it.

Before I began my pastorate, I worked for a public policy organization that linked statewide resources to rural churches. In my conversations with those policymakers, advocates and nonprofits, I always heard the same thing: we need churches to be at the table.

As a small-church pastor, I’ve discovered just how serious those voices were. My congregation lacks the resources of a tall-steeple church; I am keenly aware that I am the single largest expense of our budget.

Yet other organizations and community leaders constantly remind me of the value that churches hold in community development.

A local food bank requested our fellowship hall for a food distribution program, because we have a large, centrally located building with willing volunteers. Youth empowerment agencies have asked what works in our church, because our small parish offers our youth space to exercise leadership, fostering their self-worth and highlighting their potential.

Community leaders recognize the value of the rural church, whether for securing the faith community’s support for a bill that funds grants to rural convenience stores or providing volunteers for a community outreach initiative.

Usually, these conversations and partnerships come about simply — arranging a phone call with another organization, talking to a community leader over coffee. Oftentimes, organizations already have programs designed to include churches in the conversation, and they are eager to bring new congregations into what is already happening.

In that car ride with my entrepreneurial congregant, I once again recognized what that county planner had implored me to see: our small congregation has a lot to offer our community, because we can offer hope. When rural churches embody and give that hope, we provide leadership in even the most challenging of settings. And that, I am convinced, is a worthy and needed ministry.

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Alban at Duke Divinity, Alban Weekly, July 17, 2017

Shane Lopez: Hope is an ancient virtue

Posted on: January 11th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Making Hope Happen

The author of “Making Hope Happen” says that hope can be cultivated and shared.

Shane Lopez studies hope. What he has found is that hopeful people are more successful, healthier and happier than those who lack hope.

And the good news is that hopefulness isn’t an inborn trait, he said. People can cultivate hopefulness and share it with others.

“The revelation for me over all these years of doing this research is that hope is contagious,” he said. “The intriguing part of that ‘hope is shared’ message is that if you’re around hopeful people, you become more hopeful in time.”

Lopez is a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology and is a Gallup Senior Scientist and the research director of Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Institute. He is the chief architect of the Gallup Student Poll (link is external), a measure of hope, engagement and well-being of U.S. public school students.

Lopez spoke to Faith & Leadership about the implications of his research for individuals, organizations and leaders. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: In your book you have four messages about hope: hope matters, hope is a choice, hope can be learned, and hope can be shared with others. Can you give us a summary of those ideas?

Hope is this ancient virtue that is celebrated across cultures, across religions. Instinctually and intuitively, we believe that it matters, but when you start asking people in a town or a school or a business to really invest in hope, one of their first questions to you is, “Well, does it really matter?”

And I want to say, “You know what? You’ve been honoring hope your whole life. Part of your spiritual life is about hope; we all believe in hope, especially in America.” They still want to know the data. They want to know how hope really plays a role in their daily lives, so we’ve done a ton of studies to demonstrate the extent to which hope matters.

Hope is a choice in that we have this capacity to think about the future that’s unique to human beings, and we build that capacity over time. It’s really a personal choice that is made to either invest in this thinking about the future and your expectations about what might happen or to let each day go by passively without really becoming an active agent in your own life.

Sometimes that choice is made by an individual over time, and sometimes it’s made in the blink of an eye.

Hope can be learned: we have this innate sensibility to think about the future early on, and over time we get better and better and better at it if we’re given the right reinforcement by the right people and we have the right kind of success.

What we truly need to learn over time is that flexible, creative thinking that fills the gaps between where we are today and where we want to be down the road. It fills up the gaps between point A and point B. So that “pathways thinking” is what most people really need to spend their time learning.

But the revelation for me over all these years of doing this research is that hope is contagious. The intriguing part of that “hope is shared” message is that if you’re around hopeful people, you become more hopeful in time. If you’re around hopeless people, you become hopeless over time.

Work is being done by epidemiologists that demonstrates that positive and negative emotions and mindsets are contagious to the third degree. So in other words, my hopefulness spreads to you; you go home and you share it with someone else; and then that someone else sits with a neighbor and shares it with another person.

So it’s moving in a very predictable/meaningful way, but the same is true about hopelessness. So that’s how we temper that message — that hope is shared. You can give it away, but you can also be an agent of despair. So you have to be cautious about how you act each day and what you tend to share with others.

Q: What is the difference between optimism and hope?

Optimism is half of hope. Think about hope as the belief that the future will be better than the present, combined with the belief that you have some power to make it so.

That first belief — that the future will be better than the present — is optimism. Hope adds agency to that optimism.

Agency is this word that we toss around a lot in psychology. It’s really that belief that you can write your own script, that belief that you are the hero in your own journey.

When you attach that to optimism, you’re more self-determined. You are more inclined to create a lot of strategies to get where you want to go in life. You have a greater tendency to connect with people that really can help you get the support and instruction that you need. You look for opportunities that will help you. You look for opportunities to help others.

The agency combines with optimism to give you that sense of action that’s inherent to hope.

Q: Your book focuses largely on personal goals and an individual sense of hope, but I wonder how those goals relate to larger organizational or missional goals.

In the work we’ve done at Gallup, we found that followers need four things from leaders. Stability, trust, compassion and hope are four followers’ needs, so any leader in any organization needs to keep those four needs in mind.

Followers need stability, a stable person who’s true to their word and sense of self. Trust relates to stability but is more of that emotional feeling you get when you’re around someone who is stable and is moving you in a positive direction. Compassion — maybe it’s delivered as tough love, but the love definitely has to be there.

Then the last thing we need is hope.

We’ve done some studies of great bosses. We need hopeful leaders who create excitement about the future, who get rid of any obstacles that are in our way and then celebrate our accomplishments as we make progress and reach our goals.

Q: What can be done to teach people to see and to act upon multiple pathways?

To teach “pathways thinking,” you can stand up in front of a room as a leader and say, “Here’s where we are; here’s where we need to be; here are the four routes that we could take.”

That’s OK, but that doesn’t really teach people how to come up with their own pathways. You just did all the work for them, but when you’re pursuing the goal for the organization and you bump into obstacles, that’s the moment. That’s the teachable moment.

When you feel like, “Hey, here’s our first failure,” that’s really your first opportunity to say, “OK guys, where’s our next pathway? We did not anticipate this. We’re stuck. We need multiple ideas for how to get unstuck.”

So those teachable moments, that’s when you really call upon people to think about pathways, and it’s often best done in a group setting. You know, two, three, 20 people, however many people are around, so that you can really generate this ping-pong of ideas, you know, people throwing ideas out, and then they go back and forth, and they get bigger and better, and other people in that mix realize, “Oh, there are lots of good ideas here. There’s way more than one pathway. There’s way more than one way to get things done.”

So I would say, let’s rely more on show than tell, and when we face obstacles, view those as teachable moments, those opportunities to pull people in and get talking about the different pathways that you can take.

The last thing that I want to emphasize is that pathways thinking is best taught in the context of working on something real. When you’re working on something real, when you have a real project and there are real outcomes that are dependent on you coming up with pathways, and real time lost and real money lost if you don’t figure this out, then the urgency of it all, the excitement of it all, helps you really learn how to do this in the moment.

Q: Having to come up with multiple pathways means you’ve failed in your first attempt, right? What role does hope have in dealing with failure?

Very hopeful people see failure as another opportunity to try. I think everyone can be taught to see failure as another opportunity to try something new, and you have to start by doing that in low-risk situations.

You can’t say, “Hey, you’re going to college now, and you’re going to fail a whole bunch of times, and life will be grand.”

You have to do it when they’re young and there’s not a lot of risk. I think we need to help people get comfortable with failing in low-risk situations but then emphasize that trying is really what gets people to that finish line, not necessarily failing repeatedly.

Q: The goal isn’t failure.

Right. They’ve turned failure into a goal — they’ll tell you these stories: Bill Gates failed so many times, and Michael Jordan got kicked off the team.

So you have to remind people that trying is really the thing that drives us to our success. Don’t celebrate every failure like you’re one step closer to the outcome you desire. It’s really that trying that we can instill in kids and adults that will get you to that outcome.

Q: In some ways, it sounds like what you’re talking about is resilience, the ability to regroup and try again. Do you think resilience is crucial to developing that mindset of multiple pathways?

I would flip that. If you look at all the research on resilience, you can only determine if someone’s resilient after the fact.

So you can only tell the story of resilience if they have bounced back from that thing that they’ve been struggling with, and then when you unpack it, you say, OK, what made them resilient?

If you read any ancient text, they will not celebrate the ancient virtue of resilience. It is not an ancient human characteristic. They’ll celebrate hope. They’ll celebrate faith. They’ll celebrate love.

Those things work together, and we use them strategically to become resilient in the end. So they are intertwined, but I see someone becoming hopeful and dealing with the circumstances of life so that when they get knocked down, they can get back up again and show the world their resilience.

Q: What role does storytelling play?

I think storytelling has a huge role, and not just in developing hope, but this idea of the future and this idea that you’re the hero in your own story.

It really shapes up when you’re 2, 3 years old and starting to think about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s fascinating to a little kid. What will we do tomorrow? Tomorrow really is magical.

So you start telling stories about what I will do tomorrow, and that is the first set of hope stories that you tell in your life. That’s exciting, and most people hold on to that storytelling capacity across their lifetimes.

If you keep yourself at the center of the story, chances are you’re a very hopeful creature. If you see yourself as the guy who’s always getting downed in an argument or you always lose out in a contest or you never get the prize you want in life, chances are you’re not so hopeful.

Q: On a personal and on an institutional/organizational level, storytelling is so powerful.

That reminds me of this company that was going through some big changes, and they were trying to get rid of the old script and start with the new, and one of their organizational development people said, “We’re going to burn the scripts.”

She said, “I mean, literally. Bring whatever document you think represents the old company and what we were doing that we shouldn’t have been doing. Bring that, and we’re going to burn them in a barrel.”

And she did exactly that, and she said, “Now, we need to write the new story.”

I’ve done that with students. I brought in a bunch of flat river stones to college freshmen, and I gave them a Sharpie and I said, “Write the name of the teacher in your lifetime that made you doubt that you could succeed.”

And they wrote the name on the river stone, and at the end of class, we went to the lake in the middle of campus and we threw the stones in and we said, “OK, you no longer need to worry about that person. Now you get to write a story without that person as a character, because they’re not at college. They’re in high school. They were in middle school. They’re behind you. Now you have a clean slate. New time. New story.”

Q: Has your faith influenced your work?

Yes. We’re Catholic. We’ve been Catholic forever. Lopez is Spanish, but most of my people are French Acadian, Cajun, and we were exiled from France, and then we came to Canada.

We were exiled because of our religion again, and then we ended up in south Louisiana, and the place I’m from, New Iberia, is 85 percent Catholic. So being Catholic is a sign of resilience.

We fought to be Catholic. We had to leave two homes to be Catholic, my ancestors did. So that for us represents a story of strength and a story of hope and a story of resilience. So that story for us is part of our overall faith.

So for me, being Cajun and being Catholic means that I’m from a long line of hopeful people who have practiced a religion that we valued so much over the years that we continue to fight for the right to do so, and it’s part of who we are.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, January 11, 2017

Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric: The hope of your calling

Posted on: March 28th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

It’s hard to be in tune with Christ when you have tuned out your neighbors, says the assistant professor of Christian theology.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (link is external)

Editor’s note: Faith & Leadership offers sermons that shed light on issues of Christian leadership. Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric delivered the following address on June 10, 2011, in Duke Divinity Schools Goodson Chapel during the Center for Reconciliation’s Summer Institute.

 

In Ephesians, Paul prays that all his readers may know what is the hope to which God has called them.

“Hope” is a much-misunderstood word. For some, hope denotes a lack of certainty. Often, hope is mistaken for wishful thinking. At other times, hope is confused with having a glass-half-full kind of attitude. But hope, in the theological sense of the word, is not any of these things. Pollyanna abounded in optimism; Paul abounded in hope.

What is hope?

The author of Hebrews says that hope is the sure and certain anchor of the soul. For Thomists, hope is the virtue that orders our actions to a difficult but desirable goal. A Methodist might simply sing that hope is the blessed assurance that Jesus is mine, a foretaste of glory divine.

For Paul, hope is what keeps him fighting the good fight. Hope is what keeps him praying and praising even while in prison. Hope is what gives Paul the boldness to declare that the gathering of a few scores of Jews and Gentiles in the port city of Ephesus is no mere sociological fact but a new humanity in Christ.

As ridiculous as it might sound, God called the Christian community at Ephesus to be a sign of the age to come. By eating together in friendship, they actively participated in the unfolding of God’s purpose for creation. By joining together in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, this small band of disciples witnessed that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. In short, God called the little flock at Ephesus to be a sacrament of Christ’s work of cosmic reconciliation.

However, the Ephesian calling is a delicate one. The powers of this present age have been conquered, but they are still dangerous. Unity in the Spirit is difficult to maintain; the bond of peace is quickly broken; table fellowship is easily abandoned. This is why Paul prays so fervently for the Christians at Ephesus. Paul fears that if the Ephesian Christians fail to stir the hope of their calling, they will trade the glorious inheritance of singing in symphony with all the saints for the safety of ethnic section rehearsals.

Section rehearsals are important. I remember when I first joined a choir. After hearing me speak a few words, the director told me to go sit with the basses. I was completely confused by the singing going on around me. Having never sung in such a setting, I found that my ear was tuned to the melody line, and try as I might, I could not pick out the bass line.

Thankfully, after a few warm-up exercises, the director held section rehearsals. The purpose of the section rehearsal is to help each voice learn its part well enough to be able to sing together in polyphony. What I discovered after a while was that I could learn my part in the section rehearsal, but not fully, because my part only made sense precisely as a part of a larger whole.

Indeed, the real proof that I had learned my part was when I left the safety of my section and sat next to sopranos, altos and tenors. I was better in tune with the key of the piece when I learned to listen to the other parts.

For most of us, section rehearsals are all we have ever known.

In the United States, one part has been dominant for so long that the other parts have only been preserved through section rehearsals. Many of us would not be here today except for section rehearsals.

It is not easy to sing in symphony when one section blasts its part out of an overblown sense of self-importance. And yet it is hard to be in tune with Christ when so many of us have tuned out our neighbors. It is easy to give up on the Ephesian calling. For many, the hope of our calling takes second seat to personal choice and cultural affirmation. How can we possibly commit to praying and living together week in and week out when we are so different?

Why bother? For two reasons.

First, there is a word for describing the character of those who want to join the hallelujah chorus in paradise but refuse to leave their ethnic section rehearsals on earth. There is a word for describing the disposition of those who prepare to sing the songs of Zion by listening to the songs of Egypt. There is a word for thinking that we can be divided here below and still be ready to join our friends above. There is a word for desiring union with Christ without expressing love for all the saints. There is a word for expecting heaven without holiness. The word is “presumption.”

Presumption means desiring the end while despising and forsaking the means. Presumption is the archenemy of hope and the sidekick of despair.

Second, hope abides. God is not finished with us yet.

The power that God put to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places is still at work today. There is power in the name. Power to enlighten the eyes of our hearts. Power to wake those who are asleep. Power to wake those who are pretending to be asleep.

There is power in the name above every name. Power to free Christian tradition from cultural conservatism. Power to free love of country from fear of strangers. Power to turn off the treadmill of toleration and run the race of reconciliation. Power to grow into the full stature of Christ.

Claim that power. Do not be afraid to be holy. Do not be afraid to leave the safety of the section rehearsal. Do not be afraid to submit to the baton of Christ. It is not Edgardo who calls you; it is not Paul. It is Almighty God who calls you to join the celestial symphony with all the saints. Do not put it off until heaven. Claim the promise. Anticipate your heaven below. Dare to hope in Christ.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, March 28, 2016

Shane Lopez: Hope is an ancient virtue

Posted on: March 28th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Making Hope Happen

The author of “Making Hope Happen” says that hope can be cultivated and shared.

Shane Lopez studies hope. What he has found is that hopeful people are more successful, healthier and happier than those who lack hope.

And the good news is that hopefulness isn’t an inborn trait, he said. People can cultivate hopefulness and share it with others.

“The revelation for me over all these years of doing this research is that hope is contagious,” he said. “The intriguing part of that ‘hope is shared’ message is that if you’re around hopeful people, you become more hopeful in time.”

Lopez is a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology and is a Gallup Senior Scientist and the research director of Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Institute. He is the chief architect of the Gallup Student Poll (link is external), a measure of hope, engagement and well-being of U.S. public school students.

Lopez spoke to Faith & Leadership about the implications of his research for individuals, organizations and leaders. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: In your book you have four messages about hope: hope matters, hope is a choice, hope can be learned, and hope can be shared with others. Can you give us a summary of those ideas?

Hope is this ancient virtue that is celebrated across cultures, across religions. Instinctually and intuitively, we believe that it matters, but when you start asking people in a town or a school or a business to really invest in hope, one of their first questions to you is, “Well, does it really matter?”

And I want to say, “You know what? You’ve been honoring hope your whole life. Part of your spiritual life is about hope; we all believe in hope, especially in America.” They still want to know the data. They want to know how hope really plays a role in their daily lives, so we’ve done a ton of studies to demonstrate the extent to which hope matters.

Hope is a choice in that we have this capacity to think about the future that’s unique to human beings, and we build that capacity over time. It’s really a personal choice that is made to either invest in this thinking about the future and your expectations about what might happen or to let each day go by passively without really becoming an active agent in your own life.

Sometimes that choice is made by an individual over time, and sometimes it’s made in the blink of an eye.

Hope can be learned: we have this innate sensibility to think about the future early on, and over time we get better and better and better at it if we’re given the right reinforcement by the right people and we have the right kind of success.

What we truly need to learn over time is that flexible, creative thinking that fills the gaps between where we are today and where we want to be down the road. It fills up the gaps between point A and point B. So that “pathways thinking” is what most people really need to spend their time learning.

But the revelation for me over all these years of doing this research is that hope is contagious. The intriguing part of that “hope is shared” message is that if you’re around hopeful people, you become more hopeful in time. If you’re around hopeless people, you become hopeless over time.

Work is being done by epidemiologists that demonstrates that positive and negative emotions and mindsets are contagious to the third degree. So in other words, my hopefulness spreads to you; you go home and you share it with someone else; and then that someone else sits with a neighbor and shares it with another person.

So it’s moving in a very predictable/meaningful way, but the same is true about hopelessness. So that’s how we temper that message — that hope is shared. You can give it away, but you can also be an agent of despair. So you have to be cautious about how you act each day and what you tend to share with others.

Q: What is the difference between optimism and hope?

Optimism is half of hope. Think about hope as the belief that the future will be better than the present, combined with the belief that you have some power to make it so.

That first belief — that the future will be better than the present — is optimism. Hope adds agency to that optimism.

Agency is this word that we toss around a lot in psychology. It’s really that belief that you can write your own script, that belief that you are the hero in your own journey.

When you attach that to optimism, you’re more self-determined. You are more inclined to create a lot of strategies to get where you want to go in life. You have a greater tendency to connect with people that really can help you get the support and instruction that you need. You look for opportunities that will help you. You look for opportunities to help others.

The agency combines with optimism to give you that sense of action that’s inherent to hope.

Q: Your book focuses largely on personal goals and an individual sense of hope, but I wonder how those goals relate to larger organizational or missional goals.

In the work we’ve done at Gallup, we found that followers need four things from leaders. Stability, trust, compassion and hope are four followers’ needs, so any leader in any organization needs to keep those four needs in mind.

Followers need stability, a stable person who’s true to their word and sense of self. Trust relates to stability but is more of that emotional feeling you get when you’re around someone who is stable and is moving you in a positive direction. Compassion — maybe it’s delivered as tough love, but the love definitely has to be there.

Then the last thing we need is hope.

We’ve done some studies of great bosses. We need hopeful leaders who create excitement about the future, who get rid of any obstacles that are in our way and then celebrate our accomplishments as we make progress and reach our goals.

Q: What can be done to teach people to see and to act upon multiple pathways?

To teach “pathways thinking,” you can stand up in front of a room as a leader and say, “Here’s where we are; here’s where we need to be; here are the four routes that we could take.”

That’s OK, but that doesn’t really teach people how to come up with their own pathways. You just did all the work for them, but when you’re pursuing the goal for the organization and you bump into obstacles, that’s the moment. That’s the teachable moment.

When you feel like, “Hey, here’s our first failure,” that’s really your first opportunity to say, “OK guys, where’s our next pathway? We did not anticipate this. We’re stuck. We need multiple ideas for how to get unstuck.”

So those teachable moments, that’s when you really call upon people to think about pathways, and it’s often best done in a group setting. You know, two, three, 20 people, however many people are around, so that you can really generate this ping-pong of ideas, you know, people throwing ideas out, and then they go back and forth, and they get bigger and better, and other people in that mix realize, “Oh, there are lots of good ideas here. There’s way more than one pathway. There’s way more than one way to get things done.”

So I would say, let’s rely more on show than tell, and when we face obstacles, view those as teachable moments, those opportunities to pull people in and get talking about the different pathways that you can take.

The last thing that I want to emphasize is that pathways thinking is best taught in the context of working on something real. When you’re working on something real, when you have a real project and there are real outcomes that are dependent on you coming up with pathways, and real time lost and real money lost if you don’t figure this out, then the urgency of it all, the excitement of it all, helps you really learn how to do this in the moment.

Q: Having to come up with multiple pathways means you’ve failed in your first attempt, right? What role does hope have in dealing with failure?

Very hopeful people see failure as another opportunity to try. I think everyone can be taught to see failure as another opportunity to try something new, and you have to start by doing that in low-risk situations.

You can’t say, “Hey, you’re going to college now, and you’re going to fail a whole bunch of times, and life will be grand.”

You have to do it when they’re young and there’s not a lot of risk. I think we need to help people get comfortable with failing in low-risk situations but then emphasize that trying is really what gets people to that finish line, not necessarily failing repeatedly.

Q: The goal isn’t failure.

Right. They’ve turned failure into a goal — they’ll tell you these stories: Bill Gates failed so many times, and Michael Jordan got kicked off the team.

So you have to remind people that trying is really the thing that drives us to our success. Don’t celebrate every failure like you’re one step closer to the outcome you desire. It’s really that trying that we can instill in kids and adults that will get you to that outcome.

Q: In some ways, it sounds like what you’re talking about is resilience, the ability to regroup and try again. Do you think resilience is crucial to developing that mindset of multiple pathways?

I would flip that. If you look at all the research on resilience, you can only determine if someone’s resilient after the fact.

So you can only tell the story of resilience if they have bounced back from that thing that they’ve been struggling with, and then when you unpack it, you say, OK, what made them resilient?

If you read any ancient text, they will not celebrate the ancient virtue of resilience. It is not an ancient human characteristic. They’ll celebrate hope. They’ll celebrate faith. They’ll celebrate love.

Those things work together, and we use them strategically to become resilient in the end. So they are intertwined, but I see someone becoming hopeful and dealing with the circumstances of life so that when they get knocked down, they can get back up again and show the world their resilience.

Q: What role does storytelling play?

I think storytelling has a huge role, and not just in developing hope, but this idea of the future and this idea that you’re the hero in your own story.

It really shapes up when you’re 2, 3 years old and starting to think about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s fascinating to a little kid. What will we do tomorrow? Tomorrow really is magical.

So you start telling stories about what I will do tomorrow, and that is the first set of hope stories that you tell in your life. That’s exciting, and most people hold on to that storytelling capacity across their lifetimes.

If you keep yourself at the center of the story, chances are you’re a very hopeful creature. If you see yourself as the guy who’s always getting downed in an argument or you always lose out in a contest or you never get the prize you want in life, chances are you’re not so hopeful.

Q: On a personal and on an institutional/organizational level, storytelling is so powerful.

That reminds me of this company that was going through some big changes, and they were trying to get rid of the old script and start with the new, and one of their organizational development people said, “We’re going to burn the scripts.”

She said, “I mean, literally. Bring whatever document you think represents the old company and what we were doing that we shouldn’t have been doing. Bring that, and we’re going to burn them in a barrel.”

And she did exactly that, and she said, “Now, we need to write the new story.”

I’ve done that with students. I brought in a bunch of flat river stones to college freshmen, and I gave them a Sharpie and I said, “Write the name of the teacher in your lifetime that made you doubt that you could succeed.”

And they wrote the name on the river stone, and at the end of class, we went to the lake in the middle of campus and we threw the stones in and we said, “OK, you no longer need to worry about that person. Now you get to write a story without that person as a character, because they’re not at college. They’re in high school. They were in middle school. They’re behind you. Now you have a clean slate. New time. New story.”

Q: Has your faith influenced your work?

Yes. We’re Catholic. We’ve been Catholic forever. Lopez is Spanish, but most of my people are French Acadian, Cajun, and we were exiled from France, and then we came to Canada.

We were exiled because of our religion again, and then we ended up in south Louisiana, and the place I’m from, New Iberia, is 85 percent Catholic. So being Catholic is a sign of resilience.

We fought to be Catholic. We had to leave two homes to be Catholic, my ancestors did. So that for us represents a story of strength and a story of hope and a story of resilience. So that story for us is part of our overall faith.

So for me, being Cajun and being Catholic means that I’m from a long line of hopeful people who have practiced a religion that we valued so much over the years that we continue to fight for the right to do so, and it’s part of who we are.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, March 28, 2016

The Easter story continues to unfold

Posted on: March 22nd, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion


Photo: Shutterstock


Easter is the time of resurrection—when Christians around the world celebrate the triumph of life over death and celebrate God’s love for the world.

Even as we proclaim Christ’s resurrection, we remember that there remains a lot of brokenness and pain in the world. There are many who are struggling to see and experience the light of that love, and the light of the resurrection.

Easter is the perfect opportunity to remember the stories of Jesus’ ministry, and be reminded that we are called to do likewise. Just as we pray that God meets all people in their need, we are called to meet people in their pain and brokenness, just like Jesus did. We may not be able to take it away, but we can offer respite and relief in significant ways. Aid and relief work are tangible ways that our ministry is made real, and alive. Relief work overseas is done with and for people who are struggling from the effects of natural disasters, human conflict and disease. In the past decade or so, we have witnessed the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, the Japan earthquake and tsunami, the civil war in Syria and conflict in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name but a few. These catastrophes have meant that people lost homes, livelihoods and the ability to care for themselves and their families. All too often, those who are most affected by these events are the poorest and most vulnerable.

The governments in countries where these events take place are often already struggling to provide for the basic needs of their citizens. A crisis can cause everything to break down. The resulting loss of life, injury and damage lead to disease, malnutrition and despair, and further loss of life. This can be a vicious cycle that is hard to break. People flee the effects of these events, becoming displaced within their own countries or refugees in neighbouring countries, or even resettling far across the world, including in Canada.

Relief is needed to help restore life—to bring a population back from disaster. Basic needs must be met; the infrastructure that allows for safe drinking water and easy access to food and shelter must be rebuilt.

The Easter story is continuously unfolding—wherever relief work is happening, where refugees are being cared for—because life is being restored.

We are presented with challenges and problems that we can see right here in Canada, and sometimes the thought of taking on the issues of the world are daunting. But the Easter story is one of hope, resurrection, of life rising up in spite of death. That is what relief work does—it feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, gives water to the thirsty, visits those who are alone and brings hope and good news.

Scott McLeod

The Rev. Scott McLeod is associate priest at St. George’s Anglican Church, St. Catharines, Ont. He is also the diocesan refugee sponsorship co-ordinator for the diocese of Niagara.

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Anglican Journal, March 22, 2016

Being Easter people

Posted on: April 3rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion


(This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of the Anglican Journal.)

April is here and for those fortunate enough to be surrounded by caring family or friends, there is much to celebrate—both sacred and secular.

After Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when devout Christians reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus, comes Easter Sunday, a joyful celebration of the resurrection that begins with a eucharist; it is often capped by a feast, and for the children, an exhilarating hunt for those pastel-painted eggs. On this same weekend, the Jewish community begins its weeklong observance of Passover, which commemorates the liberation of Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.

April brings the splendour of spring, of course. Sweetness fills the air as once again, flowers of every imaginable hue bloom, birds compose a symphony, and days—bathed in glorious, aureate light—arrive, and linger, at last.

These celebrations and the arrival of spring have—since time immemorial— symbolized hope and renewal, a chance to start over. Spring, declared Henry David Thoreau, “is a natural resurrection, an experience in immortality.”

But as important as it is to celebrate the beauty of new life, one must not forget that for some, April will be just like any other month of the year, where each day can be an interminable struggle to simply survive. When one is in desperate need of food and shelter, suffering from depression and isolation, unable to make ends meet, fleeing violence or in excruciating pain from an incurable disease, picture-perfect April can seem like a cruel joke.

Christians often declare, “We are an Easter people.” Now, more than ever, is a time to prove this. Being an Easter people means being harbingers of hope and justice and living out the Lenten call for true discipleship in the world.

Recently, not-for-profit and faith groups launched Dignity for All, a national campaign urging the federal government to legislate an anti-poverty plan to address the plight of 4.8 million Canadians who live in poverty. (See page 1.) One in seven Canadians struggle to make ends meet, and yet there is no national strategy in place to address this unconscionable situation. “There is no excuse for poverty in a society as wealthy as ours,” said Dignity for All in a report. “…The sluggish recovery since the 2008–2009 recession has created further barriers as benefits of economic growth are increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few.”

Historically, faith groups have been at the forefront of helping to feed the poor and hungry. They continue to provide these services, while acknowledging that these are stopgap measures that do not solve the problem.

With a federal election on the horizon, Dignity for All is urging every political party to make a commitment to develop and implement an anti-poverty plan “with measurable goals and timelines.” It is something to which faith groups—and indeed, all Canadians—should hold them accountable. As faith groups in the U.K. said when urging their own government to address the growing hunger in their midst: “Hope is not an idle force. Hope drives us to act.”

Happy Easter.

email: editor@anglicanjournal.com

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Anglican Journal News, April 02, 2015

Priest chronicles recovery in video blog

Posted on: December 6th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
News

 

By André Forget

 

The Rev. Canon Virginia “Ginny” Doctor shares her journey back to health in a video blog. Photo: Lisa Barry.

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On July 19, the Rev. Canon Virginia “Ginny” Doctor, indigenous ministries co-ordinator for the Anglican Church of Canada, began to have difficulty breathing after suffering from flu-like symptoms for a week. She was taken to hospital in Hagersville, Ont., not far from where she lives, and slipped into a coma that would last two weeks.

This would turn out to be the beginning of a difficult but surprising journey, one that opened up a new and unexpected avenue for ministry to the Anglican minister, who has served the church in a variety of capacities for decades.

When Ginny emerged from her coma last August, she was told that she had suffered a perforated bladder and undergone a very difficult surgery. “There were one or two people who said I was an hour from death,” she said later. “If I hadn’t gone in when I did, I could be six feet under.“

Ginny’s recovery to health has been the ongoing focus of a new project by Anglican Video called Ginny’s Journey. Taking the form of a video blog, Ginny’s Journey documents her thoughts and feelings as she goes through the recovery process, sharing what she has learned and her thoughts on the importance of prayer, hope and community support.

Speaking in one episode of how the experience has shaped her understanding of humility, Ginny notes that “when you have to depend on others, there is a humbling factor there. I began to see people in a different light.” At another point, she shares her thoughts on the medical system itself. “One thing about our medical system I think we haven’t quite figured out…[is] holistic healing. It’s not just about taking care of your physical needs; it’s about taking care of your spirit and your soul.”

The series is being produced by Lisa Barry, senior producer at Anglican Video. When asked what she hopes the impact of the project will be, Barry said she would like to see it build connections among people in similar situations. “I’m hoping that it spurs enough response that people who are in a similar situation could connect online…so people who aren’t getting support could connect online and get support.”

Before taking up the position of indigenous ministries co-ordinator, Ginny—who is a Mohawk from the Six Nations—served as a missionary of The Episcopal Church to the diocese of Alaska. She has been working for the Anglican Church of Canada since 2011.

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Anglican Journal News, December 05, 2014

Beeswax and sweetgrass

Posted on: November 22nd, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Michael Thompson

 

 


As we gathered in the chapel to celebrate Eucharist, our friend and colleague Barbara was preparing to smudge the altar. In attempting to light her sweetgrass braid from the altar candle, she held it too close to the flame and for a moment too long, and the flame sputtered and died.

Well, one of the very best things about extinguishing beeswax candles, as many of us know, is the rich honey scent that the smoke carries across a space as it disperses from the tiny flame into the wide world and then vanishes.

It turns out that at the moment that Barbara’s sweetgrass braid put out the flame, an ember appeared on its tip. Its smoldering smoke joined that of the spreading honey-scented beeswax as Barbara slowly circled the altar. The blending of smoke from sweetgrass and smoke from beeswax filled the space with what you might call a providential aroma; both sweetgrass and beeswax were there, but so was something else, something at once brand new and ancient, the aroma of encounter, partnership, hope.

The encounter between beeswax and sweetgrass—between the settler church and indigenous peoples—has taken many shapes over the course of generations. And our shared history has left us both, in one way or another, diminished. The settler church lost the thread of God’s justice as it assumed a stance of cultural superiority and showed disdain for what the Creator was already doing before the first contact between Europeans and indigenous peoples. And the indigenous church was all too often denied its freedom to discern the incarnate Word in the languages and traditions written deep and long in the story of the people of the land.

The thing that has my attention is how the flame of the candle had to give way, if just for a moment, to the sweetgrass. The candle had to be at risk if the beautiful new thing—the smell of beeswax and sweetgrass—were to emerge.  It’s complicated. It’s as if I couldn’t know, couldn’t really know all the dimensions of the beauty in the beeswax I bring from the customs of my ancestors, until, by gracious accident, it yielded to the braid of sweetgrass, until, by gracious accident, the sweetgrass transformed the candle’s light to smoke.

There was a lighter not far from the altar. So as Barbara smudged the altar, as the smoke of beeswax and the smoke of sweetgrass filled our noses, another of us restored the light of the candle. Nothing was lost, really.  There was just that moment when one stepped back so another could thrive, and then there was more beauty, and then we prayed and gave thanks.

Archdeacon Michael Thompson is the general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. His column, Refraction, appears every month at anglicanjournal.com  ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, November 21, 2014

Life is Blank. In Search of Hope.

Posted on: May 16th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

 

 

Life is Blank. In Search of Hope.

By: The Rev. Allison Chubb

Often, our brothers and sisters living with mental illness feel far away from their very surroundings, so it is no surprise that God also feels far away. They have no words to pray. Life is blank. Or: life is chaos. Where is God in the blankness and the chaos, I wonder? These are the treasures of the Church given to us in our time and place. What they seek is hospitality and belonging and hope. And that, my friends, is what we do. Read more…

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Weekly update from The Community, May 16, 2014

 

God’s presence, in life and death

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

God’s presence, in life and death

 

By Andrew Stephens-Rennie

 

 


 
 

(This article first appeared in the February issue of the Anglican Journal.)

 

Some years ago, my grandmother, Dorothea Rennie, passed away in February. In the previous six months, she’d rallied and failed so many times that it was hard to know what to do, or how to prepare. We knew that the cancer had returned and that the prognosis was not good, but we were still caught off-guard when death finally came.

The day after Grandma’s funeral, I found myself on an airplane to New Orleans. I was joining a group of Anglican and Lutheran young adults helping to rebuild homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, alongside our friends from the Episcopal diocese of Louisiana. I imagine some knew that eventually the levees would fail; even so, they were caught off-guard.

And yet, in the midst of death and despair, we were witness to stories of hope. In the midst of rebuilding gutted homes, we met neighbours whose resilience was bearing witness to new life. Families, scattered by the floods, were reunited. Neighbourhoods were slowly rebuilt, brick by brick. Communities were strengthened as individual after individual returned.

There had been plenty of destruction. There had been huge loss. And yet the spirit of the place was remarkably hope-filled. This hope was something that I needed as I wrestled with the hole in my own life—the void left by the death of my only remaining grandparent.

It was in New Orleans, surrounded by hope and by grief, that I was freed to grieve, as a member of this community of young adults learning to follow Jesus with grout under their fingernails and bruises on their knees.

It was in New Orleans that I began to learn the need leaders have to be held and cared for in the mess of their own lives. It was in New Orleans that these young people embodied a commitment to carry one another, even through grievous and difficult times.

It was in this community of young people I had been asked to lead that I started to learn what it meant to be weak. It was in this community that I was taught the importance of going together, through thick and thin. It was in this community that I witnessed and experienced the power of the risen Christ in the midst of great weakness.

Life and death are profoundly connected. We draw these connections each time we celebrate the eucharist. For me, the realities of life and death, of loss and provision, became much more clear when I experienced them in sharp contrast.

I see and experience these contrasts in our church on a daily basis. As witness to these things, I’ve become increasingly convinced that God is present in the midst of it all. As we hold on deeply to the covenant of our baptism, we will find Jesus in new life, on the other side of death. 

Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada. 

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Anglican Journal News, February 18, 2014