I am halfway through 2016. A bunch of blog posts, a couple of podcasts, several vCast conversations, and countless informal, online, offline, and extended moments of research and reflection...all these make up the body of work that I call Divign Thinking. What began as a collection of methodologies aimed to advance the skill level of spiritual leaders of all types has become a way of navigating my days.
I still attest to the effectiveness of the methodologies that taught me. I will still use and share them when there is a critical mass constituting a peer group of learners. It turns out, that is the challenge of our times; the challenge of our time. All to often it's a real or perceived luxury to spend time with peers in a circle of learning.
In 2012-13, I served as co-chair of the UUA Task Force for Excellence in Shared Ministry. It was commissioned by the then presidents of three professional organizations -- LREDA, UUMA, UUMN. This experience was formative for all of us on the Task Force as well as those who engaged the task -- to examine and establish best practices for the advancement of Shared Ministry on staff teams. The final report that was created has been useful to constituencies, groups and teams. And the work continued.
Throughout my time on the Task Force, I held on to an essential question. The question was, is, and I hope will be -- what is our theology of collaboration? What is mine? What is yours? I say theology because of my firm belief that the essence of collaboration is the handing over of control of process to a greater or higher power. The question could be what is our philosophy of collaboration. Sometimes that will hit the same, raw core. Other times it may merely dance in the mind as a pleasant to interesting notion. Whether philosophy or theology -- really, there is a mandate for us to collaborate.
Collaboration, succinctly defined as enhancing the capacity of another -- or, each other -- calls on a shared skill set that is very specific. Collaboration begins with a circle and a shared vision/goal. What comes next is a process that is essentially a group spiritual practice. It is not a free for all (although it does require freely imagining). It is not about silence (although it does require centering and contemplation through sharing silence). It is not about people ranking (but it does require a group to understand the priorities and related roles of implementation). It is not about a controlled outcome but it is about an intentional process. It does not happen with a group of like experts gathering around a table. It happens when all stakeholders are at a roundtable of looking at the same dream and sharing their perspective, experience and ideas about a new way. The new way will be powerful because it represents and connects back to a whole. The new way will be effective because it honors more voices. The new way will be transformative because it will give everyone a chance to work at it.
Collaboration does beg for trust. Trust requires vulnerability. Vulnerability requires humility. Humility offers us a chance to revere something very precious, together.