The Search of Paradise Lost in Modern Spiritual Community
Bored with the fruits of her labor, sensing an emptiness in daily living, in search of wholeness in fractured living, or desperate to share in resources that money can't buy, humans long for spiritual community. People, whose basic needs have been fulfilled crave to align family, social and work practices with their spiritual core values. In Western cultures workers have launched the "spirituality in the workplace" movement as a way of integrating religious values with work values. Millenials [18–35 year olds], disillusioned and disconnected from institutions, refuse to take membership in religions that fail to authentically behave consistent with their faith's core values. This paper proposes a dynamic model for shaping a vital spiritual community in today's fragmented and disconnected culture. A program for revitalizing Christian communities illustrates how historical, anthropological and theological traditions can be reclaimed to reimagine new principles of community. The four-step Appreciative Inquiry approach structures both the paper (presentation of Stages 1 and 2) and participant session (exploration of Stages 3 and 4). 1. Discover: Appreciating the best of what gives life to Christian Community; 2. Dream: Envisioning what a vital community might look and feel like; 3. Design: Co-constructing the ideal community for specific time and place; 4. Delivery: Sustaining community by empowering, learning, and adapting. The entire session builds upon the eight principles of discovered in Stage 1- those that make an exemplar out of the early Christian Church's extraordinary numerical growth and spiritual community vibrancy during the first and second centuries A.D.: Purpose of spiritual community is to promote the "generative" nature of the founding source(s) – for Christians, this is Jesus Christ's being, ministry, and message; Spiritual communities are "developmental"; they emerge and grow beliefs, rituals, ministries and structures incrementally over time; Actions must be guided by the work of the in-dwelling [Holy] spirit; Spiritual communities exist in socio-cultural context and must respect the different and pluralistic ways the indwelling [Holy] spirit may work in time and place (beliefs, ministries, ministerial structures, ethnic backgrounds, government structures and theological self-understanding); Spiritual communities also need to promote a common unity that strengthens the interdependence, interaction and mutuality within and between communities; In being both above and within their secular culture, spiritual communities need to build their members' resilience to practice their faiths; Spiritual communities reflect their sub-communities' morality/basic attitudes and responses of their members to the secular world; Ministries to the spiritual community and to the secular culture around them emerge from within the body These principles are then applied in the balance of the presentation segment to envision and create an image of a desired and preferred future for spiritual community (the second stage of the Appreciative Inquiry process). The subsequent participant segment will be an interactive dialogue about applying these principles across different cultures. Participants will share discoveries and possibilities, offer up means for co-constructing new practices, and share ideas about implementing these principles to create grounded examples of the extraordinary.
Keywords: Appreciative inquiry, Spiritual community, Discover, Dream, Design, Delivery, Generative, Developmental, Holy Spirit, Socio-culture context, Common unity, Member resilience, Ministries
Dr Jon Huegli
Professor of Management and Organization Development, School of Business, Madonna University