Posts Tagged ‘Community’

Leadership and the Trinity

Friday, August 27th, 2010

In Free from Dogma I talk about the Trinity as an image for leadership. Pure monotheism justifies an image of hierarchical power: ultimate power resides in a single, isolated authority which is quite other. If the ground of existence is relational and communal, structures of leadership should model this.

This is not the same as saying that there should be no differentiation, or that we should have structures where no-one is ever confronted with their own relationship to their own and others’ roles, which can be painful. The three divine persons of the Trinity are involved in very different activities, so different that it’s sometimes hard to think of them as one God. What unites them? Classically theologians talked about the one divine substance. They share a common nature. Perhaps more enlightening is the image of the perichoresis, the perfect dance of the Three. We can perhaps imagine a dance so perfect that from a distance the distinctions between the people dancing are blurred, and yet when we look closely we see there are indeed three, perfectly attuned to each other. What unites them is the common purpose of the dance; what keeps them in their perfect movement is that each watches the others, and attunes what he does to their place in the dance.

This brings us closer to the mystery of leadership in the spirit of the Trinity. No role is supreme; there is a strong differentiation, but the purpose is clearly articulated and everyone is accountable to each other. When this is in place, we can start to dance!

One organisation that worked with these principles described a fascinating problem: once they really committed to working in this way, their work became so effective that meetings could be very short. They realised that the drama of sorting out misunderstandings had been important to them as it gave them a reason to meet. Now that they didn’t have the drama any more, they were free to decide how they wanted to nourish their relationships even when the work was going well.


Thursday, August 26th, 2010

What kind of community is The Christian Community? People associate all sorts of wishes and dreams with something that calls itself community. Depending on how far these wishes are connected to the reality, this reality may be a disappointment. Doubtless this is sometimes because of our limitations. But we must be careful not to fall into degenerate love, where we want to promise to make everyone happy. I remember how shocked I was when I went to study in Stuttgart, having met The Christian Community in a Camphill community. How could this huge group of seeming strangers call themselves a community? Yet with time I saw that they were fulfilling the task of our community very well. The church was impressive, there was a full programme and a whole college of priests was supported. I had unconsciously imported my idea of community into this different context, and at first I couldn’t distinguish between my wish and reality.
The central task of our community is wonderfully clear – to create spaces where the Act of Consecration and the other sacraments can be celebrated.
The pain that is sometimes expressed – ‘you’re not the community that I was hoping for’ can be the spur to formulate our task positively. After all, there are many places where people can experience a closeness of soul, or the community that comes from sharing in an activity. The Christian Community is the only community that has the task of celebrating the Act of Consecration of Man. This is a vital part of the great work of gathering the splintered shards of creation into the work of art which is the new creation.

All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe — people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
Colossians 1:18, The Message

The mystery of the Act of Consecration is that we can share in this great work even if we don’t know – or don’t like! – the person sitting next to us. The experiences, hopes, thoughts and feelings that we bring to the altar join with theirs in the cup, and become part of what is transformed and shared in the communion. This utterly objective communal deed is part of the foundation on which the Act of Consecration stands. There is something inspiring about the fact that it doesn’t rest on liking, or sharing a common world-view, or occupation. The spirit of utter freedom that obtains here is also an invitation to us to exercise our freedom wherever it seems important to us – including taking an interest in our neighbour, and finding out more about his or her life, if we want to. It wouldn’t be appropriate to make a rule about this – the Act of Consecration is our work, and it creates a space of freedom, which we are free to take up.