[NB: My custom with this blog is to avoid using it as a place to re-preach my sermons and re-speak my talks. I figure once is enough for everyone, including me! But every now and then I make an exception, particularly as this blog has evolved into a personal filing system and I don't want to lose things. This is one such exception...]
Recently I was asked to speak at a gathering of theological colleges. They wanted a 'story' around the theme of Nuturing Spirituality and Community in the College. My approach was to consider the scaffolding, or the backdrop, which leadership can build that can nurture, slowly and quietly, spirituality and community. I settled on four affirmations. In the first session it was about reflecting on them biblically and theologically - and then in the second session there were personal and practical applications from my years at Carey Baptist College, in particular.
1. Living under the leadership of God
After dwelling on the significance, word-by-word, of the phrase "the gracious hand of our God was upon us" (Neh 2.8, 18; Ezra 7.10) in these three different contexts, we considered eleven 'leadership imperatives' that help leaders take people to live under that hand - and then 'to get out of the way' a bit so that God can be the leader, the Project Manager among His sub-contractors.
2. Building teams in the image of the trinity
After considering the trinitarian team at work both in creation (Genesis 1) and in redemption (Ephesians 1) we teased out some of the implications of 'team trinity'. Then we looked at how this could be applied in practical ways to the areas of trust (investing in it to build the teamwork with stakeholders, for example), vision (focusing on ways in which staff and student teams can be the venue for vision-creation, rather than vision-casting), and structure (tuning the governance and re-tuning the management teams).
3. Bringing a belonging to everyone
Here the focus is on 1 Corinthians 12 and the sicknesses which afflict the body. Then what flows from the twofold "But God..." (12.18; 12;24) demonstrates how God sees the health of the body being linked directly to making those who might be considered 'dispensable' to be indispensable - and those 'without honour' to be treated with special honour. Who might they be in the college? We suggested specific ways to cherish administrative staff (who can easily feel they are just there for the teaching staff) and to respect students (who can easily get treated as overgrown school kids).
4. Sewing together what has been torn apart
We spoke of the most damaging split in the church being the dualistic one and how the college is ideally placed to be an agent of integration. We considered those nonsenses about head vs heart (through the lens of Luke 24); about public vs private (through the lens of Joseph, Esther, Daniel); about theory vs practice (through the lens of Ephesians, Romans, 1 Peter); and being vs doing (through the lens of a 'first eleven of chapter twos'). We explored the ways in which a college, led by staff with integrated lives themselves, can harness the full range of the formal, the informal, and the nonformal areas of curriculum to build the integration so desperately needed.
With these four quietly developing in the background, a college's deepening experience of spirituality and community progresses more easily in the foreground.