The First Parish Strategic Task Force was recently formed to implement a process of congregational self-reflection, as well as a broader inquiry into societal trends and examples of successful congregational models.
This process is a collective inquiry to understand our calling as a gathered community. It seeks to understand our grounding, our identity, and the stories that have brought us here; then to use these and other information to identify emergent growth dimensions that build upon our legacy, our strengths and our passions.
The first step is to listen to each other so we can gather clear insights into our current state. To this end, we will hold a series of conversations – singly and in groups, in person and on-line. The key at this point is to hear and record each other’s stories about First Parish – the good and the not-so-good, the inspirational and the aspirational.
In her book How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Susan Beaumont put it this way:
“Shaping the organization’s emergent experience begins with listening… To receive the story of another is to bear witness to his or her experience. It is a sacred act. Telling and receiving stories breaks through illusions of separateness and activates a deep sense of our collective interdependence and the bonds that form us as community.”
There is no more effective way to embody and enliven our collective identity than by telling the stories that define us as a community. As author Mark Manson writes:
“Our past stories define our identity. Our future stories define our hope. Our ability to step into these stories and live them as realities is what gives our lives meaning.”
A key task of this collective inquiry is therefore to aggregate the stories that can positively animate and orient our future evolution. The most powerful stories will be those that scale beyond our walls, inviting others to participate in the positive effects. These stories don’t have to be fully embodied yet – they have value even – and especially – if they are only aspirational.
So as we undertake this collective inquiry, we encourage you to reflect and relate the stories about First Parish that will ground and inspire us, and help us form a true and hopeful communal vision for where we are and where we could be headed.
We hope you’ll contribute your First Parish stories – either in conversation, or by joining a discussion group, or simply by emailing your reflections to firstname.lastname@example.org.