From Fr. Gary: It’s time for a different narrative!

glass half full.png

Most of us know the old “joke” suggested in the picture: "An optimist sees the glass as half-full. A pessimist sees it half-empty. (And an engineer sees the glass twice as large as it needs to be.)” That joke, in my mind, represents an outdated narrative — in ANY of the three answers. I actually like the “answer” in the picture; it represents a changed narrative about the glass and the water. Another response, different still, might be “Who cares about the relationship of glass to liquid? Look — there’s water! What can we do with it?”

How we look at something, I believe, is important. Our outlook, or our perspective, affects how we feel and how we might proceed. As I’ve said a number of times in my sermons, I’m a big proponent of Appreciative Inquiry, a system/theory for managing change. It is based on a number of assumptions, the very first being: "In every society, organization, or group, something works”. Managing change, therefore, means that to move from Point A to Point B, the best strategy is to look at what has worked in “Point A” and maximize it (another of Appreciative Inquiry’s assumptions)!

Of course, recognizing “what worked”, or what was great, at “Point A” isn’t always easy. Significant events may have clouded vision for some. Decline may have obscured vitality for others. That’s why yet another couple of Appreciative Inquiry’s assumptions are so critical: “Reality is created in the moment and there are multiple realities” and “It is important to value differences”. In other words, no one view of “the glass/contents” should dominate. To continue the metaphor, there should be a frank conversation about “the glass/contents” to discover alternative views . . . which can result in changing the narrative about that glass!

I believe that Good Shepherd is on the verge of “changing the narrative”. I really began to see that just before our Annual Meeting. What I’d heard from so many people was that “there was a time when Good Shepherd was burgeoning, and then. . . . .” And, “We’ve lost a lot of folks over the last few years . . . .” Those are stories we are telling ourselves. AND, they are negative narratives that do little but hinder our ability to move forward.

As I said at the meeting, especially in regard to our budget issues, we can’t keep repeating the “decline” narrative; we can’t keep going to the “well”, expecting more water. A different narrative, a different story, to explore is when Good Shepherd was burgeoning, what made it that way? What energized the congregation to grow? Because THAT’s where we need to focus our attention!

Another different narrative with regard to “decline” emerged subsequent to the meeting, and the announcement of the supplemental stewardship campaign. We have an amazing congregation that has stepped up! That means commitment to who we are and energy to move us forward. Regardless of the size of the glass, or the amount of liquid, we have “the juice”! That should give us hope.

Yes, I am talking about “hope” and “faith”! And, what I’ve seen in the last several weeks has been evidence of both. We are changing the narrative! This is biblical/Christian stuff! Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Berkeley, CA had a banner: “Sheep on a Mission”. I liked it then; I love it now! We are on our way forward! Join hands . . . paws . . . hooves!