I’m often asked, “What makes religious leadership development different than contemporary models of leadership development used in not-for-profit and progressive companies?”
I think there are two main differences. The first is that our purpose goes beyond short-term and even long-term goals. We are not just growing congregations, we are building our vision of the Beloved Community. We are not just working for immigrant rights, we are bending the arc of the universe toward justice. These are transcendent goals that we are working toward but are not “deliverables” (using corporate language).
The second difference is where we find our spiritual grounding and how we stay connected to it. As Unitarian Universalists, we are open to different ways of defining and expressing that grounding. The weakness of this gift of choice and is that the openness of so many possible paths often leads to cherry-picking and cultural misappropriation from other traditions, ill-fitting or shallow practice, or a general benign neglect of the spiritual life. These pitfalls are widened for our leaders who are often overwhelmed with the minutiae of the work-a-day (or should I say volunteer-a-day?) world.
Years ago, I used a book by Peter Tufts Richardson called Four Spiritualities: Expressions of Self, Expressions of Spirit to understand my own spiritual temperament and to develop my own spiritual practices. (It is based on the Jungian dimensions of personality.) The book suggests there are four spiritual paths:
- The Journey of Unity
- The Journey of Devotion
- The Journey of Works
- The Journey of Harmony
Leadership in our congregations can be its own spiritual practice, touching on Unity, Works and Harmony. The practice of Devotion is a little trickier, especially since the word devotion implies–for many– a personal god/goddess or other transcendent object.
For me, the practice of devotion is my attempt to connect–in an embodied way–to the core foundations of my faith. And singing is my most effective way of creating this embodied connection:
When I breathe in, I’ll breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I’ll breathe out love… (Singing the Journey #1009)
Open my heart to all that I seek; let me be part of the Love You give…. (Singing the Journey #1013)
There is more love, somewhere. There is more love, somewhere. I’m gonna keep on ’til I find it. There is more love, somewhere… (Singing the Living Tradition #95)