It usually starts with one person with the beginning of an audacious idea. It has enough form so that others can visualize the possibilities. It also has enough open possibilities that others can see where they can bring their creativity and energy to help co-create it. And woven fine within the interactions and planning that lead to the actual “product” is a feeling of there being some mysterious additional energy that enables the group to create something that feels almost magical.
It happened at my home congregation. One woman, after reading the first couple of Harry Potter books, imagined creating a “vacation church school” based on the books. Adult teachers would take on Hogwarts alter egos and create a version of Hogwarts where they emphasized liberal religious values. Each teacher used their creativity and skills to create a unique experience in their classes. “Defense against the Dark Arts” helped the students respond to bullying. The “Potions” class encouraged the love of science through chemistry. Children who aged out of the program could become prefects or even professors. Over ten years after its inception, the program is still filled to capacity.
Something similar happened at the congregation in Annapolis, Maryland. A group of UU parents wanted to offer the children of their congregation and the community their own version of a Vacation School, with liberal religious values. Because their church sits on 7 acres of woodland, they developed a nature camp. Their mission was to encourage questioning, active exploration, a respect for interconnectedness of all the earth, a sense of adventure, and—most importantly— a sense of awe!
The adults planning the activities used their creative energy to serve the camp’s mission of exploration and awe. To explore the idea of evolution, children tried out different size binder clips to pick up seed and beans of various shapes and sizes. To see the effect of meteors hitting the earth, they dropped various rocks into a pan of flour. Teams of campers competed to come up with ways to recycle and reuse items in a pile of trash. The camp has become so popular that they fill up soon after they open registration.
I think of these stories as examples of Creative Interchange, as described by UU process theologian Henry Nelson Wieman. He described it as a sacred inspiration that encourages us to deepen and widen our connections with the rest of creation in service of goodness and love. When we come together with openness to including diverse gifts, the result can be transformative – for the participant and those around them — and even the world!
Our congregations are natural places to nurture opportunities for people to bring their gifts. The savvy leader can spot where energy is flowing and help turn that into synergy with Creative Interchange.
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Congregational Life Staff, Central East Region