Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Fierce Week in Chicago: Day Three -- Feedback and Confrontation


Vicar Amy Cortright, Sr. Warden Lorraine Kee, Chapter member Anne Trolard and I ... along with Diocesan Youth Missioner Elle Dowd ... are at the Nicholas Center at St. James Cathedral in Chicago for a 2 1/2 day "Fierce Conversations" training, where we are exploring and learning in depth an extraordinary model of making our churches, organizations, and lives better one conversation at a time. Every day, I'm posting about what we're doing so you can travel along with us.

"When giving feedback with good intention, I am making the relationship with you more important than your approval. It takes courage to do it." - Jim Sorensen.

Today we tackled two types of conversations that are often some of the most difficult for us ... feedback conversations and confrontation conversations. They are hard because we are challenged to put ourselves out there for each other ... to let people know what we honestly think.

Anne Trolard talks about what we have to gain by having hard conversations
Feedback and confrontation for us as Christians are the methods by which we live out the call of Paul in Ephesians 4

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

We speak the truth in love for the body's growth in building itself up through feedback and, when necessary, confrontation. The healthiest churches are ones that have a clear sense of mission and vision along with excellent feedback loops. It is where we are growing at Christ Church Cathedral with the work we have done on our mission statement and also our Rules of Respect, which mandate direct communication with one another.

We discussed how this can be difficult for us ... about how we will often go to great lengths to avoid not just confrontation but even giving constructive feedback. These conversations are hard, and we need skill development to help us. So we spend much of the day in pairs practicing just this -- how to give and receive feedback and how to have a conversation when you need to confront someone about seriously problematic behavior.

In both feedback and confrontation conversations, specificity is crucial, and generalities are particularly unhelpful. It is naming the real issue and not pulling any punches, being honest about your perspective. But it is also about naming your own complicity (if any) in the situation and opening the door toward conversation that leads to healing.

Emotions are not to be feared. They are to be named, honored and often sat with in silence ... but they are not to be a substitute for the real data of the situation.

Fierce teaches there are four goals to all conversations:

*Interrogate reality (find the real data)
*Provoke learning
*Tackle tough challenges
*Enrich relationships

All of these are important -- and they are particularly important when you are dealing with conflict and confrontation. What you don't see in that list of conversational goals is "winning." The goal is to have the real conversation about the real challenge, to learn together and to grow together.

The goal of all these conversations is the heart of our mission statement -- "We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ." A deeper relationship. Enriched relationship. That's Fierce.

We heard of a congregation that has a 20-minute feedback period after the sermon and where there is such a culture of feedback that every staff position has a feedback group. Everyone is supported and everyone is held accountable. It is no surprise that it is a thriving, mission-oriented congregation.

Getting better at feedback and confrontation truly is, in the words of Paul, growing up. It's learning not to shrink from saying the difficult thing in love but leaning into the challenge. We are hopeful that the tools we are learning this week can help us all grow into the full stature of Christ. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Fierce Week in Chicago -- Day Two: Beach Balls and Coaching

Vicar Amy Cortright, Sr. Warden Lorraine Kee, Chapter member Anne Trolard and I ... along with Diocesan Youth Missioner Elle Dowd ... are at the Nicholas Center at St. James Cathedral in Chicago for a 2 1/2 day "Fierce Conversations" training, where we are exploring and learning in depth an extraordinary model of making our churches, organizations, and lives better one conversation at a time. Every day, I'm posting about what we're doing so you can travel along with us.

When you think of being Fierce, usually a beach ball isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But that's what we used today in Day Two of our Fierce Conversations training. 

The beach ball is the symbol for the team conversation. The different color stripes on the ball represent the different perspectives people have about a certain issue. The idea is to bring people from different areas out of their silos into a collaborative relationships -- so our decisions come from considering as many perspectives as possible ... and allowing those perspectives truly to change us. 

Our team tested this out with what initially seemed to me a pretty benign issue : Are the announcements at the end of the service too long?  Even in our group of five we had many different perspectives ... and in really listening what I heard is that this is not only about convenience and wanting to get out of church before too long, but about what voices are heard and how do we communicate and build community and how different people come to the cathedral for different reasons. 

It was one more reminder of the wisdom and deep faith we have every time we gather ... and the gift it is to be able to bring so many diverse perspectives to the table, even though that diversity can be so messy and challenging. It reminded me why we name "embrace diversity joyfully" as part of our mission statement. 

The second half of the day we learned about and tried out "coaching conversations." Coaching conversations are when someone comes to you seeking counsel and -- through asking questions and absolutely not giving advice -- lead them through a process of clarifying the issue and the options facing them, the impact of potential decisions, how they are contributing to the issue, their ideal outcome and action steps. 

In short, without being directive, it's about helping people drill down to what the real issue is and help them come to decisions about what to do about it. It's an incredibly pastoral model of conversational leadership because it's about walking with instead of directing. 

This was some of the most powerful time we spent together as the issues my small group shared very quickly drilled down into some foundational conflicts in our lives. It's incredible how quickly we can realize we are in the presence of the holy when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and real with each other ... and especially when the emphasis is not on directing but on listening and walking with.

Tomorrow, we'll get trained in delegation and confrontation conversations ... so the fun is just getting started. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Fierce Week in Chicago - Day One

This week, we're getting Fierce.

At the end of February, the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, director of networking for the Diocese of Chicago, joined us at Christ Church Cathedral and spent a Saturday afternoon with a group of about 50 people from the Cathedral and other congregations for an event called "The Real Conversation: Having Hard Conversations Well."

Our dinner and opening session
A few weeks later, she contacted us with a remarkable gift -- five full scholarships to a full 2 1/2 day "Fierce Conversations" training at St. James Cathedral in Chicago, where we could explore and learn in depth an extraordinary model of making our churches, organizations, and lives better one conversation at a time. The training -- which includes food and lodging -- usually costs $700 a person.

So this morning, four of us from the Cathedral -- Vicar Amy Cortright, Sr. Warden Lorraine Kee, Chapter member Anne Trolard and me ... along with Diocesan Youth Missioner Elle Dowd (we asked Elle to be the fifth so we could share this gift with the rest of the diocese, and also because she's just awesome) piled into a minivan and headed north.

For the next couple days, I'll be sharing what we are learning. But first, I want to share where we are learning it.

One of the guest rooms at the Nicholas Center
This event is being held in St. James Commons .. the newly-renovated office building attached to St. James Cathedral. Like Christ Church Cathedral, St. James had an old office building that housed both Cathedral and Diocesan offices. They raised the money to do a total gut rehab of the building, which included turning the fifth floor (which had been basically a storage attic) into a gorgeous, modern monastic-type retreat and meeting space called The Nicholas Center.

The Nicholas Center is one of the best designed places I have ever been. It is the perfect merging of modern design and monastic feel ... with every square inch incredibly well used (which is how they get 14 bedrooms and meeting space into what is not an enormous footprint. We have already started talking with some of the diocesan staff here about how they did this, as we are beginning to look intently at the future of our own buildings.

The exterior of St. James Common and the Cathedral
in downtown Chicago
The group here together for the next three days is small -- about 15 including staff (we are by far the largest contingent) with everyone else coming from congregations in the Diocese of Chicago.

Fierce is based on the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, and training individuals and congregations in this way of being has been a keystone of the Diocese of Chicago's congregational revitalization program. We are excited to be able to go through this training and bring it back to Christ Church Cathedral and the Diocese of Missouri so we can continue to grow in health as the Body of Christ.

If you want to learn more about Fierce, you can check out their corporate website at http://www.fierceinc.com/


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Testimony in opposition to HB 104, the so-called "Student Freedom of Association Act"


Below is the substance of the testimony I gave this afternoon before the Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to House Bill 104, which would, under the guise of protecting religious freedom, allow religious groups on state higher education institution campuses to discriminate against LGBTQ persons and others while still receiving public funding and other benefits. I was asked to testify by the Don’t Shoot Coalition and the Missouri ACLU.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing
this afternoon in Jefferson City.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, good afternoon.

My name is Mike Kinman and I am the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Episcopal Cathedral in downtown St. Louis and for the Diocese of Missouri. I also spent 10 years as an Episcopal Campus Missioner at both Mizzou and Washington University.

As I looked over this bill, the language that jumped out at me was “substantially burdening the exercise of religion.” While I know that is a legal term with technical definitions, it took me back 10 years when I stood on the ground in Lui, a small village in what is now South Sudan. I stood with an amazing man named Bullen Dolli, who was the Anglican Bishop of Lui as he told me of the morning when soldiers came and dragged him out of his Cathedral and showed me the place on the ground where they had him dig his own grave and kneel in front of it with a gun to his head … all because he was a follower of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Bullen Dolli of the Diocese of Lui South Sudan.
Bishop Bullen died in December, 2010.
He told me of how in that moment he prayed out loud and he prayed for the souls of those who were holding the guns, and of how God turned their hearts and his life was spared.

Whatever we may disagree about in this room, I hope we can all agree that this is what “substantially burdening the exercise of religion” looks like.

As a follower of Jesus Christ who has been to Lui and stood with the Christians of South Sudan in their fight for true free exercise of religion, I am troubled when people of my faith equate exposure to diversity with religious infringement and persecution.

Our constitutional right to free exercise of religion was and is meant to protect people of faith against real burden, against real persecution – the kind of persecution some of them literally came to these shores to flee.

It is an offense to people of faith around the world who are under the specter of genuine persecution, whose free exercise of religion is genuinely substantially burdened, to pass legislation like this in the name of religious freedom.

Because bills like this which, intentionally or not, allow religious groups to isolate themselves from difference and allow they themselves to discriminate, promote the very conditions for the kind of extremism that is most threatening to true religious freedom. The kind of extremism that develops when our views are not regularly engaged and challenged by respectful people of divergent thought and practice.

I therefore urge you to defeat this bill for the sake of the very religious freedoms I believe we all – including the authors of this legislation – strive to protect.

+++

I encourage you to contact your senator (particularly, if yours, like mine, is Joe Keaveny of St. Louis, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee) and let them know how you feel about this bill. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday: Today is the Day After

Holy Week is a journey to the cross and beyond ... and every day is a different step. This week, I'll be offering a reflection for each step of the journey for us as a Cathedral community.

Today is the day after.

Yesterday was Good Friday.

Yesterday we saw the metal pierce through his body.

Yesterday we heard the mother’s cry and saw his friends scatter in fear.

Yesterday we heard his wailing cry as he breathed his last.

Yesterday our beloved was murdered by the state right in front of everyone even though they could find no crime against him.

Yesterday we heard him say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” we heard the centurion finally, too late to save him, say “truly, this was the Son of God.”

Yesterday we laid him in the tomb and as night fell, we walked away.

Yesterday was Good Friday.

Today is the day after.

We all know the day after. The day after is when, for everyone else, life has returned to normal.

For everyone else.

For everyone else, it’s back to work, back to school, back to the way things were before.

Only for us, there’s a hole. A gaping, yawning chasm where the one we loved used to be.

We are offended by the sunrise because how could the sun dare to shine in a world where we will never again hear his laugh.

We are enraged by people’s pleasantries.  How can they say “Have a nice day?” How can any day be nice again when we will never ever again see her smile?

Today is the day after.

Today is the day when everyone else tells us that’s what’s done is done, and we must just accept it.

Today is the day when everyone else tells us that we have cried enough, that we have grieved enough, that it is time for us to get on with our lives the way they were before.

Today is the day when everyone else tells us to sit down and be quiet and stop making such a fuss. That the healthy thing to do is let go … or at least distract ourselves until we can. After all, it’s over already.

Today is the day that people avoid us or stumble over words quickly and then excuse themselves from our presence because our pain makes them so uncomfortable, makes them feel so powerless.

Yesterday was Good Friday.

Today is the day after.

But we are not done.

We are not done because nobody can tell the grieving mother that she has shed enough tears. Exactly how many tears are enough when your child is full of holes lying cold on the ground?

We are not done because other people’s discomfort does not deprive us of the right to grieve. Because as Augustus Waters says in John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, “That’s the thing about pain – it demands to be felt.”

When we suffer deep loss, we are not destined to spend the rest of our life in grief and pain … but we do need to spend some time there. And it needs to be OK. It needs to be OK not to be able to get through a dinner without crying or to not be able to get up in the morning or to spend a weekend on the couch looking through old pictures.

When we suffer deep loss, we are not supposed to end our lives with it, but we are supposed to be changed by it. Deep loss is supposed to make us angry and hurt – and it demands to be felt and to be expressed … and nobody can tell us what the right and wrong ways are to grieve and to rage when our beloved has been taken from us so unjustly.

Yesterday was Good Friday. Everyone cries on Good Friday.

Today is the day after. And however we are today is how we are.

And it is OK.

And nobody can tell us differently.

Yesterday was Good Friday.

Today is the day after.

And today is also the day before.

Easter is coming. We know it is. We know that there will be an Easter and that sun will dawn and the tears will be wiped away.

But that is for another day.

The day after is always the day before, too. But we cannot rush through it. We cannot run around it. We cannot set this day of grief on anyone else’s timetable but our own.

Yesterday was Good Friday.

Today is the day after.

Today is the day to feel the pain that demands to be felt.

Passionately.

Deeply.

Unapologetically.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday: Singing an American Tune

Holy Week is a journey to the cross and beyond ... and every day is a different step. This week, I'll be offering a reflection for each step of the journey for us as a Cathedral community.

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to it’s knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.

In the late 19th century, Rudyard Kipling composed a poem, Recessional, on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

The poem is a prayer of stark and raw honesty – calling out the jingoism and triumphal nature of British imperialism. Kipling named the deepest sins of his people, put them in the context of the original sin of placing ourselves in the place of God, and asked for God to have mercy on the nation.

He reaches a crescendo with this final verse:

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard –
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Kipling could have been describing America today. We put our trust not in the saving power of the love of the cross but in the 21st century far more terrifying and lethal versions of reeking tube and iron shard. We have 24-hour cable news channels and most political campaigns devoted to frantic boast and foolish word. We are in deep need of humility. We are in deep need of Christ’s mercy on each of us, on the nation, on us all.

75 years later, another great poet, Paul Simon, looked out on his United States of America and saw deep brokenness that, like Kipling, moved his heart to cry out. And he wrote American Tune, a song that for me has always been the soundtrack of Good Friday.

Simon took an extraordinarily beautiful piece of music – Hans Leo Hassler’s “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded” (the same piece that Bach used for a chorale in his St. Matthew’s Passion) – and crafted a lament for our nation that moves me to tears every time I sing along.

Good Friday is the day to recite Recessional, and it is the day to sing American Tune. Good Friday is the day to fall on our faces and admit that we don’t have it all together. That as individuals and as a nation we have erred and strayed from Christ’s ways like lost sheep. That we need, deeply and desperately need, the love and mercy of Jesus.

Good Friday is the day for us to sing our lament.

To fall at the foot of the cross and admit that we are so very often mistaken and confused, forsaken and misused.

That we are weary to our bones and feel so far away from home. That all our souls have been battered, and none of us feel at ease. That there’s not a dream that’s not been shattered and driven to its knees.

That we look around us—at all the deep divisions, the poverty and the violence and the pain and the rage – that we look around this road we’re traveling on…

…and we can’t help but wonder what went wrong.

God, how I wonder what's gone wrong.

Jesus the Christ hangs on the cross today. Today is the death of dreams. The death of hope. Today is when we are all stripped naked and we can no longer hide behind frantic boast and foolish word. Today is when we are laid bare and the only song on our lips is lament and the blues.

Today is Good Friday. It is the day we look at ourselves – as individuals, as a church, as a city, as a nation, as a world – we look at ourselves and see the huge chasm between what we dreamed to be, what we hoped to be, and what we are.

Today is Good Friday. It is the day we hear the Statue of Liberty saying with dear welcome “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and we look around and see the oppression and rejection those among us who fit those categories are experiencing.

And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea.
And I dreamed I was flying

As Rudyard Kipling was in his day, as Paul Simon was 20 years ago, as Jesus was 2,000 years ago, we too are in the age’s most uncertain hour. And today we take time to cry. To lament of dreams lost and of sins committed. To cry out “Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord.” To fall at the foot of the cross in weariness and collapse into Jesus outstretched arms.

And in those arms to get some rest.

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, and it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest.
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday: The Uncomfortable Intimacy of Jesus


Holy Week is a journey to the cross and beyond ... and every day is a different step. This week, I'll be offering a reflection for each step of the journey for us as a Cathedral community.

History tells us that tonight’s 6 pm Maundy Thursday service will be the lowest-attended major religious observance of the year at Christ Church Cathedral. The choir and vested ministers will probably outnumber those sitting in the congregation.

I always hope it will be different, but I’m never surprised when it isn’t. Because tonight’s liturgy invites us into deep intimacy not just with God in Christ but with each other in Christ.

Intimacy that makes us vulnerable.

Intimacy that can be really scary.

Intimacy that we at once crave and yet leaves us so fearful of rejection.

Tonight we hear the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and then telling us to do the same to each other.

Our feet are some of the most intimate and personal parts of our bodies. There’s a reason that “feet” are a euphemism for genitals in the Bible (Ruth didn’t really uncover Boaz’s “feet” on the threshing room floor). Because touching each other’s feet is an act of deep intimacy – whether it’s playing footsie under the table at a restaurant or giving someone a foot massage after a long day at work.

In one of my favorite movies, Bull Durham, the scene that was voted one of the 10 all-time most romantic bedroom scenes by Harlequin – right up there with the steam of Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in Body Heat, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest and even the sultry morning after of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind was a shot of what can’t be more than 15 seconds when Kevin Costner is sitting on Susan Sarandon’s bed, gently holding her foot in his lap and with a loving, even slightly impish smile on his face, painting her toenails.

We don’t allow just anyone to touch our feet. And why would we? The science of reflexology tells us we experience pressure on different points on the foot in places all over our body. Our feet are literally a gateway to our entire body – inside and out.

And yet Jesus picks this act – washing each other’s feet – as our model for relationship.

“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus says to his disciples, his hands still dripping with water.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”

The relationship Jesus calls us into in the Church is not a relationship of quick smiles and firm handshakes or even friendly hugs. It is a relationship of footwashing. A relationship of intimate touch.

And that’s scary.

It’s scary because our experiences of intimate touch are not always good and safe … in fact they have often been quite bad.

It’s scary because we have deep body image issues – we have such trouble believing that these bodies, created in God’s image, are beautiful and good. In fact, we look at ourselves – at our feet – and we see just the opposite. And so the last thing we want to do is show them to somebody else. That’s just asking for rejection.

It’s scary because there is such deep power in the simple act of washing another’s feet and having our own feet get washed that it can be overwhelming … and we can be afraid of what would happen if we were touched that profoundly in a public setting like church.

And so we stay away. Our attendance figures tells us we would rather walk the way of the cross than touch each other’s feet.

I don’t say this in any way to shame us. For one, shame is profoundly unhelpful. But more than that, this is about naming, not shaming.

If tonight is once again a mostly empty nave, it will be a reminder that we – not just we as a Cathedral community but we as Americans and, frankly, we as white, Western society, have deep issues with intimacy. We glorify the rugged individualist. We see asking for help as weakness. We compulsively apologize for our tears.

Tonight is a reminder that the communion Christ calls us into is one of deep intimacy. It is a communion of one who loved the world so much he was willing to suffer deeply and die naked nailed to a cross rather than stop loving so profoundly.

Tonight is a reminder that what Christ really calls us into is the same kind of relationship with each other that he longs for with us. A relationship of knowing fully and being fully known. A relationship of safe, intimate touch – touch that we are willing to risk because we have spent the time building relationships of trust with each other.

Christ calls us to love one another as he loved us. And how he loved us is washing our feet. And the world will know we are Jesus’ disciples by our ability to do the same.