Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Management and spirituality in Rome

The reason I went to Rome was not only because of the food or of staying with the wonderful Giorgio and Luca. I started a two year course run by the Craighead Institute for members of international leadership teams. The three days of seminars, input and praxis sessions were really stimulating and gave me much food for thought. I can see how it builds on study I did previously at the Open University Business School but is more consciously rooted in faith-based analysis rather than purely in secular analysis of non-profit making organisations.
The sessions are organised to allow for reflective and meditative space as well as more intellectual and praxis orientated input. This is also helped by the lovely small courtyard garden off our meeting room, it has glorious palm trees reaching up into the (mainly) blue skies. Wandering around drinking a cup of tea there was quite a restorative experience.
I'll try and say more about the course over days and weeks to come. It's energised my thinking and helped me feel I still have a brain. It's also been a very steep learning curve about Roman Catholic congregations. I was the only Protestant there and the only person not in religious life - though as a minister I do feel I have a vocation. I'm still not quite sure I understand what the difference between superiors, generals and provincials is but I'm trying.
On the way home in the train and since coming back I've been pondering many things.
How to link spirituality and management with some kind of integrity -there are so many ways in which we spiritualise away real difficulties we encounter at work and in life. Rather than entering into painful places our spirituality often remains paddling about in the shallows. Frightened of too much emotion we somehow lose the visceral anger, joy, glee, grief and depression you can find in the psalms.
My friend Janet who is a speech therapist and also ordained, remarked to me once that the language of our liturgies just isn't right for many people, too removed from down to earth feelings - too focussed on poetry and heaven maybe. It's important people at funerals for instance feel the words say something they can relate to. John Bell from the Iona community has written some good things but much of our formal spirituality, in the West avoids, poetises or uses platitudes. One of the things the course challenged me to revisit is on how strong feelings affect and are part of decisions we take.
The need to find a new language to talk about religious life, matters spiritual and ecclesisatical was also a recurring theme. I suppose it goes with my job to find myself thinking repeatedly about language and justice. The rise and rise of global English, like a tower of Babel. Yet if we want to communicate the gospel or any faith values, we'll need to relearn some of the better missionary linguistic practice from the past. Translation and interpretation are essential disciplines and paradigms when talking about faith. Being in Rome I was forced back to my very poor school Latin while in the town, though all of our teaching sessions were in English. By the time I left I said occasional phrases of something that could perhaps be described as Italoglish - by which I mean that at least I was able to order an espresso with aplomb!