Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Word of the day l'auberge espagnole

It is no secret that I am not a tidy person. My other quite particular and tidy translator colleagues doubtless despair of my mess sometimes. However, all it takes is a visit to my husband's office to see mine as a fairly orderly space. (He'll probably edit that last sentence to oblivion within moments of reading this!)
"Auberge espagnole" is one of those nationalistic little phrases that get into languages - like to take French leave (the equivalent in French being to take English leave - filer à l'anglaise). The implication is that a Spanish hostel or inn would be a bit chaotic, a bit of a hodgepodge, a place where you have to take pot luck (by the way a pot luck supper in French is called a repas canadien).
I have also seen the term auberge espagnole used as a congretational model for churches - not trying to be all things to all people but trying to offer different ways in to faith and being church. Of course it appealed to me - perhaps a subtitle to be blog should be auberge espagnole, what a shame I don't speak the language!
Since my time at the CEC assembly I've been pondering what an auberge espagnole model of communication might look like. As we set up the communications work for the assembly I was quite excited by the fact that we had freedom to try and get messages about the assembly out there. It was fun to encourage people to blog or tweet - to offer thoughts, concerns, campaigns or groans and not try to control or santise things. It was very energising and generated quite a creative space that may have looked chaotic but actually led to everyone working as a team on the different parts that made up the whole.
In terms of the work I have been doing on leadership I suppose it's a bit like the three-ringed circus. It's very different from the control approach to communication - of which I suppose the Lambeth conference last year would be a prime example. (I leave Dr B to comment on that as he was there and found it extremely frustrating.)
Of course any good communicator will need a bit of both - a bit of the auberge espagnole approach and a bit of the control approach. The control approach can unfortunately have its roots in fear and sometimes leads to never daring to communicate anything. The auberge espagnole approach could be seen as muddled and it does rely on high levels of trust within the team.
Whether choosing a control or an auberge espagnole model for the work that's being done, working on building trust in congregations or organisations of any kind is never wasted. As I begin to contemplate the writing of my diploma for the Craighead Institute I am more and more interested in the role of "intangibles" like trust, confidence and motivation in organisations. Vision, leadership and integrity of purpose can offer inspiration for generating trust and other intangibles. I suppose that may not sound like the picture of a church near you, but I'm learning that even healthy organisations are not perfect!