Since the New England Region staff team started developing the practices of Spiritual Leadership for congregations and designing workshops around them, I’ve been troubled by what feels like an inability to “teach” Spiritual Leadership. This month, we launched an online version of “Claiming Our Spiritual Leadership” and I am newly realizing that you can’t teach it — even though that’s what we’re attempting. It’s like teaching someone to ride a bike.
I was seven before I could ride a bike and by then my Dutch parents were ashamed. Really, a seven-year-old should know how to ride a bike! Never mind that I did not have a daring-do spirit or that back then there were no training wheels or — the new miracle — balance bikes. None of us got a used bike of our own until we proved we could ride one. So, my training consisted of me getting on my older sister’s oversized bike with Dad running alongside holding the back of the seat with one hand and the steering wheel with the other. He would let go when there was momentum and some hope I would keep going. The second his hands left the bike, I teetered to the ground. Every time.
The day I successfully found my balance on a bicycle, Dad was nowhere around. I had walked to the neighbors’ where kids from all around had gathered in the barn to play tag in the haymow. Their bicycles were scattered in the yard where I noticed that Michelle’s bicycle had fat tires. It occurred to me that fat tires would make riding a bike easier. So, without asking, I got on Michelle’s bike and wobbling along, I rode a circle. No one saw me. I did it again. And again. Then, I went home and tried my sister’s bike. No problem and fewer wobbles. I rode it around in circles for a long time. I could ride a bike!
Dad couldn’t really teach me how to ride a bike but his lessons made it possible for me to experience success on Michelle’s bike. That’s how I think of “Claiming Our Spiritual Leadership.” We can’t really teach Spiritual Leadership. Each person needs to find theirs, claim theirs and exercise theirs in their way. The best we can do is identify practices, offer suggestions, give reminders and tell stories. Our aim is to support congregations in helping their people claim and exercise their Spiritual Leadership.
We have delivered the training as an in-person experience to hundreds of people in New England. Now, we have adapted it as an online learning experience on UU Leadership Institute. It’s ready for you whether you are in down east Maine, upstate New York or on the Puget Sound. Take it again or take it for the first time.
This version allowed us to go deeper into each of the Spiritual Leadership practices and to augment our voices with video and readings from wider sources. Scheduling, distance and space capacity prevented many from attending this workshop in the past. We are glad to make it accessible to more people in this format — especially in this time when Spiritual Leadership is needed so desperately.