The Beginning of the Center for Transforming Engagement | Pilot Podcast Episode
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Are you curious to know what we’re trying to accomplish with the Center for Transforming Engagement?
Get to know the people, the ideas, and the hopes and dreams for cascading change in the pilot episode of “Transforming Engagement,” the new podcast from CTE.
Listen as the founders, Kate Rae Davis, MDiv and Dr. J. Derek McNeil, discuss the need for healing in our communities and why we need to transform the ways in which we engage one another to experience true healing. We invite you to join us as we embark on this journey together.
Find the Community Support You Need
- Free Download: The Resilience Report from Kate Rae Davis, MDiv, Dr. J. Derek McNeil, and Andrea Sielaff, MA
- Blog: Resilience from a Place of Crisis by Kate Rae Davis, MDiv
Kate: Wanted to start us off with just who we are. Uh, people listening to this, aren’t gonna necessarily know. Um, so I’ll let you start.
Derek: Okay. Uh, well, my name is, uh, Derek McNeil and I’m the president and provost of the Seattle school, I think a proud partner/participant in the birthing of a new center and, um, The Center for Transforming Engagement. And so, uh, we’re here in some ways to begin sharing a little bit about, um, who we are, what we do and kind of how we invite you all to be a part of this process with us.
Kate: Thanks. Yeah. And I’m Kate Davis, I’m the Director of the Center for Transforming Engagement. Um, that’s a phrase I’m gonna have to get more comfortable saying being a new center and, uh, yeah, you and I have been partners since this project really began, um, in early 2017 and it’s been a road of developing our thinking and our programs. Um, but even, especially I think just our frame of what is it that we see happening in the world that we are concerned about and that we want, that we think that we have a unique way to offer ourselves into that conversation. Um, and I think also the question of what are we called to do as an institution into that conversation. Um, so yeah, really my hopes for this podcast is that it’s a place to expand the audience of yours and my conversations. Um, cuz really we, we don’t get a chance that publicly to say, why is that we’re doing what we’re doing? Yeah. We just are in the day to day work of it.
Derek: That’s true. It’s interesting. As you were talking, I was thinking that, um, the older I get the less, I remember why we decided to do this wild, crazy thing, but I do have a strong sense of the importance of the movement, not just simply a center, in a narrow way, but really, um, something we’re inviting people into, even as we talked about resilience and what does it mean to be in a fragmenting society? And that we really were thinking much more broadly, even though we thought specifically in terms of a program and maybe even a center, it really was about a movement and how do we begin to heal? Some of what’s being fractured or some of which is being wounded and beyond just, you know, and we have a part of us of the institution that talks about and focuses on trauma. But I think we got interested in growth after the trauma, what happens in the healing process, in the development of a muscle. And so those are the things that still stand out for me. Um, I had story came to mind earlier in the day where, when I was in seminary, um, my first year I broke my leg and I was in a cast from toe to hip. I can’t think, it was five months or four months, whatever it was. And the healing process was, you know, readjusting that cast at one point, cuz it wasn’t healing correctly. And um, the sort of shaping of the cast for the maximization of the healing, but after the bone came together, um, I can recall them taking that cast off and looking at a leg that was quite different from the other leg. Atrophied, if you will. And it just reminded me of the metaphor. There is a need for healing and then a need for growth or regrowth or regeneration. And the work after that, after the healing of the bone, there was a work of restoring the muscle. And a lot of what this center is about for me is not focusing specifically on the trauma, but the healing after the trauma, the regeneration after words and how do we hold and heal communities. And, uh, so that’s some of what still stands out for me as we think about this work.
Kate: Yeah. I, but I like about that story as a image of what we do is it’s not we’re, I think we start out saying like, you know, we’re not trauma, we resilience or we’re not suffering we’re growth, which was really this like almost like muscle building, full-health metaphor, but it’s not just about the healthy outcome we’re really looking at how does something go from one to the other, like it’s really that change process from, um, it’s not even weak to strong, but the, the change process from maybe it is fragmentation to healing, wholeness, holiness, It’s, it’s the, the mechanism of how does a person change and how does a group change? How does a society change? And maybe this brings us into our next, um, we’d want to talk about what are the problems that we see in the world as we’re talking about your leg breaking. And I was thinking about, in what ways are we as a people? Um, are we broken? Are we fragmented? Um, a conversation like, like, you know, there’s not two political parties, there’s four or six and there’s not really one country. There’s 11 cultural nations within this country. And just trying to think how many pieces are we even broken into? How fragmented are we? What is the nature of that fragmentation? And yeah, I guess I’m thinking about what is, how’s the fragmentation show up in a local context? What have you seen in fragmentation? Can you speak to that?
Derek: Well, it’s interesting cuz when, when we talk about fragmentation, I I’ll move away from the broken leg metaphor. Um, I think of as a loss of the common meaning, um, I, I think communities need stories. It’s like we have a story if I said, who are you? You’d begin to tell me, well, who is, who is Kate? And what are the things and parts. And you’d pick out the parts that give you coherence. So when you tell a story, you leave out a lot of stuff to pull the parts together that have coherence. I think the same thing happens in terms of communities when we start to lose the story, if you will. And so I think it will always be different things. We’ll be a nation in that sense where we have different regions and different political associations we’ll have different identities, but the issue is what’s the story, the narrative that holds us together, that we see ourselves connected and linked. And I think we’ve lost a bit of that linkage, um, both in a personal sense. Um, we’ve made, I call hyperindividualism, I am myself and I stand by myself if you will. Um, there is both a freedom in terms of agency, but then a loss of communion. And so I think we’re really talking about the restoration of communion in a world that’s hyper-agentic. It’s truly trying. And that, that is a way of saving ourselves. I think you have to move to some agency to feel like, particularly in terms of stress or abuse, you need to find agency, but agency alone is a return to community. And I think we’ve been talking a lot about how we heal a sense of community. And I think one major part of that story.
Kate: Yeah. You’re saying that the story of place, the story of us being lost, I think about how nomadic we are in a hyper individualized culture, which means I literally don’t know the story of the place where I live because I’m new here. And by the time I’m part of that story, I’m probably moving somewhere else. Just the nature of our kind of transient, maybe that’s me as a millennial. Um, and also it puts into different light. The, the arguments that we’re having about curriculums that are taught, how we understand our shared history, we’re really fighting for this is what it means to be us in very different ways.
Derek: Yeah. And I think this is a, you know, interesting piece about the memory, going back to the individual story of what you would pick out and what you tell me based on who you think you are. And I think the country struggling with its memory, um, we almost act as if the past is something that’s behind us and innovation in the future is ahead of us. And I think some of us are saying, but do you remember how much this hurt this aspect, this wound, sometimes we talk about for instance, slavery as original sin or, um, lots of historical pieces, whether it be with indigenous people or other, you know, or with, um, folk who have Asian background descent, we’ve done a lot of things historically to people that sometimes it’s hard to remember. It’s hard to hold that as part of our identity. And I think on some sense, it’s hard to have a collective sense of identity without holding those pieces. So, um, I like the notion of a nomad. Um, I also wanna add to it refugees, um, the fleeing from something, uh, the loss of home and it feels global now the sort of loss of home, the place that I, um, know myself best, or at least hope would be safe, is no longer safe. And we find ourselves fleeing looking for homes and only in transitional spaces. So in that I think as we talk about this project and, um, not just simply the individual as, um, more resilient, but the community that can hold. And, um, typically we separate those things. We think individual resilience and finding a community and really they are matched. Um, they’re necessary for each other in some sort of finding home sort of way.
Kate: As you’re talking about the national narratives, I’m realizing how also deeply personal that feels that you know, a, me as an individual, I can tell a story of myself that is about the trauma I’ve gone through and I can narrate those events and kind of make my identity in a kind of victimized working through my trauma way. And what we talk about resilience is how do those experiences form unto something? How did it, how do they make me who I am in a way that maybe in, in good, not even days, good hours, I can say I’m grateful for that experience. I wish I had had it again or not that I wish on anyone else. But given that it’s happened, how do I integrate that into my understanding myself for also the goodness that came from that formation that couldn’t have come another way. And I think what I’m hearing, as we’re talking, I’m like nationally, we do the same thing. Not only focus on the pain, the hardship, the trauma of some of these experiences and not only focus on oh, but we fixed that. Oh, but we, but we did the civil rights movement, but we did the voting rights act, but we did these other things that seemed to make it like, but now that’s okay and we can forget it. How do we actually narrate? So that here’s a hard thing we went through and here’s how we grew as a country from it. And I think until we can hold us together, there will always be a sense of lack. And really, I think this is part of what the biblical narrative invites us to is to hold those two things together. That we’re not a people who are only formed by one narrative. I think about Exodus. Um, you’re, you’re freed from slavery. Yes. But you’re reminding the desert. No, but then you get manana. Yes. Like it’s just a, a constant kind of back and forth of overcoming challenges and those challenges being a part of the formation of the people of God that in some ways they couldn’t become the people of God without going through those challenges.
Derek: Yeah. And I would add to that, um, they needed to know before they left, where they were going, that it was a journey of promise. Mm. Uh, the sense of coherence to what they would have to experience in the wilderness only makes sense. If you have some sense that they is an end, a telos, if you will. Um, so I think there’s a necessary promise, you know, in that journey, is that okay, we’re taking you to a land of promise. There is a promise, something at the end of this, you will go through, but there’s a promise something. I think the other thing you had mentioned earlier was how do we, you know, how do we make these movements? How do we, and I do think it is our ability to make sense of that meaning, but I just so deeply think it needs other listening ears. Um, and this is where the communal piece comes in. Um, I don’t know if we’re able to pull out of our fragmentation without listening and holding ears. Other people who are hearing us and getting to know who we are in that fragmentation and tolerating that fragmentation to help us tolerate our own fragmentation. And so part of the sort of national dilemma is we’re not listening to each other. Um, and so the cry is can’t you see how much you wounded me or can you see how much I’m victimized or can now, how you see how you’ve displaced me, I need, now you’re trying to replace me and all these sort of wounded parts that don’t have as many listening parts is I think makes it very hard to go on a journey and feel like the end of that journey, there will be as sense of reconciling or reconstitution or coherence. So that’s a bit of the challenge I think we’re facing is it’s really hard when you’re yelling at me to hear you. And it’s really hard for me when I’m yelling at you to believe, trust that you actually take me serious enough to do something and be something different with me.
Kate: I’m thinking about that, uh, that end of point, the, telos that we’re all moving towards and the land of milk and honey, right? Like that’s the image and it’s something you can taste it, you have a, you feel milk and honey, and it gives you a reason to keep walking and even to say, keep walking through a really nonlinear path. And I think that’s part of our, our story we’re working out too, is it’s, it’s not a linear story. It’s gonna backtrack on itself and it’s not a clear, straight, fastest root progress. But I, I wanna hear from you, what, what that tell us is in your imagination, what’s the society that you, you would hope that we’re a part of creating. How does that population function? How do they understand relatedness?
Derek: Well, you know, this is when I have to confess that I believe in Jesus in a deep sort of way. Um, and believe at some point there is a Shalom, there is a peace that God brings us into. I think when I think of the society, that some point of me that believes will always have a bit of chaos because the society won’t hold that sort of narrative. Um, that’s the narrative of God, narrative of us, narrative of me, quality. And, um, I think, you know, even though I don’t, you know, I think we’ve kind of gone through a period where we said, Hey, it’s hard to hold the grand narratives. Cause they have the power and the dynamics and the oppression of them. You still need a narrative for coherence. And, um, rather than the Christ as king, I probably have focused on my life Christ as suffering servant and the one in Christ, all things hold together has not been a statement of control. It’s been a statement holding, it’s been a statement of compassion. It’s been a statement of sacrifice. It’s been a statement of listening. And so I find myself when I feel distressed, I want to be in God’s lap, God listening to me, Christ, listening to me knows how I’ve hurt and suffered. I think that’s the same thing that happens in human relationships. When we have struggled and suffered, we need to know that someone could you hear me? You hear me in my suffering, you hear me in my challenge and you can sit with and are not overtaken by. So in that sense, the sort of end of the story, I think if we knew it concretely, we would try to construct it. But there is a sense of promise and trust that God will do something in the end that will bring about safety and a lowering of a threat. Um, and we can live into that peace and that promise. And so it’s a bit, you know, I think abstract for, you know, but I think if it were more material, it would be harder to hold.
Kate: It’s true. I think what I’m appreciate about that as he was speaking about a Christ who holds us, I was thinking about on the day of the resurrection, when Christ shows himself the disciples and the first thing he says before, he even, he doesn’t say hello, or he doesn’t even let them really rejoice. And the first thing he’s doing is opening his robe and showing his wounds and saying peace be with you. And those two pieces together that his wounds don’t go away, right? There is still, still woundedness, still hurt it. Doesn’t undo the past. And he’s able to say peace, peace, be with you, which is the very safety we need to be able to witness the wounds of the past and begin to make sense of them. Um, he really invites us to hold those two things together, the woundedness and the peace.
Derek: Yeah. I like what you said, the phrase, um, here, the wounds, they don’t go away. And I think we do have this fantasy. They’ll go away for us. Yeah. My wounds will go away and there is a sense that there’s tending to wounding and a scarring and that it’s integrated in as opposed to vanished. It’s not made to go away, but it’s integrated in. There’s a sense of, this is what has made me and shaped me as well. And how do I accept and give grace to that?
Kate: And what are the ways that they’ve shaped me that I can ultimately be grateful for that I wouldn’t have been shaped without it, that it’s not just, um, you know, a wound and I heal and try to pretend like that wound never happened. It’s part of a formative story in the same way that wounding through the desert for 40 years as a formative experience, um, not desirable one, a formative one,
Derek: But it goes back for me to that being seen again, I can tolerate my scars because you, you can tolerate my scars. And again, this sort of collective, which moves us past this sort of individualistic Christianity, if you will, and say, not just simply, we hope God sees us and can tolerate us, but that we need to see each other and work to tolerate each other, to work with our disgust of each other. Um, and it’s that sort of, again, this is a transforming engagement, quality, the ability to see and to hold and to be known in that as an interactive process. And so that wounding that’s still there that will see the invitation is, see me and take me in, in my woundedness. But I think that’s what our hope is for ourselves is that you would see me and take me in, in my woundedness.
Kate: That’s a, maybe a good transition. This is I think, an important theological backing for why we do what we do. And even the ways in which our programs have been structured and built on themselves. Um, so it’s maybe helpful to talk about how we get to that imagined reality in which, um, we’re safe enough to be honest about our wounds and not be defined by them. So how do we get from where we are? We’ve kind of named its either all the woundedness or deny that they’re as woundedness, how do we become a people who can say peace in the presence of wounds? Um, and I’ll, I’ll let you start with that. If you, I dunno, complicated. It’s like I’m talking a lot. Yeah.
Derek: Well, I, you know, I think I’m, I’m kind of feel a little bit circular in my need, for God to be a part of our experience. Um, I accept you. I can recall. Well, I have said this jokingly and sometimes not too jokingly, I’ve said to other folk who are believers in Jesus, you know, I wouldn’t be with you if it wasn’t for Jesus. And I’ve actually made someone cry when I said that to them and I wasn’t really intended to make them cry. Um, but I meant it in the sense that the thing that links us is this thing between us and thing between us, I’ve given myself over to it and the trust of it and the hope in it. Um, and so I actually think we need help with that. I’m not, I’m a progressive person in a certain way and not in others. Um, I think we as humans get better and better and progress, but I don’t believe we’ll get to the place where we’ll have community without fear or community without harm or community without threat. And so I think we always need something transcended. That’s actually extra human outside of us. Um, and that we need help in that. And this is probably I believe strongly in the spirit that God is active in human affairs, that we need God that promise that God will be active in human affairs feels very important because there are moments when, um, I’ll want you to see me, but you cannot because of the wounds that you carry and I’ll want you to hear me, but you won’t. I need to trust to something that can be extra that allowed at some point grace to occur and for us to find each other in our woundedness, our mutual woundedness
Kate: In that we are in relationship because God exists because Jesus, because spirit, I think I, I feel that with us and partly overtly because you’ll, you’ll push me more into my own prayer life, um, my own relationship with God. But also when we, we have conversations about what a weird partnership we are, um, demographically different and just about every box. And yet the work that we do together is good and enjoyable. And it is really coming together because of, and for the sake of Christ and the body of Christ as it is in the church and whatever the church is going to look like in the coming years that there’s something worthwhile in the coming together.
Derek: Well, I, yes, and I think is on, I mean, you’re kind of naming and I’ll just talk in terms of levels for the moment, just to, you know, um, you’re naming kind of a personal connection, but also spiritual connection and a connection part of a larger community. Um, and I don’t wanna dismiss the sort of material humans are made to need each other in a social bonding sort of way. And I think again, sometimes Christianity, we kind of forget that we’re made as social animals in a very material sort of need to be cared for known sort of human level of things. And then there’s this sort of agency working together, communion, what is it that we’re called to collectively, what’s the community we’re called to build and support and hold and heal. And then there’s a sense of God has put us together in a certain type of universal sort of way, as people of God to say you are fit together, your leg, your arm, your eye. So whether you like each other or not work it out. And I think it’s important to kind of keep us all on those multiple levels. And I’m not trying to do a triune human sort of thing, as much as to say there’s multiple connections and multiple things that we need from each other. Um, you know, there’s a certain degree of responsibility I have to both challenge you personally and spiritually. So I’m a body and spirit sort of, I think those important pieces to say, what’s your health, what’s your wellbeing? And what is your linkages? And I’m gonna say spirit as linkages transcendent, how do you see meaning in a larger span, those are both important. I need them to be challenged and asked of, of me as well. Um, that facilitates us being people can live in community and struggle with community. So you asked the question earlier, how do we, we do this community thing and I think we need to do that personal work, that relational work to actually hold the communal work.
Kate: Yes. And this is maybe a good, uh, transition into the activities of the center that, uh, just to give some of our structure and then talk a little bit about our theory of change, which is how we think we’re going to hopefully impact society towards…
Derek: And I’ll let you, you do that since you have notes on it.
Kate: Okay. I’ll do that. I do have notes on that. So we have three initiatives within The Center for Transforming Engagement. The first is resilient leaders project, which really looks at cultivating resilience and wellness and the person of the leader. So that’s the space where leaders can come and be with us. And it’s really a space of us asking about and witnessing their wounds, um, and then not leaving them there. But then also getting to a place to be able to say peace with their wounds and really cultivating their practices and communities for their own wellness. Is there more you wanna say about resilient leaders projects that I’m missing?
Derek: Um, lovely. I mean, I, this is where I, it’s interesting. And whenever I get asked that question, I don’t think necessarily you asked me, but I get to ask that question. I almost think right away: personal. Yeah. Um, you know, I, and I say the resilient project think to teach sections has probably saved me my life in a certain type of way. Um, you know, to, it felt disingenuous to be teaching something you didn’t try to begin to live into. And so I have appreciated the sort of habits, um, even around drinking water, um, to exercising that, uh, the project has challenged me to try to hold to. So, um, I’ve appreciated those through the three P’s and will,
Kate: We’ll get more into that in another episode.
Derek: We’ll get more into that later on. But just the, the sort of practices and the sort of making sense, um, have been precious for me, I’ll say precious in that my own sort of growth. And it’s given me a way to share with people, things we’ve learned about how to go through difficult, challenging times.
Kate: Yeah. It’s um, it’s been such a gift. We’ve both gone, gone through some professional changes since this project started and, uh, both be able to draw on those experiences and process them and show our participants in a way, what it looks like to process the stress of that live. Um, but also, I mean, we’ll kind of joke to each other as a team like, oh, if only there were a program I could go through that would train me how to be a more resilient leader. Um, because of course we’re creating it by living it. So that’s resilient leaders project. Our second initiative is the trusting to teams, project, um, creating teams. So working with entire groups of people who are able to, uh, I keep going back to that holding wounded and peace, I’m liking that, but are able to, um, say what’s true and even have conflict about what’s true while all so attending to the work that they need to, and actually unto attending to that work. Um, there’s a story of the Dalai Lama was working with a group of global leaders and they’re having a conversation on what is the root of all suffering. And, you know, each leader has their own theory. It’s war. It’s violence. More broadly it’s poverty. And the Dalai Lama says suffering is caused by a group of people who come together to do good work and then fail to attend to what arises between them. And that’s what trusting teams approach is about. It’s the, how do we attend to what’s arising between us, even as we’re seeking to do good work and to name, Hey, when you approached me that way, that was uncomfortable for me, or I’m feeling resentful about this thing, or I don’t think we’re doing this the right way. And can I share my concerns with you and being able to hear each other in those concerns for the sake of the work so that our, um, our interpersonal dynamics don’t block the work in a sense.
Derek: Well, and, and in some ways I think, you know, this is the work of the teams. We’ve been a part of, you know, we talk about as a parallel process, it’s the one way of talking about it, but it is to say that we have to do our work to do our work.
Derek: And so if we don’t do our work, that’s hard for us to be successful in our work. And I think I wanna hold to that, that sense that, um, the work is never just on one level or else you, you, you might find yourself trying to save something and ruining, you know, I mean, this is, this is why to me, so many sort of social activists and social activists movements can go astray because it’s about them and getting them to change and getting them to do work because we’ve, in some ways seen the work that they need to do. Yes. And it’s not that it’s untrue. It’s just only partial part of the work, because I think that projective process of thinking them and they means I don’t do me and us. Yes. And the challenge of doing activism is the me and us as much as of them and they. Um, cuz at some point to be a successful activist, they become us. And if you’ve heaped all the work on them to be better, you’re waiting for them to change. Yes. And they’re likely to be resistant to changing. And then the community that you’re hoping to build that becomes us and we doesn’t quite form. Yeah.
Kate: I was in a conversation recently with someone who directs a project that’s for pastoral care and uh, asked him, you know, how are you doing? Like it’s been a rough couple years. How are you? And he started telling me all about how all the pastors that he works with doing and all the trauma that they’re experiencing. And I said, is this their language? Are they telling you I’m traumatized? And he said, oh no, no, this is just what I’m seeing in them. When I ask them how they’re doing, they tell me how their congregants are doing. And I thought, oh exactly what you just did to me where you’re not telling me how you’re doing and telling me how they’re doing, not telling you how they’re doing. They’re telling you how their congregants are doing. No one ever owns the way I’m doing is the way that we are doing, which means we never work through it. We always are waiting for, oh well they, um, which is so much safer to talk about that big ambiguous them than to say, here’s the thing that I’m really struggling with right now. Yeah. Yeah.
Derek: And I, I, and I would say it’s true for me too. It’s much easier for me to think, how do I help them? That’s my, you know, family origin role and to say, this is how I feel wounded, or this is how I’m still limping or this is how I’m still struggling with brokenness. And I think, again, the challenge is you can’t sustain the movement without tending to both.
Kate: Yes. So. Trusting teams, project is our place where we work on those group dynamics to create groups that are safe enough to have those conversations and attend to it as present inside of us so that we can attend to it in its reality outside of us. So our initiatives: resilient leaders project, trusting teamsnproject. The third is place project, which is really about, um, taking that work then out into the world. How does our organization understand ourselves and relationship to the surrounding community? How do we understand the needs of the community and God’s work inside that community and how do we join God’s work in the way that is uniquely true to our institutional identity. Anything you wanna add about place project?
Derek: No, I, um, place project to me is I like the listening quality of it. And maybe there’s, you know, a little boy, who’s curious about a lot of different things inside of me. Um, but I find the fascinating piece is listening and hearing and what are the needs of a community? And then how do you, um, form projects collaboratively to respond to those needs and different than top down, we’ve got a plan for you all. Let’s kind of put it in motion. It is to say, Hey, let’s listen. And how do we as a congregation or community listen to our needs. Um, some of the things we’re talking about are not new, I think is that really putting them together. Um, and so as we move from the individual who needs to think about their sustainability, their resilience, to the team that has in so ways… Cause I think the life of teams is a life of work. The ability to kind of find your role, find your work with someone, um, that sort of congruence. When you find a good team, that’s just a lovely feeling. A lovely feeling
Kate: It is. And a rare one.
Derek: Yeah. And then when you kind of listen to what do you called to. The, the task of community and healing and supporting, and strengthening, learning from a community. And so I like the place project, cause there’s so much about learning of how you bring that team and find collaboratives to support the process happening in that in a particular community. Um, so without, that’s the thing I’m excited about in terms of, know…
Kate: Yeah. The integration of the really like the thread, cuz the three together, hold our theory of change. That the, the healing that I do in myself and the way that I relate inside myself is then my ability to hold both my agency and my comp, excuse me, compassion with others, the way the, that we all work together. And the way that I, as a leader form our ability to work together and set that culture to then inform an organization. And then that organization inform the world. And I think really we kind of, we almost began with the question, how does a community change? And it came back down to, well, it changes through my changing, through my healing and my holding hope and that if I can’t hold onto hope for a specific type of change, why would I expect anyone else to, and how am I going to get others to come on board to that? This feels especially relevant for me in the climate change movement where most of the conversations I have are, well, it’s not up to me and me recycling doesn’t matter. It’s about what the corporations do and often having these conversations and like, but you work for those corporations. Are you raising this as a lens through every decision that you make in your role there? Well, no, but where as if I hold onto that hope that we can still shift, we can still keep global temperature change at 1.5 degrees. That becomes then something that all of my actions, all my conversations can go towards and can become a criteria through which I, and then people who in relationship with me and then my organization start to evaluate our decisions. And that’s how change happens, not by starting with the corporate, but by starting with the individual’s agency in the relationships that they have.
Derek: And, and I probably think of it both ways. Um, uh, I, I think there’s an, an organization already moving cuz there those are dynamic things and how, and probably that’s why teams are important to me. I actually think there’s a meeting in the middle. That team when I think of larger change, I probably think of that team holding. I, and you know, it sounds stereotypical disciples if you will. Um, Jesus puts together team. Yeah.
Kate: And, and they’re gonna change the world together.
Derek: And there’s a, both working back and forth. There is a work with individuals and there’s a work with corporate and or culture if you will. And I think it’s a meeting that happens in those teams, the ability for us to work both of those ends. Um, because I think when we talk to individuals need to invite them into something and you need to, you invite them into a team, you invite them into a community. And then I think, you know, the, the community or the team is able to influence and shape and talk to and dialogue with a larger community in terms of its shifting as well. So a lot of this work focus on one leadership for teams.
Kate: Yeah, yeah.
Derek: And teams for communities.
Kate: And also maybe communities for leadership that there’s, that’s to your point, that’s conversational that in some ways we’ve created these three initiatives, as entry points for something that is interconnected and really always influencing one another.
Derek: I was gonna ask you, cuz I’m curious, you know, about you and teams and in this project, as we’ve been working with, what have been your favorite team moment?
Kate: Um, interesting. The first one that comes to mind, uh, is interesting. Um, first one that comes to mind is in our second cohort for certificate and resilient service, there was a moment where, um, it went sideways. Uh, we were supposed to be having a conversation about a content and it turned into participants giving us feedback on how they didn’t like the way they’d been treated in a portion of their program with us. And um, um, live, they watched us say, okay, like we were, we were gonna have a feedback conversation later and do this, but we’re gonna not do this conversation. That’s fine. Let’s do our feedback conversation now. And I stepped in and said, you know, you per, you one team member, like you’re relieved of facilitating this conversation. And now this person who facilitates the feedback, you’re on, and they watched us live pivot to, we’re gonna do what the group needs us to do right now. And that shifted the whole tone of the room to like, oh, they’re actually listening to us. And they care about how we feel. Um, and I think the feel of the team there was, we were all emotionally. It was like all hands on deck, like we’re all right here and ready for what needs to happen. They just needed me to tell them here’s what it is that’s happening. And then even after that conversation ended, the team just instinct instinctually gathered in the middle of the room and had a conversation about what had happened and what to do with the rest of our day. Now with all of our participants path watching us. And there was a moment where I was like, these are people who can really work together, that there was no, oh, but we have the agenda or we have, I have to get my piece out of this, that we were here to attend to what was here. It’s a weird moment to choose, I think because it’s, um, um, in some ways a negative moment and that was a few years ago now. And we still hear back from participants in that cohort. I’m still in conversation with a few of them and they’ll cite that moment as, oh, this is a different type of leading. There’s something different going on here that I’ve not seen and something I’ve been in before that I think kind defines us as a team.
Derek: Yeah. It was funny cuz I, I think I asked the question cause I kept thinking, what are my favorite moments of this team? Uh, or the teams actually we’ve had plural.
Kate: Yeah, we have.
Derek: Um, and they’re, they’re different and a few, um, there’s probably the moments when we’ve been able to sit together and process of work at different times. And actually I think the more poignant moments is when it doesn’t go well and we’re able to get to an honesty and say, ah, that really didn’t go as well as we’d hope. And what does that mean? And I think to watch us learn that that is learning not failure.
Kate: Yes. And often those are the moments where we, we we’re learning. And then also we’re blessing. We, we often end those or engage those moments, praying together and praying for even like, we’re not sure how this next session is gonna go. Let’s invite some prayer. And that feels different to me, like it’s authentic prayer. It’s like, God, we need you to show up here prayer. Not a, like say a nice devotional at the end of a meeting prayer. And it, it feels raw in a way that I haven’t experienced in teams before.
Derek: See I like it for the it’s interesting. The, because when you said God, I said yes, but I realize I like it for the human quality of saying I need. And um, and the need is honest and it’s loud enough to say, God, I need you. Mm. Um, I was thinking in terms of one of my favorite moments is funny cuz it’s the playful ones.
Kate: Yes. Tell me
Derek: Clearly. Um, when we all, maybe the first year we were doing boxing as a way of managing stress, you know, I, I clearly liked the aggressive yes. Sorts of pieces. And um, I can recall looking around the room as a team, we were doing these practicing these exercises before we asked participants to do them. And the moment when we realized our bodies were as, as important as our minds.
Derek: And I think it gave me some hope that we could actually play together and learn together and struggle together and be challenged together and grow in the way you’re talking about. Because I think we actually needed to physically tussle a little bit to feel like we were not gonna hurt each other. Are we? And in moments maybe hurt each other. And to keep going to realize that that was learning, it wasn’t hurt as in harm, it was hurt as in that’s different, that’s uncomfortable. I’m not sure what that is.
Kate: And like, that’s where I end. And you begin. And I know where that line is real firm now. I’m also remembering in that the first time we did that session, I forgot to instruct people to take off jewelry and watches. And one of our participants broke your watch. He’s now a staff member and that delights me.
Derek: And I’m not sure if it delights me the way it delights you. But, um, but that was even, it’s interesting. What I remember about that is not the broken watch, but how he gave himself to the exercise.
Kate: And you did too
Derek: Well, you know, I was gonna give myself to the exercise, but I, I, it, it felt like a reciprocal piece. And, um, I can recall, like I’m not used to being aggressive this way. I’m like, no, this is part of working off stress, not just simply warm blankets or weighted blankets in yoga is that you actually have to be in touch with your body. And that was paradigmatic shift. Um, because I think we’re a heady bunch and a talky bunch. And those were moments when I feel like, okay, this is when we get to be more raw in the sense of the hurt inside. And the anger inside or the threat inside. And how do we bring our bodies in a conscious way to the work of resilience. And so we had struggles in on conflicts and we knew we had to work through them as opposed to avoid them. Yes. And I think that’s kind of cultural yeah. To work through as opposed to, to avoid and avoid each other. Yeah. That’s not a way to build community. And I think we learned that. So those are some of my interesting enough, some of my favorite moments, cuz I feel like it shifted that we could tolerate the disagreement yes. And keep moving through and find each other and the work together.
Kate: And I think that we had had conversations about how important it is to have the disagreement, have the conflicts in advance of we had those conversations when we were feeling safe and good together, but then could draw on, okay, now we’re in this and I don’t wanna say this. I don’t wanna have conflict, but we both know this is important. We both agreed to this already and now we’re gonna live into it and my face is gonna turn bright red and we’re still gonna do it.
Derek: Yeah. Yeah. And again, that sort of language of, well, we, we have to practice what we’re asking other people to practice.
Kate: And maybe that’s a, I’ll use the, I’ll use that to pivot, to just, um, as a kind of wrapping up what people can expect from this podcast, which I think some we just experienced is the us reflecting on and doing our work of how is it that we’re being formed by this work so that we can keep doing this work. Um, and that will be each uh, season will have a theme that we’ll work into and we’ll release the season all at once so that you can, um, take a deep dive with us on the topic that we choose for that season. And that might be leaders. And the person of the leader that might be, uh, teams might be place, might be something entirely different. It might be a particular application of those. Um, but I think what people can expect from this con from this podcast is for us to have conversations that are honest about our experiences and how we’re making meaning from those experiences.
Derek: And I, I hope too, and I think this will be a part of them is, and I’ll use this language that, you know, may not be comfortable, some degree of learning and I won’t call expertise, but learning that has been sharpened by thinking by research, by in some ways learning from other folk and then some degree of their experience of the body in those places. Um, and so my hope for people is, um, both tears and smiles, cuz I think we’ve experienced that. Uh, there’s been some moments when I don’t think I ever thought we would not make it as teams or the work, but they were challenging. And some moments, we were surprised of how well something went and didn’t have anything to do with us. Or it had little to do with us. It was just, you know, feels like God was present. And just that gamut of things, of what we’re learning and sharing a sort of deep learning as well as the playful learning, um, of what, what it means to become, as a team, what it means to be stronger as an individual and what it means to heal communities.
Kate: That’s almost, that might be the, that might be the next tagline. Okay. That good. Um, guess I’ll add, I don’t know if got this internet, uh, my hope for listeners is that this is a source for that thoughtful engagement for thinking, but also a source for feeling where it doesn’t only impact you in your head, but gives you a felt sense of maybe a different ways that conversations can go or a different way that you might engage in the world.
Derek: And I’ll say this last thing and options, this is my, my big thing. Um, I think what Jesus does on the cross is provide options for us. Hmm. And part of what it means to manage the threat and challenge and fragmentation is we find options and offer each other ways that we’ve learned that become choices, um, for people to not feel trapped in the situations they feel trapped in or empty in the spaces that they are, but to find options. Hmm.
Kate: I’ll let that be our last word. Okay.
Kate: You. Thank you.