By Harriette Knox
How can we make a difference in the world?
The answer is as simple – and as hard – as being open to God.
“We are all called to be co-creators of a new, loving future where all are welcomed and all respected,” said Ruth Anderson, Director of The Servant Leadership School.
The dictionary defines “co” as together, and “creation” as the act of making something.
As a business term, co-creation is a strategy by which a company encourages active involvement from its customer. As a spiritual term, co-creation is the concept that we all act with God to create the current and future world.
Susan Sherard, Assistant Rector, explained that, “Co-Creation has to do with our relationship with God and each other in shaping the future. We must know God, know ourselves, and be open to uncertainty.”
Activities such as centering prayer, deep listening, and other spiritual practices, can help open the mind and heart to God’s presence and help make faith an integral part of our lives, Ruth said.
“Lots of people lead lives divided. There’s work; there’s church; there’s parenting,” Ruth said. “But faith has the capacity to engage every aspect of our lives.”
Co-Creation 2014, a conference sponsored by The Servant Leadership School, Holy Trinity, and First Presbyterian Church May 1-3, will bring together speakers and participants who will talk about their experiences of co-creation and where God is active in the world.
“People who come to Co-Creation 2014 will be re-energized on how faith relates to their whole lives,” Ruth said.
“There is a practical edge to being a co-creator. It’s not strictly spiritual,” Susan added. “Co-creation is about how we live our lives, being open as the Kingdom unfolds through God and one another. That requires a deep trust in God and other people, and most of us don’t come by that easily. For many people, church is a beginning. But we need more. Servant Leadership is the more. Co-Creation 2014 is the more.”
The conference, which drew more than 300 people two years ago, will feature three nationally known speakers, each bringing a unique perspective on faith in today’s world.
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest and advisor to the Contemplative Society, a non-profit organization that encourages spiritual growth through prayer. She practices and teaches centering prayer, a form of meditation developed by Christian contemplative monks, and when not on a speaking tour, lives a life of silence and contemplation.
Dr. Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, is an authority on religion in America.
“She probably knows more about the history of religion than anyone living, and at the same time has a deep heart and affection for relationship with God and others and the church,” Susan said.
Ruth added, “Phyllis Tickle basically says that the church needs to wake up. The church has huge potential to address problems in the world, and it’s our choice to engage and co-create.”
The Rev. Jon Wortmann, author of Hijacked by Your Brain: How to Free Yourself When Stress Takes Over, teaches mental focus and stress management skills.
“Wortmann is very modern,” said Ruth. “He’s very interested in spiritual practices, but looks at current brain research. People will find him helpful and practical.”
All three speakers have a deep spiritual life, and their three perspectives – contemplative practice, church history, and new thinking combining scientific knowledge and spiritual practice –will bring together current wisdom about Christian faith.
Co-Creation 2014 also will offer a labyrinth walk with live music, the opportunity for participants to talk about their experiences or to create art, access to Holy Trinity’s gardens, and a prayer space open 24 hours a day.
“Our goal is to provide a sacred space for meaningful conversations about how, as people of faith, we can co-create the world with God,” Ruth said.
What happens when people are open to the possibilities of what God wants us to do? Ruth points to the new health clinic run by FaithAction International House on Holy Trinity’s campus. The clinic serves immigrants.
“First, there was a disruption in the system – healthcare for needy people shutting down in Greensboro,” said Ruth. “Next, people like David Fraccaro, Maureen Flak, and Tim Patterson asked, ‘What does a community of faith do? What is God calling us to do?’ And now we have a clinic.”
“When we are open to God, we receive things we couldn’t come up with ourselves,” said Susan. “The spirit does far more than we imagine. You have to be ready to find your hands and feet doing something different. Even using our minds, it’s essentially about our heart and helping our heart receive the presence of God.”
Marge Birge, a local spiritual director and current student at the Servant Leadership School, attended Co-Creation in 2012 and will attend Co-Creation 2014. “Two years ago, one of the speakers talked about a different kind of church, one that comes from the bottom up. It made so much sense to me that we should come together as a community, decide what needs to be done, and do it,” she said.
Birge who is a spiritual director, added, “I went to the 2012 conference because I need to figure out who I am so that I could then help others to a wider view of God and what it means to be a co-creator.”
The idea of being open to a new way of creating the world has never been more important.
“There’s so much research and thinking that says civilization is at an evolutionary turning point,” said Susan. “With evolution, we used to think that the strongest survives. We now know that the most flexible adapt and move forward.”
Ruth pointed to the research and writing of Otto Scharmer, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Theory U. “Scharmer says that what we’re doing as a society isn’t working. We’re creating outcomes that no one wants. We need transformative and transforming leadership. So, forget everything you know. The same-old, same-old doesn’t work. Open yourself to something new. Open yourself to what you really should be doing.”
The process could start at Co-Creation 2014.