Productive Conflict

Around the end of June, I preached a sermon about “productive conflict.” That is, sacrificing peace in the short run, looking at problems as opportunities for a creative response, and peace for the long run. We, at St. Clare’s, are in a place of productive conflict: The vestry and I are doing serious work around strate- gic planning (Working with Holy Cow Consultants) for the future and conducting a feasibility study with Car- gill and Associates about eliminating our debt and raising funds to do exciting new ministry. It has been more than ten years since St. Clare’s has done anything like this. Frankly, I feel it’s time to really step out in faith and enter more deeply into the life God is calling us into. On first glance, such a move might raise your deepest fears or concerns. However, taking a page from my sermon, let me steer you in another direction. Peace has the potential to paralyze. Creative response to challenges brings life, health and growth. Here’s a historic example. Did you know that Athens rose to dominance in the classical world after its soil was depleted? Instead of being destroyed by that major setback, the Athenians treated it as a challenge to find a new way to participate active- ly in the economy of their day. Their creative response was to turn to the cultivation of olives, which could draw on much deeper water than could field crops. The Athenians rebuilt their economy around the export of olive oil, which further challenged them to build a merchant marine to transport it, a mining industry to create the coin to pay for goods, and a pottery industry to build the amphoras to contain the oil. New responses thus create new challenges at a lower level of the social organism (William Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change [Reading, Mass.: Addison - Wesley Publishing Company, 1991], 81 - 82).

Don’t you see? The depletion of the soil in Athens could have led to an easy peace, with the Athenians accepting the fate of poverty and powerlessness. But they chose, instead, the productive conflict that goes along with creating a new industry, and they became a world power. Our soil at St. Clare’s needs renewing, and we have been at peace long enough. It is time to consider what next the Spirit would have us do and be. Over the coming months expect to hear more from your vestry and I on the matter.

Yours for the reign of God,