Anniversaries, Anxieties and New Narratives

When the entire community experiences loss, the work of congregational leaders is to create such containers for the entire community of faith and then to hold the container and be present; not with rituals, requirements, or expectations, but with love, grace, hope and patience.

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10 Topics that can Escalate Anxiety in Congregations

In congregational life, some common topics activate anxiety. I call these hot buttons or triggers of anxiety. When these topics emerge, anxiety appears and can easily escalate. Although the list is not exhaustive, it highlights some common topics that escalate anxiety in congregations with whom I have worked:

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Indicators of high anxiety in congregations

When the anxiety is lower, the congregation has a higher capacity to perceive what is trying to emerge and invite a new narrative. Granted, as anxiety rises, the functioning of people potentially becomes more reactive and conflict can easily follow, for conflict is a way of dealing with anxiety. The anxiety and conflict, when responded to appropriately by leaders, can be the catalyst for creative, adaptive growth and positive change.

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What is Anxiety? An Emotional Systems Lens

Anxiety is like the wind—you cannot see it, but you can feel it and observe its impact. But to observe it, one must pay attention. For example, one cannot see the wind, but if you look at a flag on a flagpole, you can tell if there is wind, and if so, you can estimate its strength. You can feel it against your skin.

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Four Ingredients of Successful Congregational Change

If we want to be successful in our efforts to transform our congregations we will never attempt to do it alone, we will set an invitational tone, we will take the time to learn the system, and we will nest our community’s need for change in the sacred stories of our own religious tradition.

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