Religious and spiritual communities conference
History and motivation
We've been having a conversation in CPsquare for more than 4 years about communities in religious and spiritual contexts. What is unique about those contexts? What similarities do they have with each other or with other secular communities of practice (e.g., of Java programmers or skateboarders or mothers of newborns)? What could we learn about communities in general by looking at spiritual and religious communities? What could those communities learn from exploring each other using a communities of practice perspective? We've decided that it's time to hold a larger and more organized conference and invite you to join us during July 2011, whether you are only able to dip into one or two sessions or whether you can spend the whole month exploring these issues. Here is why we are doing it:
- We are interested in what we see people learning and what they do to learn, rather than what or how they are supposed to learn. Religious and spiritual communities are interesting examples -- apparently different from the corporate or professional communities that have been associated with the term "community of practice."
- We are always looking at communities from inside and outside because we are concerned with personal experience and social organization. Many of us actively participate in religious and spiritual communities and find that they inform our work with other communities. It seems important to practice looking at them from the outside a bit more systematically.
- CPsquare is an international and cross-cultural community. We are curious to know more about how "situated" religious and spiritual communities are when they straddle the cultural or national boundaries we straddle or when we can observe them across those boundaries.
- We see communities of practice at multiple levels of scale, tucked away in organizations as well as spanning the globe. We see community of practice structures at the level of an individual congregation (e.g., First Baptist Church or Congregation Beth Shalom), across congregations (e.g., meditation instructors across Shambhala) as well as inside congregations (e.g., self-organizing prayer breakfast at Saddleback Church described in Robert Putnam's American Grace). What does that imply for those of us who seek to support or cultivate communities?
This will be an online conference, so we will use our several platforms as we get organized in June and hold the conference in July, 2011. This conference is like an open space technology conference where the conversations are traceable back in history and the community hosting it expects to continue interacting and working on the topic as a whole in the future. (See more about participation in the conference.)
Because CPsquare is an ongoing community, we don't mind tackling issues that are larger than what we can handle in one conversation or one conference. Here is the beginning of a list of issues that we could discuss or investigate:
- Many religious or spiritual communities are examples of long-standing, highly evolved communities of practice. At the same time we find young, very recently formed communities that are attempting to address age-old issues in new ways. Communities along the whole spectrum are of inherent interest to us in the CPsquare community.
- Religious and spiritual communities are interesting examples of communities of practice that:
- occur at all levels of scale, from the smallest, self-organizing minyans (Jewish prayer groups that are often lay-led) to very large and formal institutions,
- are embedded in very diverse social, cultural, technical and economic contexts,
- create a kind of "mycorrhizae" stratum (to use Engeström's metaphor) that creates a beneficial context for other communities.
- Migration and social changes cause religious communities that evolved separately to now exist in social settings that are very different from where they originated (and now they live right next to traditions with very different origins), presenting new challenges as well as opportunities.
- A social learning perspective is useful in that it allows religious communities to look at themselves in such a way as to consider the relevance of insights, innovations or difficulties faced by other communities.
- From a social learning perspective new technologies presents opportunities for spiritual communities such as:
- reaching larger peripheries (including proselytizing),
- for supporting or teaching teachers,
- technology also presents challenges because it can facilitate multi-membership and "religion as an identity game" that's superficial, or a needlessly confrontational "issue".
- Communities always face interesting issues about how to organize themselves, how to grow, and how to sustain themselves. How they fund themselves and fund their ongoing evolution is always an important theme.
These are the kinds of cases we are thinking of (and as the schedule gets organized we will be editing the conference schedule with our latest thinking. These happen to have a technology theme, although this conference is 'not' limited to technology:
- Twitter For Churches is framed for a fairly specific religious segment, but could work for many others.
- Kandro Rinpoche advises leaders from a kindred group and it's posted on YouTube.
- Should pastors friend parishioners of Facebook?
- New online ministries.
Religious and spiritual communities conference schedule overview The public, overview schedule will be updated as the conference takes shape. The official and more detailed conference schedule is inside the CPsquare community space.