I have journeyed to Kansas City to participate in Community Organizing training. Church of the Resurrection where I work is a member of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC)and this is the model of organizing that OTOC uses. I will be blogging this week about what I learn about myself in the experience and the techniques and materials they present to us.
We gathered for out initial session yesterday at 3:00 p.m. Our first activity was to tell a story of a time when we acted to make something happen. By an incidental utterance, I ended up going first and spoke of working as a team coordinator for Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Ohio running day camps for elementary kids in various towns in Ohio. Everybody else proceeded to tell stories about engaging school boards, city councils, businesses, government agencies, and leaders. Now, Jodie reminded me that this isn't a competition and I agree with her. My story is important for me in that I began to hear my call to ministry. However, I often preached that what we experience in worship should be connected with what we do outside the church building. I am excited by what I can learn from the other participants, because they are actively trying to make the world a better place, not merely preaching about it.
Our second activity involved us "re-enacting" a dialogue of the Athenian overtake of the island of Melos. (I don't know what book this is from but the title of the portion given us is "Chapter 7: Sixteenth Year of War. The Melian Debate".) Now the rule during the role play was that the facilitator could interrupt. This was the only rule. It was emphasised to us that this was the ONLY rule. We proceeded with the role play, and after about three minutes the facilitator kicked me out of the room. I went outside and realized that the point was not to act out the reading but I had just given the facilitator more power then he really had. He was allowed to interrupt, but not to tell us what to do. Now, while I was sitting in the hall like a disobedient middle school student I could have patted myself on the back for figuring this out, but when I went back into the room and we went through three more groups doing the role play, I didn't say anything. Never did I confront his excessive use of power. I say excessive because the limit established was that he could interrupt, and he was over that limit. I didn't speak up for myself and I didn't speak up for other people when they were kicked out.
Second, during part of the role play I got to be on the side of the Athenians. The Athenians possessed far greater resources, especially military, over the Melians. I suggested to my small group of Athenians that we should go "off script" and be compassionate with the Melians. We agreed to try this and were making progress. However, I started to be more and more unyielding, less willing to compromise. I knew that we had the dominate military and that we could annihilate the Melians; so I was unwilling to concede anything. Why should I concede when I could dominate. The fictional power of this little exercise was able to seduce me to do things that I don't believe in. Power is certainly seductive and I must, must, be aware of my weakness to its wiles. I wanted to be a nice guy, but, as the facilitator put it, I didn't want it enough.
I am eager to find out what we will do today; more exploration of power, or how to engage with people in power, or how to organize a power base? We'll see.