Tuesday, 1 February 2011


When we have a fifth Sunday we do something different - it may be a discussion or it may be trying out a new way or worshipping or it may be a workshop. We borrowed this idea from Martha's Vineyard UUA church where their fifth Sundays are musical events - well they were a few years ago when I visited. There tend to be many fewer people at ours but it is good for those who do attend to have a more intimate experience to explore some aspect of their spiritual lives.

Last Sunday was a fifth Sunday and I led a discussion/workshop on personality using the Myers Briggs Inventory (MBI) with insight from others who have written on personality. The MBI takes four personality preferences -

* where we primarily direct our energy and where we get our energy from - the external (E) or our internal (I) worlds;
* how we process information - through concrete and observable facts in the here and now (S) or through internal reflection with more of a focus on the future and possibilities (N);
* how we prefer to make decisions - through logical and rational thought (T) or based on feelings and values (F); and
* how we organise our lives - in structured way with clear decisions (J) or in a flexible way discovering things as you go along (P).

No one is completely one preference or the other - it is all shades but most of us have a preference. These four preferences E or I + S or N + T or F + J or P gives us a four letter personality type and there are 16 in all. No one personality type is better than any other and research has shown that the best groups are made up of a variety of personality types. Sometimes if we are fairly balanced in our preferences it can be hard to decide what best describes us but that's why a group is good to discuss how we are each experienced by others.

We discussed what our personality type meant for us as individuals and how we approach our spiritual lives; how we might design the services that we may deliver to be more inclusive and then the danger of trying to be all things to all people and losing ourselves in the process; the 'grip' experiences when we are stressed and whether we can learn how to deal with stress a little better; and the ways that we might try to bring more balance to our lives.

We then looked at our own community and whether we could determine what sort of 'personality' the whole community may have and what this meant in times of stress for us all; how we might overcome such stresses and how we may become more balanced.

Whilst there were only six of us we had a good go at doing this and began to appreciate how we are as a community. It gave us some pointers as to how we might try to move things forward - we decided that we definitely needed to be better at making decisions.

Whilst it is not a perfect tool and some may be sceptical of its use with groups it was a good way to get discussion going, to appreciate what we do and what we don't and to pinpoint, in a non-blaming way, what may need to change if we are to become a little more balanced. We also decided that in some areas there were some clear strengths which we wanted to protect and promote.

Ultimately doing anything like this is about group rather than personal responsibility and taking 'corporate' responsibility for the weaknesses that may be observed. It is about being open to using different tools to move forward as a faith community - putting faith in the active processes of people interacting much more than the particular approach that is taken.

Referring to the thrust of the blog - this is about community development. To develop anything it is necessary to know what that thing is - I don't think it matters how we do that but it does matter that we do do it.

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