New church; a constellation, not a melting pot.

Do you want to know what church is going to be like in our new age? It will be a constellation of brightly shinning unique individuals; not a mass of indistinguishable people melted together.

A few years ago I was a part of a small design group that came together to experiment with creating authentic community. Our motivation was to combine my conceptualized Communication System, with the work of Peter Block from his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging.

As a design group, we were extremely committed and spent an amazing amount of time together. At one point we were talking about what to call our group and as we each shared, we realized that the majority of us had referenced themes of galaxy, stars and constellations. In our experience of the process we caught the vision that what we were doing was—constellating ourselves.

Alastair McIntosh explains beautifully how deep a word constellate is in his book, Soil and Soul:

“Constellate, now that’s another cracker of a word for the toolkit. Con as in congregate, and stella as in star: ‘to group meaningfully together’, like a pattern of stars. The Celtic bards understood that ‘conscientisation’- the deepening of both consciousness and conscience together – is a spiritual process. It constellates the energies of a specific passion: something that W.B. Yeats called ‘fire in the head’. The fire in the head is an inner fire …. It’s a fire that wakes you up at night and penetrates your darkest spaces, burns off the psychological crap, freeing energy and inspiration to attempt the otherwise unthinkable.”  (McIntosh p. 124)

In the experience of my design group, we discovered that as we spun energy and intention into the center of our group process, the more energy and transformation was spun outward, through us, into the world. It was magical.

Why is constellation the perfect word for powerful community?
Unique Stars

In this new time we have entered, each individual is going to need to be fully authentic and unique. In a constellation, stars are separate and for the pattern to be the most visible, each must shine as brightly as it was created to. There is no pattern of the whole when individual lights are “hidden under a bushel”.

As my design team progressed in our work together we experienced something unexpected. Each of us began to find that we were expanding into our work outside of the group. We were finding and expressing our personal authority, which we called our sovereignty. We discovered that when we were invited to be fully authentic within the group it helped us be more fully authentic outside of the group. This is what true power is; being able to BE all that we came here to BE!

Celestial Sphere

A constellation is a celestial sphere; it is three dimensional. The model that I use for a healthy, authentic organizational structure is a sphere. When everyone is constellated in a sphere all people are at the same level, there are no power differences, no social justice issues, and there is no marginalization. All of us in the design group felt that we had experienced being marginalized in our pasts and participating in a group where we felt whole, welcomed and safe was transformational.

One of the objectives of the design team was that each of us had equal responsibility for how the group operated. We were co-facilitators. When something was happening that wasn’t in alignment with our personal understanding of our group context we were expected to bring it up to be talked about. If one person acted inappropriately to another member we were all equally responsible to say something. If the group got off track each of us was responsible to pull us back. One of us might be the official leader for a meeting but all of us were equally responsible to be a facilitator. For us this took quite a bit of practicing. Normally groups have a named “leader” and all others abdicate their responsibility for the group outcomes. In our design team we were ALL responsible.

This included times when it seemed that two specific people were having a problem. The truth is that in group dynamics two people often become the spokespeople for something that is happening to the whole. Once a group member feels that one person is speaking for them they step back and let that person carry the issue. We had a number of times when we had to bring the issues between two people out with the whole group so that we could claim it for the whole.

Dynamic Tension

Maybe this term makes you nervous because in our current world, we often attempt to avoid any form of tension. In my design team experience it was really hard for me to stay and not walk-away once the dynamic tension started. My brilliant co-participant called me out at one point by reminding me that in my work I had claimed that commitment was imperative. I stayed and experienced something very powerful. I learned how much I could still love and respect the person that I had the dynamic tension with. There is a difference between having a relationship and being in-relationship. In a constellation we commit to being in-relationship which means that we don’t have to be best friends, but we respect and value each other for our differences.

Think of a heavenly constellation; there is a gravitational pull between planets/stars and at the same time there is an equal pushing away. It is the tension between the two energies that maintains the pattern! There is a beautiful and perfect balance.

Natural Systems

There is a difference between the human-made system that we are currently operating with and the God-designed system of the natural world. A constellation is a wonderful metaphor for a natural, organic system. The truth is that we humans are part of Gods natural system in which all things are meant to be inter-connected and inter-dependent. We are never alone or isolated.

Our human-made system is falling apart. Our social fabric is torn and so many are feeling totally disconnected, of no value, and worthless—spinning through space. What a sad and horrible way to experience life! God is calling us to come back into a way of operating together that will reconnect us and bring us back into being One Body. Constellations are natural systems and work with the laws of nature which are the laws created by God. We can weave ourselves back together when we start to use structures and systems that are self-organizing and organic.

Do you see a new vision of what a healthy church community will look like? I am excited! I want to experience a “‘fire in the head’, a fire that wakes me up at night and penetrates my darkest spaces”. I want to feel safely held by a pulling in and a pushing way. I want to be my full sovereign self.

I am yearning for constellated community

In my work with the original design team and with other groups since; I believe that this is what we are all yearning for. With intention and commitment we can learn to use new processes that constellate our communities; bringing us into alignment with the way that God designed our world. May we each shine as brightly as we were created to shine; together in community more powerful than we have ever experienced before.

Diane Rheos is a structurist, always observing how organizational systems and processes; drive peoples actions, affect relationships, and impact our ability to achieve outcomes. Diane is applying her learning from 35+ years experience in business management. She has a Masters in Whole Systems Design and has a deep understanding of the difference between a human-made system and the one designed by God as seen in nature. Diane is currently blogging a book about how to utilize living systems to create vibrant, healthy communities of faith.

Photo Credit: “Universe in my hands” by Flickr user Lauro Roger McAllister.

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