This is the story of how Appreciating Church developed, and its outline plans for further development.
UK church interest in AI has deep and varied roots, going back to the late 1990s. For example, The Church of Scotland did a considerable amount of work on this in the early 2000s - Click here to view or download Appreciative Inquiry: An introductory guide.
One strand of the United Reformed Church’s interest in AI dates from 2004 through Revd Roberta Rominger, then Moderator of Thames North Synod. The seed planted grew into a denominational conference in 2009 led by Mark Lau Branson, author of Memories, Hopes and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change, which is included in Appreciating Church’s reading list. There have been similar AI developments in other denominations.
Appreciating Church’s gestation period began in 2013 with a series of informal conversations initiated by Revd Jane Weedon, arising from her use of AI with Welwyn Garden City URC and her contacts with Appreciating People. This resulted in an AI Essentials course, facilitated by Appreciating People in March 2014 at the URC’s Windermere Centre. Participants came from the URC and the Congregational Federation. The Methodist Church expressed interest a few months later, as did people involved in Appreciating People’s work with the Quakers and a Church of England parish in Liverpool.
After a period of testing and reflection, we developed a delivery model offering tailored local introductory AI training provision based on Appreciating People’s Taste of AI, and advanced AI training to both deepen AI practice and create a pool of local AI trainers. The first of these Developing Your AI Practice events took place at the Windermere Centre in February 2016 with a further course in November 2016.
From the outset, the strategy has been to create a self-sustaining community of AI practice, embedded in the partner denominations, backed up by appropriate training resources. So we created the Appreciating Church resource and its associated accreditation scheme based on apprenticeship and continuous development.