Appreciating People has worked with a number of churches since spring 2014, developing a sustainable Appreciative Inquiry community of practice. It has become an exciting and expanding project – this is the story so far…
AP began working with church groups in 2014. During a consultation on AI and the Church in Manchester in March 2016, it was interesting to see how many participants had maintained an interest in AI, quietly including it in their design of activities.
Appreciating Church is the result of that early work: an ecumenical project to create a community of AI practitioners across varied denominations. Current partners are the United Reformed Church, Methodist Church, Congregational Federation, Scottish Episcopal Church and Society of Friends, with some Church of England involvement. Other denominations are joining in as the project develops.
Appreciating Church is designed to:
- Create a self-sustaining AI community of practice at a local and national level across the partner churches;
- Design and provide practical and relevant AI resources to support practice;
- Encourage churches to flourish, focus on their strengths and build on their spiritual community life.
UK church interest in AI has deep and varied roots, going back to the late 1990s Throughout all the UK churches there have been a number AI based projects. None of which have considered the approach outlined above.
Appreciating Church’s origins
Appreciating Church started with a series of informal conversations initiated by Revd. Jane Weedon of Welwyn Garden City URC in 2013. As a result, AP facilitated an AI Essentials course in March 2014 at URC’s Windermere Centre, with participants from the URC and Congregational Federation. The Methodist Church expressed interest in what had been done a few months later, as did people involved in our AI work with Quakers and a Church of England parish in Liverpool.
URC became a key partner with the involvement of Fiona Thomas, Secretary for Education and Learning. After a period of testing and reflection, a delivery model was developed which includes introductory AI training called Taste of AI, followed by additional, advanced AI training. Developing Your AI Practice is used at a regional or national level to deepen AI practice and to 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 and the next one in November 2016 is already fully booked.
The strategy has always been to create a community of AI practice in the partner denominations, backed up by appropriate training resources. This will deliver a self-sustaining community of AI practice across participating churches, supporting long-term sustainability and support churches in all aspects of church life. A training pathway has also been created with Appreciating People which enables AI practitioners to progress through apprenticing, co-facilitating and leading AI training programmes. Appreciating People’s role in the project is to advise, coach, train in AI, and provide quality assurance.
By mid-2017, over 200 people will have undertaken Taste of AI short courses and 40 the advanced programme. The ecumenical partners are also creating a publication called Appreciating Church and programme website, which will be live in autumn 2016.
Further blogs on this programme will be available soon, covering the Appreciating Church AI training approach, content of the Appreciating Church workbook and the development of the Appreciating Church website.