Learning and valuing the AI principles through worship

Evening worship at Appreciating Church Advanced AI Practitioners training, November 2016

Evening worship at Appreciating Church Advanced AI Practitioners training, November 2016

In the last few months I have had a wonderful opportunity working with the United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church to deliver Appreciative Inquiry training as part of the Appreciating Church project.

A feature of this programme has been the addition of worship to the AI training process, normally at the beginning or the end of the workshop.

Part of the generativity of this work has been the way the people leading the devotions have used the five core principles of AI (see note 1) as a theme e.g. using narrative and visual imagery exemplifying both the poetic and positive principles. Two particular examples have remained with me causing me to reflect even more on the potential for AI within a faith context.

In November 2016 at the Advanced AI course Jim Coleman, a URC minister led the morning worship with a theme around questions and in particular the importance of the Simultaneity Principle- the first question is fateful. He raised this question for personal reflection:

'If you were about to have a conversation with God what would be your first question?'

It took me some time but my response gave me an insight to a particular issue I was wrestling with.

In December 2016 at AI course for the Methodist Church, Matthew Reed, one of the Methodist discipleship officers led the morning worship using as a theme the biblical miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, drawing on text from the worship section within the Appreciating Church resource. This is reworking of the story by Suzanne Nockells and is an excellent example of both the anticipatory and constructionist principles.

Feeding of the five thousand

You give them something to eat.”

What kind of answer is that? It’s up there with ‘Let them eat cake!’ Jesus have you seen the size of this crowd? How much money do you think we’ve got? Do you think we’ve been stashing it away while we’ve been wandering about the countryside with you? Do you think that some of us are getting banker’s bonuses without you knowing? We don’t have the resources. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the time (Jesus, it’s late). We don’t have the energy of people (there’s only twelve of us).

We have a crowd of needs in our area but we don’t have the right building, the support, the money to pay for a community worker – our minister is on quarter-time.

We have a crowd of opportunities in our area but we don’t have the technology, the publicity, the youngsters with get-up-and-go. We don’t have guitars.

We can’t feed these people.

Jesus looks at us and asked’ How many loaves do you have’. ‘Go and see’. Go and honestly see not what you haven’t got, but what you have. Sit down, gather in expectation, form new relationships.

Even if it’s the equivalent of five loaves and two fish. Place them in His hands, pray and let the sharing begin.
— Suzanne Nockels, Appreciating Church p.115.

This modern reworking provides not only insights to the Positive Principle, it weaves in the Constructionist and Anticipatory Principles as well as providing practical guidance on how to deal with negative bias.

Note 1: The Appreciative Inquiry Five Principles

Five core principles underpin all AI practice. Their inclusion is a key element in AI training, and a process can’t be considered ‘truly AI’ without having reference to each of these principles:

  1. The Constructionist Principle - Words create worlds
  2. The Simultaneity Principle -  Inquiry is change; the first question is fateful
  3. The Anticipatory Principle  -  Image inspires action
  4. The Poetic Principle - What we focus on grows
  5. The Positive Principle - Positive questions lead to positive change

More information on these principles can be found in the Appreciating People website.