Session 2 – We Need Each Other: Where Do You Fit?

©2017 Ginger Hertenstein

Community Conversation 3
Community in Unity
A conversation among leaders and citizens for the flourishing of Duncanville

Our goal: to engage in conversation about becoming a community in unity. Our diversity should enrich us as we listen and learn from each other’s perspective. We are not trying to solve problems! We are practicing the art of civil conversation.

Week Two: We Need Each Other: Where do you fit?
Our nation has a national cathedral which rivals any cathedral in the world. It was commissioned by George Washington in 1791, chartered by Congress in 1893, and finished in 1990. The cathedral’s stained glass windows tell our nation’s stories. You might think that a church would only tell religious stories. Those windows display the Christian faith but equally as prominent are the themes of our people’s work, along with honoring our system of government. For example, three large windows depict the three branches of our government, judicial, executive, and legislative, and interpreting their responsibilities by our faith tradition. Other windows represent various professions of our nation’s workers. They are beautiful stories of what people do and where they fit. If you would like to see the PowerPoint which shows the windows, just let Jennifer Johnson know by responding to this email and she will supply them for you.
The reason the windows depict subject matter other than spirituality is that people have a cultural mandate. People are the builders. This mandate comes from initial pages of the Bible.

1.   Be procreative – Keep the generations going.
2.   Fill the earth with the products and processes of human cultural formation.
       This is the cultural mandate.
3.   Take ownership of the mandate – it’s your call.

Culture-making is the important task of everyone. The culture we have now is the result of what people have made of the city. It is not a fixed or normative category but is fluid. The structure of the city, which sphere has what responsibility and how we relate to one another has everything to do with you and what you bring to the table.

Duncanville categorizes cultural formation into four spheres: business, city government, schools, and faith-based organizations. Additional spheres can be added, like the arts, science/healthcare, and civic clubs. The point is that there is no one sphere that should be overtaxed with the responsibility for the entire cultural environment. Only God has that responsibility, as the primary Creator of all things not made by humans. The spheres bring their own identities/gifts to make up the whole. When we expect a particular sphere to hold a position of dominion, elevating that sphere over all others, corruption and tyranny result, no matter whether it is the government, business, or the church.

We talked about the loss of public consensus about God and the rise of individualistic, private religion. This growth in the individual’s personal belief system that is not connected to a sacred text or an involved Deity creates thousands of competing “religions.” This social order actually
has a name: “Sheilaism.”1 “Sheilaism” does not build community because it is not the principle of “we are in this together” but of making yourself the center, doing what your inner “Sheila” tells you to do. Its result is contrary to UNITY. Unity takes community.

Table Conversation

We discussed each aspect of why occupation is important in culture-building, and the outcome of non-involvement, or acquiescing control to a particular sphere. We talked about the competition among the spheres and what diminishes that competition and why. We talked about the impact of “sheilaism” on community unity. Some discoveries include:

  • People have to feel like they belong. If they do not feel a sense of belonging then they do not unite with other people. In drawing people out you need to find their strengths and see where they fit.
  • When communities relegate God to the sidelines it is difficult to see the meta-narrative of culture which lies beyond our own century; struggles for domination often erupt in fighting and violence; solutions are limited to finitude, i.e., seeing only our own experience.
  • The need is for government, employers, etc. to put others first rather than “me first.”
  • Some talked about the role of young people in the future of our society.

Thank you for participating! Thanks to Kasey for the sound system, awesome tech support, and refreshment!!

See you this Thursday, October 5th, 7:00 – 8:15 pm

1 Term coined in 1985 by sociologist Richard Madsen.

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