By Associate Conference Minister Daniel Ross-Jones
This year’s Annual Gathering will be a little different. Of course, looking at the schedule, you’ve likely noticed we are ending earlier – on Saturday instead of Sunday. This change was driven in large part by the fact that many of us, including our staff, are flying out to Milwaukee for General Synod after we close Annual Gathering. It also presented an opportunity for us to explore some other changes to our time together.
On Friday, we will be engaging in a time of Open Space. This method, which you can explore more fully in a Wikipedia article, is an invitation to those who come and participate in Annual Gathering to drive the agenda for a period of time in order to explore our ministry together as the Northern California Nevada Conference.
In the time slot where, in the past, we would have offered “workshops,” the Open Space time is an opportunity to instead share passion and energy with one another as we recommit ourselves to building a just world for all in Northern California Nevada.
There are four principles to Open Space:
* Whoever comes are the right people
* Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
* When it starts is the right time
* When it’s over, it’s over
While, of course, we have a 90 minute time parameter for this – you’ll notice that the fluidity and breadth of the invitation provides beautiful unstructured time for self-organizing practices. You are invited to take responsibility for your passion and make an invitation to the marketplace of ideas, practices, reflection, learning, and inquiry.
When you arrive at Annual Gathering, if you are interested in convening an Open Space, you are invited to make your pitch on available poster board which will be on the walls in the Ballroom area.
If instead you are interested in participating an Open Space, on Friday you are invited to look at the Open Space Marketplace and decide where you are most drawn. This leads to the only law of Open Space: the Law of Two Feet means that you take responsibility for where your passions are and what you care about, moving to whatever space you can best contribute and learn when it is most important. In other words, what you pick may not be where you end up, and that is a beautiful thing!
Building from this new collective experience, you will notice another major change in our plenary space in the Ballroom. Instead of sitting on rows facing the stage, we will be gathered around round tables for the duration of the Gathering. We want you to get to know your neighbors – preferably people from churches different from your own, new friends you haven’t yet met. Share your stories, have dialogue about what exciting things are happening in your midst, and give witness to the God Sightings from the communities of your everyday lives.
One thing is for certain: we are going to have an excellent Annual Gathering. I am looking forward to seeing you there. Have you registered yet?