Life and Livelihood: A Handbook for Spirituality at Work

Life and Livelihood: A Handbook for Spirituality at Work

by Whitney Wherrett Roberson

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Life and Livelihood: A Handbook for Spirituality at Work by Whitney Wherrett Roberson

Many working people may have the uneasy feeling that when they clock in every morning, they check their “real selves” at the door. Caring, compassionate, generous human beings who look after families and volunteer in the community take on the values of the workplace, where fierce competition may trump kindness and concern. People who might exercise all the best attributes of Christianity in action often feel they have to put on alter egos that fit into a business world that may be less in tune with Christian values. It’s the kind of great divide that makes people yearn for greater connection between their “at-work selves” and their “at-home selves.” And it’s led to the formation of the “spirituality at work” movement, helping those eager to align their spirituality with their professional lives. This book provides the nuts-and-bolts of running a workplace spirituality group. It offers hands-on information about everything from forming a group to facilitating a meeting, and even includes detailed agendas for 45-minute meetings. With the easy-to-use agendas, participants explore such questions as “Can our work be sacred?” “What is real wealth?” and “How does language shape our values?” Life and Livelihood is designed to be respectful of—and applicable to—those of most faith traditions, although Christian themes, images, and references predominate. Whitney Roberson, an Episcopal priest, is associate pastor of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and director of the Spirituality at Work program there. She leads conferences, retreats, and training programs on this topic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819226068
Publisher: Church Publishing Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2004
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
File size: 1 MB

Read an Excerpt

life and livelihood



Church Publishing Incorporated

Copyright © 2004 Whitney Wherrett Roberson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8192-2606-8


soul-making—moving toward shalom

Not a bible study, a ministry team nor even, in the usual sense of the word, a support group, a spirituality at work conversation group is intended to transform participants, offering them not just the opportunity to connect what they do with what they believe or most value, but a community in which they can explore what it might mean to act from such connections. Here are the ways we've come to understand spirituality at work.

Spirituality at work conversations are about soul-making

An ancient spiritual concept, soul-making is making a comeback in both spiritual and psychological circles. Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, suggests that the spiritual and psychological belong together, that an inquiry into each is a part of soul-making. Our perspective is that soul-making includes both and more, for the soul, as we understand it, lies at the intersection of our spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social, and physical selves. Soul is fundamentally who we are at the deepest level of our being; it is all of who we are. In Moore's words, "soul has to do with genuineness and depth ... is tied to life in all its particulars ... is revealed in attachment, love, and community as well as in retreat ... inner communing and intimacy." If soul-making is about "all of who we are," then it is also about who we are at work, and it is about the communities we form at work and the nature of our work itself. Spirituality at work conversation explores all these areas.

Spirituality at work is about shalom

A Hebrew word, shalom is often translated as peace, and yet its meaning is much richer and more profound. Shalom suggests a wholeness or health and carries with it a sense of fullness, abundance, completeness in a larger Reality. Shalom doesn't necessarily mean everything is rosy or calm, but it does suggest a confidence that, in this larger Reality all will be well. Shalom is about the generous hospitality of divine Mystery, about the willingness of this Mystery to make a place where we can "live and move and have our being," a place to which we can bring all of ourselves. Even our unlovely and troublesome bits are part of our wholeness and, within the love of the divine Reality, are woven into the fabric of our being, becoming creative and life-giving. So then, even times of turmoil can be creative when they are understood as part of a larger shalom.

Spirituality at work is about abundant life

It is not first and foremost about achieving our goals, making more money, becoming better managers, finding ways to get others to do what we want, or even about becoming happier, although any and all of these may and do happen when soul-making is taken seriously. What spirituality at work is about is abundant life: living fully into each moment, paying attention to what's happening within us and around us, understanding what our lives are about and how we're meant to make a difference within the larger communities of which we are a part. It is, finally, about our deciding to act, to make creative choices that will move us and our organizations toward a deeper wholeness.

Exploring Basic Assumptions

Those of us who began Spirituality at Work held some basic assumptions, and it seems important to be straightforward in sharing these with you. You need not agree with these in order to engage in meaningful conversation about spirituality at work. But we suggest it would be useful for you to discover and examine the assumptions you do hold about what's real, since these will surely affect your participation in the conversation, whether as convenor or participant.

Based on our experience, here is what we assume about Who and What Is:

* Divine Mystery or Spirit is real and supports life and wholeness. We want to affirm our experience of the reality of the Divine without narrower definition. Most spiritual traditions agree that the Divine is simply too big for our language; divine Mystery is an expression that acknowledges this while still affirming a greater and deeper Reality.

* Human beings—and all of creation—are invited to participate in the life-giving wholeness of the Divine.

* Divine Mystery is present everywhere: at work, at home, within each of us. When we listen with care to one another and pay attention to what's happening around us, we may catch glimpses of this Reality and hear Spirit inviting us to experience, share, and manifest shalom.

* Divine Mystery is not "tame." Reality cannot be manipulated for our own ends, although all of us are invited to facilitate the life-giving hospitality of this Mystery.

* Spiritual wisdom is available to all who seek it. This wisdom is the gift of divine Mystery and is not the exclusive "property" of any religious tradition. Nor is it a function of academic knowledge or training; one need not be an "expert" to access it. Rather, such wisdom is available to everyone who genuinely seeks it.

But what does all this mean; and how on earth are we to do spirituality at work—soul-making? These are the very questions we ask in our spirituality at work communities, and we've discovered there are no "right answers." What it means to live abundantly or to facilitate wholeness in today's workplaces is something for the people in those workplaces to discover. Will it mean talking about divine Mystery or spiritual things at work? For a few, maybe; for most, probably not. Will it mean learning how to be a reconciling presence at work? Very likely. Will it mean discovering the deeper meaning of our work? Probably. Will it mean fostering the spiritual questing of those closest to us at work? For some, yes. Will it mean building community or imagining ways to effect systemic change or institutional transformation at work? Yes, it might.

It might mean all or any of these, as well as many other possibilities. But what's most important for now is that we don't have to explore the questions alone! Together, as we talk and support one another, we gradually discern the appropriate ways each of us can become shalom-bearing agents of transformation and reconciliation within our life and work contexts.

starting a conversation

The Place to Start: Conversation Becoming Community

Spirituality at work conversation is about creating a safe place to talk about the things that matter most to us and about connecting these things to our daily lives and work. Those who convene SAW groups create "conversation spaces," helping to move participants toward a creative community in which they are encouraged both to support one another and to bring their experience and wisdom to bear on the challenging questions of the contemporary workplace. Actually, most of us create "conversation spaces" all the time without much thought. Initiating spirituality at work conversation simply requires us to be a little more intentional about the process.

So how do you get a conversation started? Try these steps.

Step One: Find allies—one or two others who might share your interest in spirituality at work

* If you have a faith community, this is one place to start. Discover whether other members of your community work near you or do the same kind of work you do by checking with the leadership of your faith community, posting a notice on a bulletin board or in a newsletter, or making an announcement at a community gathering. If you don't have a faith community, look to your workplace or professional community as a source for allies. Pay attention at work or professional gatherings; you may notice someone whose comments or questions suggest an openness to spirituality at work conversation.

* Meet once or twice informally with your potential allies to investigate the possibility of hosting an exploratory meeting with a larger group. Discuss who else in your faith community, organization, or work neighborhood might be interested in issues related to spirituality at work.

Step Two: With your allies, host an exploratory meeting

* Invite potential participants to meet for lunch or after work near your workplace or in your home. Personal invitations often work best initially: either chat with people directly or send a note or memo. In some contexts, a more public announcement might be appropriate.

* At this meeting, share your own interest in spirituality at work and why you feel an ongoing conversation would be helpful. Invite others to do the same. A sample agenda for an exploratory meeting is included in this handbook (see One Exploratory Meeting Agenda on page 10).

* Suggest participants share the issues they might want to discuss. One way to approach this is to ask people to share their frustrations and satisfactions about work: where are they passionate about their work and where do they experience pain at work? Make a list of these and of any questions that emerge from these "pains and passions." Each question or issue is a potential focus for a conversation.

* Discuss the concerns the group has about starting such a conversation. Some common concerns include:

[check] Time commitment: People are often concerned about making a long-term commitment to attend meetings. One solution is to ask for a very limited initial commitment—say three or four sessions—so that participants can get to know one another a bit. After this brief initial commitment, members can feel free to come whenever they're able.

[check] Frequency of meetings: Busy work or family schedules make it difficult for most people to attend weekly meetings. But when groups meet less frequently, participants lose track of the meeting times. A good compromise is to agree to meet weekly for a month or six weeks and then re-evaluate, perhaps moving to a twice-a-month or monthly meeting.

[check] Length and time of meetings: Meetings of one hour right before work or at lunch seem to work for many people. If the group decides to meet less often than once a week, one and a half or two hours may work better. It's important to honor agreements about time, however; potential participants need to know that if the group agrees to meet for just an hour, it will be just an hour.

[check] Conversation format: A simple format that you use every time may work best. A year's worth of SAW conversation agendas are included in this book. A number of alternative formats are also outlined.

[check] Leadership: Although most groups have one or two convenors (perhaps you and your allies) who initiate the conversation and take some responsibility for disseminating information about the group's life, all participants can take a turn facilitating the conversation, using the simple materials provided in this book. Rotating leadership means that no one, not even the convenors, must attend every time.

[check] Meeting site: Public restaurants work fine for spirituality at work conversations, although they can be noisy and ordering can take time away from the conversation. A company cafeteria can work well since participants can get a meal quickly or even bring their own food. An office or conference room is a nice alternative, if available and easily accessible; participants can bring their own food.

* Be prepared to continue the exploratory conversation into a second meeting if potential participants need more time to lay the foundation for an ongoing conversation. It's important to honor any time limits you've set for this first meeting.

* Before adjourning, agree to any "next steps" you and the others might take to move the group closer to setting up the ongoing conversation.

Step Three: Begin the conversation

* Read over the facilitation tips beginning on page 21. As other participants take their turn at facilitating, encourage them to look them over as well.

* Take some time early in the group's life to talk about conversation ground rules, such as the importance of respecting confidentiality and encouraging all points of view (see Typical Conversation Norms or Ground Rules on page 11).

* The principal convenors will probably assume facilitation responsibilities for the group for the first few meetings, modeling the sort of facilitation you hope will become the norm for the group. Then set up a facilitation schedule in conversation with the other participants.

One Exploratory Meeting Agenda (1 to 1 ½ Hours)

Gathering (5 to 10 minutes)

* Name tags are a good idea, as all participants may not be acquainted.

* Be sure to have a sign-in sheet, on which attendees list their names and contact information.

* If the gathering is not at a mealtime, plan to have some food appropriate for the time of day. (Keep in mind: some folks don't eat sweets and some avoid animal foods, so have a variety of goodies available.)

* As convenor(s) you will want to be sure to welcome people warmly, especially those who might not know others at the gathering.

Welcome and greeting (5 to 10 minutes)

* Each of you convening the gathering will want to introduce yourself, telling folks your name, where you work or the kind of work you do, and briefly why you're interested in spirituality at work and why you initiated the gathering. (If appropriate, you may also want to include your faith community or spiritual tradition/background as part of your introduction.)

* Review the agenda with the group, asking for comments, additions, and so on. Most folks will be amenable, but it's useful to set a collaborative tone even at this first meeting.

Introductions (1 or 2 minutes per person)

* If there are more than 10 people, divide into groups of no more than 6 each.

* Invite others to introduce themselves in the way you've just modeled, that is, to say: a) their name; b) where they work or the kind of work they do; c) if they wish, their spiritual tradition/background; and d) why they accepted the invitation to come to the meeting.

Sharing our experiences of work (2 to 4 minutes per person, but no more than 25 minutes total)

* Again, if the group is larger than 10 people, divide into small groups.

* Invite people to share their greatest frustrations about their work or workplace (about 10 minutes).

[check] You may want to give folks a chance to reflect privately on this for a moment, providing paper and pencils to jot down their thoughts before they share aloud.

[check] As people share, write their frustrations on a flip chart.

* Ask participants to share satisfactions about work, and note these on the flip chart (about 10 minutes).

* Ask whether the group can re-frame their satisfactions and frustrations in the form of questions; as they review the lists, do any "burning questions" emerge? For example, the frustration with a workplace culture where everyone is too busy to interact much with colleagues becomes a question about "How can I create community at work?"

* Comment that the lists the group has generated might become the basis for a series on ongoing conversations and see whether there's interest in continuing this sort of conversation.

Planning next steps (10 to 15 minutes)

* If some of the participants are interested in continuing the conversation, discuss their concerns and decide when and where to meet again.

* One of the convenors should take responsibility for contacting those interested in continuing. (Personal follow-up and reminders are crucial to getting a group off the ground!)

Closing (5 minutes)

* Invite participants to share one or two words expressing their hope for the group. It's often helpful to have one of the convenors begin, thus modeling the process for the others.

* And/or invite each person to offer the person on his/her left a personal word of hope for the coming week. Again, the facilitator begins.

Typical Conversation Norms or "Ground Rules"

Sometime early in the life of a conversation group, participants usually find it helpful to talk about the conversation norms or ground rules it wants to set for itself. As an articulation of the values that form and inform a particular conversation community, the ground rules may vary from group to group. But we've found a few that seem especially to support our conversations.

Excerpted from life and livelihood by WHITNEY WHERRETT ROBERSON. Copyright © 2004 Whitney Wherrett Roberson. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents




Part I: The Basics          

One: Soul-Making: Moving Toward Shalom          

Two: Starting a Conversation          

Part II: The SAW Agendas          

About the Agendas          

Facilitation Tips          

Sample Agendas          

Understanding Workplace Culture:          

Meaning-Making at Work:          

Time and Its Meaning:          

Connecting Money with Meaning:          

Emotions at Work          

The Divine at Work          

Reflecting with the Tao:          

Soul at Work          

Change: Transforming or Traumatic?          

Holiday Issues in the Workplace          

Part III: Other Conversation Formats for Spirituality at Work Groups          



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