Why make the Religion Sector 3.0 connection?
My role as Religion Sector Specialist began as the result of the initiative I directed beginning in 2002, under the auspices of the Peninsula Community Foundation, now part of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The PCF region was San Mateo County and north Santa Clara County.
As the Foundation’s Religion Sector Specialist, I established the infrastructure and modes of implementation within the region which created the design of the Religion Sector. I worked on that initiative for 10 years, when I transitioned to continuing that work independently.
Initiating the position of Religion Sector Specialist provided the same sweeping transition as the initial designation of the position Superintendent of the County Office of Education. My experience was basically, and remarkably, to be designated in the region as “the superintendent of the religion sector.” This status was predicated on the prominence of the regional Foundation and the regard which resulted from the formation of the Religion Sector infrastructure. In that position, I was able to broadly link people and resources. Furthermore, this position enabled me to guide a comprehensive communal discourse which examined and advanced concepts related to religion.
This initiative resulted in an entirely new concept of the landscape of religion in the United States, impacting the nature of (a) the Religion Sector, (b) the relationship between the Religion Sector and the Civic Sectors, and (c) religion in society.
It was the Foundation’s goal to reverse what was nationally recognized as the ad hoc array of the clergy of all religions and all congregations in every region. It was their premise that the path to their systemic mutual and community engagement was an infrastructure capable of engaging all clergy as the lead professionals in the congregations, the core institution of the Religion Sector.
Based on my experiences, I have recognized that this new Religion Sector 3.0 “Operating System” enhances each facet of constituent and community engagement, extending outcomes to new and greater scales of achievements.
This is the context for enhancing mutual engagement, individually and collectively, among all realms within the Community.
Regional Clergy Engagement (RCE)
My first assignment was to ascertain the methodology for constructing the database of every clergyperson and congregation in a region. Although this did not exist in any county in the
nation, the mechanics were, in fact, there, and the database of all 440 clergy was in place within
a few months.
Building on Regional Clergy Engagement (RCE), the Foundation had two objectives, (a) the mutual engagement of all clergy, and (b) the collaboration between all the institutions of the civic sectors and all congregations, on the widest range of community matters.
As those 10 years progressed, the Peninsula clergy and civic sectors’ leaders realized more and more that they were truly experiencing the new Religion Sector 3.0 era. This landscape enabled all concerned to move forward, individually and collectively. They advanced beyond the barriers imposed by the common misperception of a “wall of separation” between “religion and state” and the attitude that “state” included all aspects of the civic sectors – government, education, human services and business.
The historic image of the “separation” – among congregations of different religions and between congregations and the institutions of the society – shifted to a structure for achieving “appropriate and efficient” mutual engagement. The perception of a “wall of separation” – not a part of the U.S. Constitution – transitioned to an “alignment” which honors what is the constitutional religion and state declaration, composed of the two clauses: (a) no establishment of religion, and (b) the protection of the right of every individual to practice their religious identity.
Each step on this path further configured and confirmed the soundness of the “alignment” and its viability as “appropriate and efficient.” This alignment found definition through the communal discourse in 31 Regional Dialogues over the 10 years. The Dialogues were the forum for the mutual engagement among clergy, in half of the sessions, and clergy and the leaders of the civic sectors, in half the sessions. This list of Dialogue sessions and topics is attached.
The infrastructure of the alignment further took shape and was shared through the subsequent collaborations which engaged specific institutions of each of the civic sectors and project delineated congregations.
Systemic design replaced ad hoc. Alignment replaced misalignment. Appropriate and efficient replaced what had been the misperceptions of inappropriate and ad hoc experiences, which had been inefficient.
I have now spent two decades guiding the shift in the paradigm for engaging clergy and congregations. The unprecedented scope of my experience benefited from the fact that I worked on that platform which existed, uniquely in the nation, only in that county – the database of every clergyperson and congregation. I was able to further advance this paradigm in several other regions in the nation, further confirming the viability of the design and expanding on the applications based on that infrastructure.
NOTE: In as much as the county-wide database was critical in framing the initial infrastructure platform, as the consultant in other regions, I demonstrated that the existence of that database is not a prerequisite to projects for engaging all clergy and congregations. The methodology derived in compiling the first database provided the know-how to engage all clergy and congregations, and delineated subsets, for the specific project in other regions. Acquiring the methodology for the initial formation of Religion Sector 3.0 provided the components upon which I would draw for project specific applications in any regions.
Since the beginning of this project, people have shared privately with me their lack of a common and comfortable language for discourse on religion. It is an admission they did not share with others. This was obviously the case in the Dialogues and clearly noticeable in the Discussions. The Discussions were convened for superintendents with principals and the clergy, by school districts, and for city managers and the clergy, by city.
This disconnect has also been apparent in the many times throughout my career I have shared in
community sessions – rabbinic, Jewish communal, multi-faith, and in the many committees in which I have served in each of the civic sectors.
I shared this observation with superintendents and city managers. They acknowledged that for professional staff, in their academic training and in the institution required diversity training, religion was not included among race, gender, nationality, etc. As part of the emerging scope of my role as the regional Religion Sector Specialist, I began conducting training in Multi-Faith Awareness for the institutions in each sector. This included consulting with the diversity trainers on their inclusion of religion diversity. Multi-Faith Awareness became an initial component of my consultation role as part of each of the collaborations within this initiative.
The Multi-Faith Awareness training curriculum outline includes a list of some of my clients from that period and from my continued Religion Sector 3.0 consultation.
The three sections within the curriculum review:
Clergy Social Capital (CSC)
Civic Sectors’ Leadership Religion Sector Social Capital (CSLRSSC)
The process built on Regional Clergy Engagement successfully resulted in the inclusion of the vast percentage of clergy, who represented the full regional diversity by denomination, demographic and geography. This was the standard for Dialogues, Discussions, and congregation collaborations with civic sectors’ institutions.
One clergy Dialogue topic, “Clergy Social Capital,” focused on how clergy could enhance these relationships and impact their community engagement. What became apparent were the limits on the time available to each clergyperson in the context of the scope of their responsibilities. At the same time, they now recognized how this limitation impacted their ability to establish essential professional relationships with the key civic sectors’ leaders within their realm.
When I left the full-time commitment to the initiative, the most lingering issue for me was this unaddressed gap between reality and potential. It clearly diminished what had now been confirmed as the viability of (a) the greater effectiveness of clergy and (b) their collaborative power and that of congregations on behalf of strengthening community and individual lives.
In that year, I designed a formula that would enable clergy, in 30 hours a year, to know and be known by each of their specific geographic related leaders of government – cities, county, state, and education – districts and schools.
This also included establishing relations with the clergy serving the ten closest congregations. The lack of this relationship was consistently stated by clergy, “I was so busy getting settled the first six months” and then “After a while I was so busy.” This included the recognition that city clergy groups were virtually nonexistent. Where they did exist, they reflected self selecting subsets. I convened a quarterly lunch session with the chairs of city clergy groups, which exited in eight out of twenty-two cities in regions. Each of these groups were heavy in rotation and gaps in leadership.
I initiated the workshop series, “Clergy Social Capital,” which provides clergy with the components and technical assistance to make these connections in a time frame more than consistent with the benefit to them, the congregation and their congregants.
I provide websites which identify directories of their relevant civic sectors’ leaders and mapping, with websites, of their adjacent congregations. The technical assistance guided them through their initial calls, what to say and even what not to say, to firmly secure that continuity of mutual relationship. This mutual relationship then is the foundation for mutual support on a range of concerns related to congregants, constituents, and civic concerns.
This personal connection is also the foundation for framing collective clergy connections and the civic sectors’ leader’s collective clergy engagement through models of “coffees with clergy” and “Congregation Based Constituent Engagement” (CBCE).
I would be happy to follow up on the “Clergy Social Capital” workshop curriculum. This is applicable for clergy groupings which are geographic, denominational, collaboratives, etc.
There is a parallel curriculum, “Civic Sectors’ Leaders Religion Sector Social Capital,” which utilizes “A Local Official’s Guide to Working with Clergy and Congregations.” Attached is the introduction for this guide which I authored for the California Institute for Local Government.
For two decades, I have experienced the positive outcomes of conversations based on Multi-Faith Awareness within government, education, health services, business, and religion.
In those situations, with an individual who was at a loss as to how to have a discussion on religion, it reflected issues of attitude, knowledge, and language. In every case, their personal capacity and the collective value of the discourse shifted 180 degrees after they participated in a Multi-Faith Awareness training. Their personal comfort, knowledge and contribution extended further as they shared in collaborative efforts with colleagues and with their institution staff.
We share in a society which promotes the strengthening of community by increasing the level of collaborative consciousness through Cross Sector Collaboration – creating and influencing coalitions – personal and communal.
I look forward to exploring how you can benefit from enhancing the scope of (a) awareness of Religion Diversity and (b) incorporating the Religion Sector in your Cross Sector Collaboration. Please explore my website and contact me.