Sounds of Iona – October 2023

Two yellow cups of coffee on a table by an Australian intersection.

In October’s Sounds of Iona, Ruth considers the dance of culture and strategy

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, according to management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. We can have all the strategy documents, business consultants, development gurus in the world, but it is the culture – the practices and rituals of an organisation, or a community which evolve through time – that will ultimately determine the direction and depth of travel.

Threads of community, worship and diversity

In September, this dance between culture and strategy was explored at two gatherings within our Community. The first was, informally, at the gathering of Members and Associate Members on the continent of Europe. Over 60 of us met in a beautiful monastery near Frankfurt. We were expertly led in reflections on our Rule of Life. Alongside this thread of focused questions were two further threads: the thread of our shared worship, and the thread of diversity most apparent in the multiple languages present in the room. How do we share both the challenges and the opportunities that our diversity in languages and cultures offer? Simultaneous translation, more translation of documents, language tutor pairings were just some of our responses.

The second gathering where the dance between culture and strategy was visible was at a meeting of the Community’s Trustees at Corrymeela. This time the exploration was intentional. Over the weekend-long residential, time was set aside to ask: what are the cultural norms that are weaving their way through our life in community? Where is the crossover with our strategic plan?

Weaving her way through these conversations with Council was also the thread of the Holy Spirit, nudging always: be gentle with yourselves; be kind to one another; remember the deeper wider calling to God’s justice wrapped up in peace which beckons all.

A spirit-filled cry

But I now find myself in a very different cultural context than those described above.

I write to you from the heat of a glorious spring morning in Boorloo/Perth, in these lands now called Australia. I’m here to join a listening pilgrimage with the dear folks at the Wellspring Community. And I’m writing this blog shortly before a much-awaited referendum on The Voice – the request of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for a dedicated voice in the parliament of Australia. The Uluru Statement from the Heart, which articulated this request a number of years ago, is more than a statement. It is a spirit-filled cry for the dance of culture with strategy to be celebrated in these lands and for clear decisions to be made that will right the wrongs of many generations.

Those around me here ask us to find out more about this referendum. Please do follow the links above and explore the themes in your Family Group.  And they ask us to pray for justice with peace – for the radical change that will give voice to the silenced.

Culture may indeed eat strategy for breakfast. But as I look to our own Community of faith, as I follow the promptings of Jesus witnessed in the Gospels and in the lives of millions, and as I notice the heart-felt yearnings of the people around me here in Boorloo/Perth, I also notice that the sometimes polarising dance between culture and strategy becomes a vibrant, multi-faceted way of life when woven through with the life of the Holy Spirit. She is swirling, redeeming, renewing, reviving all who dare invite her in.

Questions to consider

  1. How do we, in an increasingly global community, share both the challenges and the opportunities that our diversity in languages and cultures offer?
  2. In what ways do you invite the Holy Spirit into the dance between culture and strategy in your life, in your Family Group, faith network or region?
  3. To what extent does culture determine the way your Family Group operates? What room is there for new cultures to emerge within your group?
  4. Consider the Uluru Statement from the Heart. What feelings and actions does it prompt in you?
  5. Consider the proposals at the heart of The Voice. Pray for justice.
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