Posted by: Postordinandy | January 20, 2009

Values as verbs, not nouns

Here at St Luke’s in the High Street, we have been wrestling with a list of words we refer to as our ‘Core Values’. These are the basic principles and intentions of our church community – the key ideals to which we (try to) strive. Most have ‘been around’ for a couple of years now; one we have added recently.

Values are great things to have lying around. At their best, they can encourage – giving a renewed boldness to a venture that feels a little fragile, or perhaps offer a reality check to something that is getting a little too big for its boots, or happily racing away in an unhelpful direction. If not cared for correctly, however, Values can quickly stagnate; they have a tendency to become antiquated or brittle. When this happens we often store them safely away like ancient books – we look at them occasionally, but dare not examine them too carefully for fear they will dissolve before our eyes. Values are, essentially, there to be used robustly.

The best way to preserve them is to put them into action, rather than wrap them in theoretical cotton wool. To grow and flourish, values need plenty of the energy only found by practice and risk. As values are put into practice, we usually discover that there is an entirely appropriate discussion between the theoretical principles behind the value itself, and how it looks ‘off the paper’, and in 3-D. This conversation between theory and practice is sometimes referred to as ‘Praxis’: a continuous process by which a theory is tested out and adapted appropriately – (while at the same time, practice is continuously critiqued by the theory, and adapted appropriately). This idea of praxis seems particularly relevant to a church community – we have both values and practices, yet it is oh so easy for us to keep the two separate in case they somehow corrupt each other. This is the risk referred to above:

  • Dare we question what we do, or why we do it?
  • What happens if we discover our values and practice have little connection with each other?
  • What do we do if something ‘feels right’, but doesn’t seem to fit one of our values?
  • How do we deal with the discovery that a value has stagnated, or is only ever expressed on paper?

So, here are our values – over time we will try to show how we engage with them. We make no claim of perfection here, but our hope is that we are genuinely making some kind of headway towards living them out somehow, both as individuals and as a church family.

  • Generous, (with our time, resources and outlook)
  • Engaging, (with those around us, and with God)
  • New, (not as an outright rejection of ‘old’, but as an expansion or re:imagining of style and perception)
  • Transformative, (bringing about change, in others and ourselves)
  • Responsive, (primarily to the Spirit of God, and to the situations we find ourselves in)

For us, all of the above Values are rooted in the idea of the now-and-not-yet Kingdom of God (when all of creation becomes as it was designed to be); and we would see them as expressions (or tasters) of that Kingdom. There is a relevant question somewhere out there, along the lines of ‘how many values should you have?’ – but that is for another day…

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