Staff reflection from June, 2011:
Culture refers to a group or community with whom we share common experiences. The concept of culture can indicate broad categories such as ethnicity, economics, class, race, or nation. As well, the idea of culture can be applied, at a more micro level, to organizations like CCS or even sub-groupings within CCS. Some would say that the volunteers on Council and its committees, the student body, the staff team, the network of supporters constitute a system of overlapping cultures within a larger CCS culture.
Clearly, no culture is static — let alone CCS. As a staff team, we have experienced, and will experience, many changes in colleagues in the recent past, present and future. With each new staff person, it is essential to provide orientation to organizational ethos while remaining open to the way that a new staff person will influence and change culture of CCS. Nevertheless, important reflection and analysis occurs as we seek to describe the social norms and rituals, accepted terminology and jargon, outlook and attitudes that comprise the shared patterns of behavior and values embodied by the people connected to this beloved institution.
Our recent attempts at identifying CCS culture include the following insights. We:
- value community and relationship in our learning, worship, work, and play.
- strive to be a people of faithfulness through prayerfulness and discernment.
- care about one another in compassionate ways.
- hold consultation and collaboration as strong expectations and values.
- talk, frequently and intentionally, about our identity and who we are.
- respect reflection (especially using the spiral action/reflection model), critical thinking, responsible self-awareness, and feedback (we evaluate a lot!)
- work hard and expect a high degree of commitment which can be amusingly earnest (and maybe a little self-righteous).
- honour our history and the cloud of witnesses but we need to be more intentional about connecting with and supporting our elders.
- demonstrate future orientation and a willingness to make changes: remaining open to learning, taking risks, being creative with limited resources, and doing what needs to be done for the good of the whole. (e.g. we need to be more intentional about expanding our capacity to use technology effectively in education)
- tend toward theologies along the liberal/radical continuum that honour voices from the margins.
- aspire to greater diversity in CCS communities (we acknowledge that we can be insular/exclusive in attitudes and assumptions (e.g. we tend to be focused on the UCC)).
During our staff discussion about CCS culture, we read several passages of scripture. Through Psalm 137 we reflected on the notion of singing a different song “in a foreign land.” We think that the educational, theological and justice stances of CCS represent positions that are counter to the norms of the dominant culture of society, academy, and even much of the church. We wrestled with how we share our perspective and commitments when there exists much resistance, many assumptions and some level of invisibility.
We also read from Ezra and Ruth. The two books stand in contrast regarding culture. In Ruth, intermingling of faiths and cultures is tolerated; Ezra clearly takes a purity stance. As a staff, we discussed the call to remain open to new ideas and perspectives that will potentially influence CCS’s culture, while at the same time, staying steadfastly committed to the principles and values that form our identity. Finding balance in that both/and position is the work of constant discernment.