Monday, April 13, 2015

A Fierce Week in Chicago - Day One

This week, we're getting Fierce.

At the end of February, the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, director of networking for the Diocese of Chicago, joined us at Christ Church Cathedral and spent a Saturday afternoon with a group of about 50 people from the Cathedral and other congregations for an event called "The Real Conversation: Having Hard Conversations Well."

Our dinner and opening session
A few weeks later, she contacted us with a remarkable gift -- five full scholarships to a full 2 1/2 day "Fierce Conversations" training at St. James Cathedral in Chicago, where we could explore and learn in depth an extraordinary model of making our churches, organizations, and lives better one conversation at a time. The training -- which includes food and lodging -- usually costs $700 a person.

So this morning, four of us from the Cathedral -- Vicar Amy Cortright, Sr. Warden Lorraine Kee, Chapter member Anne Trolard and me ... along with Diocesan Youth Missioner Elle Dowd (we asked Elle to be the fifth so we could share this gift with the rest of the diocese, and also because she's just awesome) piled into a minivan and headed north.

For the next couple days, I'll be sharing what we are learning. But first, I want to share where we are learning it.

One of the guest rooms at the Nicholas Center
This event is being held in St. James Commons .. the newly-renovated office building attached to St. James Cathedral. Like Christ Church Cathedral, St. James had an old office building that housed both Cathedral and Diocesan offices. They raised the money to do a total gut rehab of the building, which included turning the fifth floor (which had been basically a storage attic) into a gorgeous, modern monastic-type retreat and meeting space called The Nicholas Center.

The Nicholas Center is one of the best designed places I have ever been. It is the perfect merging of modern design and monastic feel ... with every square inch incredibly well used (which is how they get 14 bedrooms and meeting space into what is not an enormous footprint. We have already started talking with some of the diocesan staff here about how they did this, as we are beginning to look intently at the future of our own buildings.

The exterior of St. James Common and the Cathedral
in downtown Chicago
The group here together for the next three days is small -- about 15 including staff (we are by far the largest contingent) with everyone else coming from congregations in the Diocese of Chicago.

Fierce is based on the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, and training individuals and congregations in this way of being has been a keystone of the Diocese of Chicago's congregational revitalization program. We are excited to be able to go through this training and bring it back to Christ Church Cathedral and the Diocese of Missouri so we can continue to grow in health as the Body of Christ.

If you want to learn more about Fierce, you can check out their corporate website at

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