We are encouraged to continuously reach out. Outreach can take many forms. As I contemplated this topic, I thought of the principles of coherence and congruence first introduced in Hermetic philosophy. This ancient teaching is described in a book called the Kybalion, and includes several spiritual principles which were passed down for centuries through oral tradition. The principles of coherence and congruence are derived from the Hermetic Law of Correspondence. As a consultant guide, I worked with Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM) to weave these two principles into UWM’s Transformation Experience pilot program.
The simplest way to describe coherence is: “As above, so below; as below, so above.”
In modern times, we have laser light beams. When a laser beam is coherent, all of the light particles follow a path that is focused, clear and intensified. In the same way, when we articulate our vision clearly to others, they will understand it and be able to align with it. Clear, focused communication is required.
The board of one of the spiritual communities I was working with really struggled to define their strategic plan. A lack of initial clarity resulted in people working on projects and programs that didn’t align with the vision and mission of the organization. As above, so below—the lack of clarity within the leaders showed up throughout the organization. Once the board gained clarity with their strategic plan, which aligned with their vision, mission and core values, they were able to communicate it clearly to their organization. The board halted some projects and re-examined others in order to better align them with the plan.
If you are the senior minister and people aren’t following the spiritual community’s vision, the first place to look is within yourself. Ask: Am I really clear about the direction in which we are heading? Do I have an inspiring vision of the future that I see and feel clearly? I find that frequently leaders don’t really see and feel their vision clearly and deeply. It won’t translate if there’s any doubt.
The principle of coherence applies to teams as well.
Is your board and the leadership completely clear and aligned with regard to the vision, mission and core values of the spiritual community? Additional questions:
- Have we taken steps to communicate our vision and mission in a way that everyone understands?
- Is the communication focused?
- Does it convey guideposts on how to get there?
Perhaps a visioning process can assist you and your leadership team to allow Spirit’s insight to emerge. Visioning is a facilitated, meditative group process. During the meditation, the facilitator asks four basic questions:
- What is the highest vision for our outreach programs?
- What gifts do I bring to our outreach programs?
- What must I let go in order for our outreach programs to thrive?
- Is there anything else I need to know?
Multiple insights can emerge from this process, including images and symbols. The group’s wisdom is collected, synthesized and communicated. This process is repeated until Spirit’s highest vision for outreach becomes clear.
Congruence is the idea of “as within, so it is on the outside.” It’s about “walking the talk.”
Again, this principle is related to the ancient Hermetic Law of Correspondence.
When you say your core values are “authenticity” and “kindness” and you aren’t behaving that way, people will recognize the incongruence right away. That’s why it’s so important to clarify your personal as well as organizational values, and to spend time to define behaviors that demonstrate those values. Once you have clarity, self-awareness is key—otherwise you may not see that your behavior does not match your defined values.
A few years ago, we facilitated over 80 people in a core values definition exercise at a New Thought spiritual community. One of their core values was inclusive community. The community defined it as, “We lovingly accept everyone who walks through our doors. We honor all paths to God.” Then we took the next step to define the actions from both organizational and individual perspectives. An example of an organizational action is, “We actively recognize Spirit within all, in our spiritual community and beyond.” Examples of individual actions are, “I practice loving acceptance,” “I warmly welcome everyone who walks through our doors,” and “I encourage all voices to be heard.”
Another core value was compassionate service, defined as “We serve from the heart, knowing the highest and best for all.” Organizational behaviors included, “We are actively involved in community outreach and service” and “We provide a pastoral care program.”
Being congruent with these core values of inclusive community and compassionate service meant that the organization and its people committed to demonstrate the behaviors they defined in a consistent manner over time.
Congruency Is a Team Effort!
Sometimes we don’t catch ourselves until after we’ve said or done something that is not in alignment with our values. Once we’ve noticed our mistake, it’s good modeling to admit the incongruence. People appreciate the honesty and humility. There are many ways to discover if you are really walking the talk. You might want to review the core values behaviors as they relate to outreach at a team meeting and ask “Are we walking our talk?” “What can we start doing, stop doing, keep doing, or change in order to align with the desired behaviors?”
Examine Your Spiritual Community’s Outreach Initiatives
Do they align well with your ministry’s vision and mission? Are the outreach initiatives congruent with your community’s core values? If not, have a deep conversation with your leadership team to explore the outreach activities that do not align and make decisions to modify or eliminate them.
Take time to meditate and contemplate these two principles and how they apply to your outreach initiatives and activities. Make sure all outreach activities come from a place of centeredness within yourself and the leadership teams, and that activities are both congruent and coherent with your spiritual community’s vision, mission and core values.