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Let's elaborate on why you should collaborate

Columnist Emily Carson says working in a group can help create something bigger than one's own mind can imagine.

Holy Everything — Emily Carson column sig
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Collaboration is fuel for possibility. It was in preparing for a recent worship service that I was reminded of just how energizing it is to work together.

The usual priorities that unconsciously guide most of what I do in a day are efficiency and productivity. As it turns out, these values make useful companions from time to time, but they aren’t great guides. A lot of possibility gets lost when I’m perpetually racing to non-existent finish lines.

The planning process for the aforementioned worship service wasn’t about efficiency. Instead, it was grounded in a value author adrienne maree brown — she prefers all lower case — calls “collaborative ideation.” She writes in the book "Emergent Strategy" that “ideation is the process of birthing new ideas, and the practice of collaborative ideation is about sharing that process as early as possible.”

Last autumn, my friend, Chris, and I sat at a high-top table at the coffee shop Fiddlehead and began to dream. We had been invited to form a team that would plan a late spring worship service for a large group of people coming from different congregations around the region.

While we initially envisioned forming a group of five people who would complete our work in a meeting or two, the actual process ended up being more involved. The time it would take to get the task done became less of a concern. The core priority became putting together a team who could creatively work together to facilitate a meaningful worship experience.


As the relationships between the team deepened, the quality of the work deepened, too. The language for the litanies, the musical selections, the prayer petitions: Every element of the service was treated with collective care and intentionality.

Weeks and months passed; the project continued at an organic pace. Being part of this group shifted from feeling like a vocational responsibility to feeling like a complete gift. Witnessing and participating in their creative capacity reminded me of something else adrienne maree brown writes: “meaningful collaboration both relies on and deepens relationship — the stronger the bond between the people or groups in collaboration, the more possibility you can hold.”

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Ripples of collaboration flowed out continuously from that initial coffee shop conversation as more people engaged in what would eventually become the worship service. Musicians, worship leaders, offering assistants, lighting professionals, audio technicians, worshippers. What started as conversation over coffee evolved into a cacophony of possibility with the Holy Spirit as our lead conductor.

On a planet of 7 billion people, we are fortunate to have ample opportunities to cooperate and conspire for the sake of collective good. I’m grateful to have been reminded that life is about more than the efficient completion of tasks; it’s in the dreaming and co-creating that entirely new realms of goodness unfurl.

"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website .

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