The Future Emerges in the Center
Can you see the future that's emerging for congregations which care about the flourishing of their wider communities?
Here's an exercise to see further.
Draw three overlapping circles like the illustration below.
In one circle, place a congregation that seeks the good of your community. If you want to think bigger, name a religious tradition or cluster of congregations that serve your community. Or even bigger, make this an all-inclusive circle for spiritual communities committed to social justice, equity and sustainability.
In another circle, write the name of a company or organization that seeks the health of your community. If you want to think bigger, name a few sectors or industries, such as education, health care, wellness, senior living, or affordable housing (because housing is a health issue).
In the final circle, write the name of a startup or institution that seeks to build wealth for those struggling in your community. If you want to think bigger, name an ecosystem like Black-owned businesses or social enterprises. If you're stumped, keep scrolling through LinkedIn, for these startups and institutions are everywhere — purpose-driven ventures plus community development financial institutions, impact funds, and philanthropies that invest significant sums in BIPOC entrepreneurs.
Your Venn diagram has a center where the circles overlap. Bishop Sam Rodman of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina calls this center the "holy sweet spot." It's the site of convergence where energy moves, efforts coalesce, and opportunities abound.
The future emerges as siloed organizations move toward the center. The future emerges as unlikely collaborators meet in the middle and mix it up, because they see their well-being bound up in each other's work.
Think of an affordable housing community with a ground-floor social enterprise. Think of a hospital that carves out a wing for startup ventures creating new health technologies. It's happening at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.
Congregations that move toward this center move beyond concerns about their own survival. They let go of whatever blocks them from seeing the convergence right at their edge. As they open themselves to possibility, the barrier becomes porous. And as they move across the intersecting lines, they bring their physical, financial and spiritual assets with them, offering this capital to the center for the flourishing of all.
Can you see it, this future emerging right now? "Watch for the new thing I am going to do," says the prophet Isaiah, gambling on the possibility that he speaks for the Divine. And then he throws all his chips in to the center. "It is happening already — you can see it now!"
Daniel Pryfogle is cofounder and CEO of Sympara.