I’ve often been asked HOW I became such great friends with quite a few Episcopal priests over the last couple of decades. My answer has always been that these are relationships that were meant to be and this week I added a few more of them to my list of friends! Spending two and a half days this week with a room full of clergy turned out to be one of the greatest Blessings of my life. When my dear friend / sister / retired priest Gayle Fisher Stewart told me several months ago that we’d been contracted to lead the Bishop and Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri for their clergy conference using LEGO Serious Play, I was simultaneously terrified and thrilled! I was Terrified because it would be the first time I’d ever worked with a Bishop and group of Clergy and I needed to make some immediate changes to my schedule, and I was Thrilled because we’d be using LEGO bricks and it would be the first time I’d be officially working with Gayle! The theme of the conference was Building the Answers – Rest, Relationships and Renewal and we immediately got to work planning the event. I rearranged my schedule and made arrangements to drive my RV to St. Louis in order to attend my first RVing Women Convention being held in Iowa right after the clergy conference ended.
I met Gayle in St. Louis on September 12th and we were able to take an awesome trip to the St. Louis Arch National Park! Riding in the tram to the top of the Arch was the perfect journey for us before we headed to the Pallottine Retreat and Conference Center. We arrived at the site and learned from the staff that all three boxes of LEGO bricks that we shipped in advance to St. Louis had been damaged in transit and upon closer examination revealed that some pieces of LEGO had actually fallen out of the boxes! As if God personally intervened in this situation, when we counted everything we had just enough packets of LEGO bricks, connectors and plates for the event! Amen!!
I knew how great an event this was going to be as soon as it was announced that we’d be starting the first session a few minutes late because Bishop Deon Johnson was taking his Mom home from an appointment! I thought to myself, “he’s a Caregiver”, and immediately loved him before I even met him!!
Gayle got the conference started in a truly lively way by having the entire group stand and dance the Cha Cha Slide! One Rector arrived a few minutes late to see the entire room of his colleagues dancing and after initially looking startled he put his things down and danced the last minute of the song with everyone else! This was a group of really special people who were engaged from the word Go!
In her presentations Gayle shared with the group 1) the different types of REST and that we need to ensure that we make time for all of them, 2) the importance of determining if RELATIONSHIPS in our lives need to be formed, renewed, strengthened or even discontinued AND 3) the value and importance of truth-telling.
The lessons that Gayle shared were intertwined with 6 LEGO building sessions. After I explained what LEGO Serious Play is and how it works, the entire group was given sealed packets containing the same 6 LEGO brick pieces and instructed to make a DUCK with those pieces without conferring with their colleagues. One of the most powerful lessons of the conference occurred when everyone saw how different all of the ducks were!! We took a group photo with the ducks and left them on display for the entire conference.
The duck exercise demonstrates how we may all understand the assignment but how we process and execute it can be vastly different because we are all different!
For the majority of the builds, the group was divided into “years” 1, 2 and 3 as outlined in their strategic plan and the building questions were created from the nine mission areas outlined in the plan. Each Year’s group were given three mission areas to build.
The last morning’s assignment was to create a LANDSCAPE of the Diocese. It was incredible to watch as the groups were tasked with reviewing all the builds they had created the previous day and to put the most important builds on two new tables and make “connections and relationships” that will help make those mission area builds a reality for the Diocese of Missouri. Watching the entire group of more than 40 clergy discuss, move, add and takeaway pieces and parts from the Diocese Landscape was truly exciting and energizing!! The group was fully engaged and there was teamwork, laughter, discussion, lots of truth telling and pure JOY!! Throughout the conference Gayle helped to photograph the incredible LEGO builds and added much insight from her clergy experiences to the reflections that occurred after each round of building!
The only sad part for me was that the conference had to end! There was a JOYFUL Eucharist full of love and music to send everyone home and lots of LEGO models and pieces went home with some very happy clergy too!! I gave Bishop Deon extra ducks and a box of LEGO bricks for his son and he plans to do lots of building with him!
We received many accolades about the sessions and how powerful the builds were. This conference made me realize that though this group was vastly different from the family and professional caregivers or those with dementia that I usually work with, all of these clergy are caring for entire congregations and that makes them very important caregivers too!! And just like everyone else I have used my kits with, the favorite piece in the kit during this conference was the LEGO heart!! When I got to my RV JOY to head to Iowa, someone had even left one of the pink LEGO hearts stuck in my door! What a wonderful way to affirm what I already felt, that Gayle and I had successfully delivered a very thought-provoking conference that was full of laughter, listening and love!