Appreciating Church book launch

How can local churches, congregations and communitiesuse their strengths to spark transformation and growth? That is thequestion at the heart of a new AppreciatingChurch website and book launched thismonth.

Written by Fiona Thomas, United Reformed Church Secretary ofEducation and Learning, and Tim Slack, founder and co-director ofthe Appreciating People organisation,the pair worked as part of a group of Appreciative Inquiry (AI)practitioners drawn from ecumenical partners, including theMethodist Church.

Launched in London (9 February) and Liverpool (20 February), theresources draw together - for the first time - the ways in which arange of denominations are using the process of AI to draw on thestrengths and energies of local church communities as the catalystfor transformation.

Appreciative Inquiry begins by identifying the positive core ofan organisation and builds from there. Appreciating Church isdesigned to be a user-friendly, accessible and practical resourcewith theological underpinning and pointers for worship, integratedwith AI theory and practice. It includes case studies from UKchurches which have used AI, among them the United Reformed Church,Methodist Church, Quakers, Congregational Federation and theLiverpool Diocese of the Church of England.

Speaking at the London launch in the chapel at Methodist CentralHall, Fiona Thomas said, 'All churches do something really well,and they all have great strengths, however small; AppreciatingChurch starts by discovering these and building from there. It alsotakes seriously the life-giving force of the Holy Spirit and thepossibility of newness coming from surprising places when a churchdraws on its strengths.'

Tim Slack - the son of the Revd Kenneth Slack, an earlyleader within the United Reformed Church - added, 'The aim isto create a self-sustaining community of AI practice across theChurches and so much has already happened. The Quakers have beenusing AI for about 10 years, and the Methodists and theCongregational Federation have also made a particular impact insupporting this. The book and website are part of that ongoingstory and training process.'

The Revd Kevin Watson, Moderator of URC General Assembly, spokeat the 'northern launch' at St Bride's, Liverpool, and commended AIin the book 'Appreciative Inquiry encourages and enables everyonein the church to be involved, to know their story is heard andmatters, and to see their strengths and achievements valued.' TheLiverpool event was attended by representatives from Mersey andYorkshire synods and the National Synod of Wales.

Appreciating Church, and its accompanying website offeringsupplementary exercises and content, come as a resource forexisting and aspiring AI practitioners within churches and thecommunities connected with them. Appreciating Church will beapplicable throughout the UK and there has already been interestfrom churches and church-based organisations in other Englishspeaking countries. The practical examples in the book includecommunity involvement by a Pentecostal church in Manchester, andthe work of St Bride's, Liverpool with its commitment to beingcreative, progressive and inclusive.

  • Published by Wordscapes, the 120-page book featuresAppreciative Inquiry practitioners from a wide variety of churchesdrawing from diverse theological sources. It is available now (£16)from the Appreciating Church website
  • PHOTO (Left to right): Tim Slack, FionaThomas, Lynne Norman of the Methodist Church and Zélie Gross of theReligious Society of Friends in Britain.

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