Introduction

We are the sum of all our parts.  No single aspect of ourselves totally defines us; we are a product of our education, our culture, our family life, and our religious upbringing, or lack thereof.  In his book, Worldviews: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs, Ninian Smart (2000) identifies six dimensions of belief that shape how an individual perceives and interacts with the world.

This paper is an exploration into what constitutes the worldview of Krista Clements Orlan.  I have used Smart’s worldview dimensions – experiential, mythic, doctrinal, ethical, ritual, and social – to begin to uncover what fuels the emerging servant leader within me.  For each dimension I offer a story or two from my life, and how that story was the seed for a core commitment for me as a servant leader.  This paper is not intended to be an exhaustive study into my worldview – that would require a book-length work – but an initial scratching of the surface to demonstrate my understanding of what makes each worldview dimension unique.  I also hope it helps me identify my immediate strengths as a servant leader so I can grow in my giftedness in service to others.

The Experiential Dimension

Sharp defines the experiential dimension as those individual experiences “of a majestic, terrifying, overwhelming, loving Being, a divine Reality” (2000, p. 55).  These personal religious experiences can be further identified as numinous or mystical.  Numinous experiences encapsulate feelings of the mysterious and fearful while simultaneously being awe-inspiring and fascinating, drawing one further into the experience (Smart, 2000, p. 56).  These intense feelings are in stark contrast to the stillness of feeling typical of the mystical experience.  The individual experiences a release of self and thought that leads to a blissful quietness.

I have experienced the divine in a very tangible way throughout my life.  There have been moments in prayer and contemplation when I have been completely embraced within the presence of God.  I can feel God’s presence with me in the room; filling me with peace and the knowledge I am not alone.  As I grew older the experience transformed into a merging into the Other, not in a way where my Self was lost, but where I became a lilting melody line within a robust symphony.

I have also experienced this merging with Creation when walking in the woods barefoot, the dew dripping between my toes, the trees whispering my name, and the dragonfly escorting me on my journey.  This is where I have experienced the deep knowing I belong because I am part of the whole.  All anxiety melts away because I know I am safe and protected by this Other of which I AM.

A handful of times I have experienced this merging of spirit with another human, my husband Steve.  The best description I can give is “falling into one another”.  It is a very rare occasion indeed, and a moment we have not experienced for many, many years.  It requires a softening of spirit, vulnerability, and willingness from both to neither dominate nor acquiesce in being.  It is as if you both occupy the same space in time, yet beyond the confines of space and time entirely.  It was through these experiences I came to know the very essence of Steve.  We could meld into One, but not lose our sense of identity.  Like a peanut butter cup, when combined we were something wonderfully new that was greater than our essences separate and alone.

My experience of God is somewhere between numinous and mystical.  While I have experienced being one with the Other, be it God or Creation or the Universe, to the point where I no longer feel separate, I never completely lose my sense of Self as described in the traditional sense of the mystical experience.  I liken it to a tree.  I am a leaf, a distinct element of the tree, but a vital part of the tree as a whole.  When someone looks at the tree and is asked, “What do you see?” the observer will identify the tree and then may go on to the specific details of the trunk covered by bark, and the roots that are seen and those far beneath the ground away from view, and the leaves, some of which have begun to turn with the brisk autumn air.  The leaf shares identity with “tree” but never loses its identity as “leaf”.

These spiritual experiences have tempered my sense of individualism in favor of a focus on interpersonal relationship.  Growing up in the United States I was instilled with the power and importance of the individual spirit.  It was important to take care of Self by putting Self first because you could not depend on anyone but yourself to take care of you.  This led to very self-centered thinking in my teens and early 20s.  However after these first experiences of “Self as one with Other” I began to find it increasingly difficult to only focus on my own well-being without also considering impacts on others as well.  These were my personal experiences of Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of interbeing – “I am, therefore you are.  You are, therefore I am” (Marshall, 2008, p. 12) – and Desmond Tutu’s definition of ubuntu – “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours” (Marshall, 2008, p. 12) – from which the unconditional love of a servant leader emerged within me.

My experience of unconditional love and connectedness is lived out in my work as a servant leader.  I acknowledge the importance of building interpersonal relationships for healthy team dynamics.  I see the importance of every person’s contribution within an organization, with the leader’s primary role to support individuals in achieving personal excellence for the good of the entire organization.  Most importantly, I attempt to respond to everyone with unconditional love knowing we are equals in imperfection.

The Mythic Dimension

Smart defines the mythic dimension as stories of divine or sacred significance that present an example of how humans should act (2000, p. 71-72).  They can either be false myths or purportedly “true” accounts that offer patterns for right behavior.

My favorite time of the liturgical year is Holy Week, when we tell the last stories from the life of the great servant leader, Jesus Christ.  Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Easter Triduum, is the big servant leader story, the Last Supper.  The evening starts off with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples:

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later … If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (Jn 13:6-7,14-15 NABRE)

Jesus understood the best leaders are seen as “one of us”.  The most effective leaders develop authentic relationships with those who they serve through their leadership.  The love from these authentic relationships is what generates their positive power and authority to lead.  The leader who serves first acts as a model of service to his followers.  They will do likewise and the Kingdom of God will be built.  As a servant leader I contribute to the building of the Kingdom through my service that leads to the development of servant led cultures in the organizations of which I am a part.

This story offers more than just an example of a leader in service.  It is also a story of unconditional love.  This past spring I had the opportunity to learn and experience washing of feet through the practice of reflexology.  Touching another’s feet is healing, relaxing, and promotes positive relationship.  It is a very vulnerable and intimate feeling when baring your feet to another and allowing them to be touched.  I experienced nervousness at first, but that was soon replaced by a total feeling of calm, love, and acceptance, both in the receiving and the giving.  Placing ones hands on the feet of another is a harmonious action; it is very difficult to be angry with someone when they are touching your feet.

Service as an act of unconditional love is what separates the servant leader from others who serve.  It is what transforms the servant into leader.  Service can be performed without love, as a transactional response, however this service will wither and fail to pass on to others. Service with love grows within the person who receives it and emerges as servant leadership.  My goal is to serve with love.  This evening my husband validated my commitment to this goal by recognizing all that I do is motivated by love for others.  His comment was a welcome affirmation that I continue to grow as a servant leader.

The Doctrinal Dimension

Doctrine is any particular principle, position, or policy that is taught and advocated by a religious or governmental institution (Dictionary.com, 2012).  Smart identifies five functions of the doctrinal dimension.  First, it gives order to teachings contained within religious narrative.  Perhaps a religious practice appears contradictory to what is contained in scripture, so a doctrine is articulated that justifies the practice within the broader teaching.  Another function of doctrine is “to safeguard the reference myths have to that which lies Beyond, to that which transcends the cosmos” (Smart, 2000, p. 88).  The narratives express these teachings through image and symbol while the doctrine provides a systematic framework for the teaching.  Doctrines also provide the function of relating religious claims to the current knowledge of the day (Smart, 2000, p. 88).  They synthesize the current understanding of life and the world around us with the teachings illustrated by sacred narrative so as to keep religious claims relevant.  Likewise, another function of doctrine is to keep an individual’s outlook on the world fresh.  A person can apply doctrine to their current understanding of the world and come to a deeper, sometimes revolutionary, way of seeing life and its complexities.  Finally, the doctrinal dimension helps define community.  Everyone who buys into a certain set of teachings is part of the group.  Not accepting certain teachings distances the individual from the group, perhaps to the point where they are expelled from the community.  I will attempt to address all of the functions identified by Smart in my journey with Trinitarian doctrine.

When I was in seventh grade I remember a special religion class at school.  Normally religion was taught by our homeroom teacher, but on this day one of our parish priests came to our room to teach.  It is one of only two times I can recall a priest coming over to the grade school to teach religion.  This instance was to provide the first two functions of doctrine in regards to the Trinity.

To begin Father created a large Venn diagram on the chalkboard to represent the intertwined relationship of the three aspects of the Trinity.  I recall him talking about the council where the doctrine was validated and using words like “nature” and “persons”.  His lecture topic was not new to me – I had heard it all before in previous classes – I understood there was only one God  and three “persons” or aspects that came together to make one God.  I cannot remember what the priest said that I questioned, or what my question was exactly, but I was persistently asking for clarification on the concept and Father was having a very difficult time explaining to us.  Finally in frustration he shouted that some things were simply a matter of faith.  I needed to trust he knew what he was talking about and just believe.

That answer did not sit well with me.  It was the first time I was told not to bother to intellectually understand, but just accept.  It was best that way.  This sounded like the easy way out, for both the priest and me, and I am not one to take the easy path or to just accept what I am told.  Thus my preoccupation with Triune relationships began.

For a while I was preoccupied with applying my experiences of interbeing to the Trinitarian model.  Mary represents humanity and she can be seen as a connecting force between the Triune persons.  Therefore humanity is a conduit for the Divine or, at the risk of sounding heretical (the fifth function of doctrine) humanity is part of the Divine. I drew out Venn diagrams and strained my brain to make connections within the doctrinal dimension where I had so effortlessly made the connections experientially   Now I just need to wait for the next bit of current knowledge to occupy my brain so I can apply it to Trinitarian doctrine and break open the egg.  This is one way I currently wrestle with the third function of doctrine.

I see Trinitarian relationships everywhere.  Utilizing the fourth function of doctrine – applying doctrine to the world around – is second nature to me.  Body/mind/spirit, good skincare regimes, BLT sandwiches, even a rationale for having only one child – the most effective relationships come in threes.  It is this first triplet – body, mind, spirit – that has really held my attention for the last six years.  It is the definition of wholeness, necessary for proper life balance, and a core commitment within the servant leader ideology.

The ongoing process of developing and nurturing authentic relationships as we work our Purpose together is the end goal in becoming a servant leader.  It is the journey into the center of the whole, the center of the Trinitarian Venn diagram the priest drew on my seventh grade chalkboard.  According to business poet David Whyte (1996):

…the gravitational weight of God’s presence, pull[s] us to a center of absolute silence and pure simple beingness.  At that center we work because we love our work, and we love our work because we have chosen the right work, the work to which we belong (p. 241).

We find ourselves at that center when there is a balance in body, mind, and spirit. True Self is revealed as one discovers this balance in being and a desire for just living results.  Purpose is identified when it resonates fully with all three aspects of the True Self, and the work of justice is accomplished.  Finally, right relationship is developed when the body, mind, and spirit of all participants are honored and a just society flourishes.  The transformation into servant leader is an inside-out process of defining a Self reflective of Trinitarian relationship.  It is the lens through which I view my development as a servant leader, and how I want to help other servant leaders emerge so that we are doing the work that is ours to do.

The Ethical Dimension

According to Smart, “the ethical dimension of a religion or worldview is shaped by the other dimensions, but it also helps to shape them” (2000, p. 104).  While the moral environment of our upbringing may have been influenced by religious experiences, favorite scripture stories, church teachings, and the like, our unique moral fiber is likely to have made certain experiences, stories, and teachings resonate for us in poignant ways.

I attended Catholic schools for over sixteen years of my life, from first grade until I obtained my undergraduate degree, and now into graduate school.  All of these schools were staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  The woman who I am is a product of their commitment to quality academics and their Franciscan values of contemplation, hospitality, integrity, stewardship, and service.  I was not aware of my Franciscan indoctrination at the time.  The sisters were very low key with their evangelization.  Just like Francis, they spoke with their actions more than their words.

Through the discernment process in becoming an FSPA Affiliate I have had the opportunity to reflect upon the impact these women, and their values, have had on who I am and my way of being in the world.  I need a contemplative life in order to feel sane and whole.  I am not one to make a hasty decision.  I consider the facts and contemplate the impacts my ethical decisions have on others.  I am a “people person” who loves to celebrate others with ritual and cheer.  I seek to be Eucharist to others by welcoming them without judgment or condition, the hallmark of Christian hospitality.  I strive to be a person of integrity who can be trusted with responsibility, confidentiality, and forthright effort.  I have a great respect and love for all Creation, and am humbled to be a part of its grandeur.  And all of this leads me to be of service to others, especially the downtrodden and the underdog, anyone who is the modern-day leper.

Three years of intense contemplation on the Franciscan values with which I have been imprinted helped me to begin to recognize my True Self.  The Franciscan values of contemplation, hospitality, integrity, stewardship, and service, along with my core commitments to prayer, ministry, and community as a covenant affiliate are emerging and merging within me as I grow as a servant leader.

The Ritual Dimension

The ritual dimension consists of those things having to do with worship that are part of a person’s religious experience.  It is the practice of movement and action that one uses when worshipping.  It is the prescribed words spoken and sung in praise.  It is the sacred objects used in ceremony.  All of these things come together to form the rituals we use to articulate our relationship with the Divine and demonstrate our understanding of the Sacred.

I grew up attending Roman Catholic Mass on a weekly basis, oftentimes more with school Mass during the week.  My experience of the Mass was always in a post-Vatican II context.  Catholic ritual is very physical, involving a routine of standing, sitting, kneeling, and bowing.  Despite the fact the language of the Mass has always been in the vernacular for me, the sisters at my school made sure we could all speak Latin for special chants and songs.  Recently, the language of the Mass dramatically changed.  The English translation of the Roman Missal was revised in an attempt to make the wording more consistent with scripture.  This has meant 40 years of verbal programming has been upended for me recently.  Catholic ritual also involves lots of “stuff” – candles, statues, tableware, food, books, furniture, clothing, oils, incense, different spaces within the church building – the list is never ending.  All of these items have a very specific use and there tends to be lots of rules that go along with them.  Traditional Roman Catholic ritual, whether it is in the context of the Mass or simply in personal prayer, tends to be codified, ordered, and specific.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is considered the “summit” of the Roman Catholic Mass.  It is the remembrance and celebration of the Last Supper story where Jesus gave of himself to his disciples in the form of bread and wine.  There is much ritual surrounding all matters related to the Eucharistic, and this ritual has been a formative influence on me.  My family belonged to Blessed Sacrament Church in La Crosse for most of my youth, and I attended their school for eight years.  The school was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  As you can imagine, Eucharistic ritual and theology was emphasized in my schooling and parish community life.  I became well versed in Eucharistic theology and how our ritual illustrates our beliefs. We believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the consecrated host, and that it is a permanent state once achieved.  This is why we treat what appears to be a wafer of wheat as God in our midst, because it is Him. This is also why the leftover hosts are reserved in the tabernacle after Mass, because Jesus needs a holy place to wait until he is consumed by a believer.  The ritual of communion also demonstrates communal aspects of Eucharistic theology.   All are equal in God’s eyes, and the procession to receive communion signifies the solidarity of the Catholic union.  How one receives the host is also important.  We receive the Lord – we don’t take him – and so one outstretches their hands or tongue in order to receive the host.  It is not correct to take or grab the host from the minister. And in receiving the Lord through communion we become One with Him, and with each other, as the Body of Christ.

Of all the worldview dimensions the ritual dimension, in terms of the Eucharist, has shaped who I am as a servant leader the most.  The ritual around Eucharist is a beautiful expression of interbeing.  As I write this I hear the songs we sing during communion in my head:

“We are many parts, we are all one body and the gifts we have, we are given to share” (We Are Many Parts, Haugen, 1986).

“One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless.  And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord” (One Bread, One Body, Foley, 1978).

“Let us be bread, blessed by the Lord, broken and shared, life for the world.  Let us be wine, love freely poured.  Let us be one in the Lord” (Lets Us Be Bread, Porter, 1990).

We are all joined together in this sacred meal.  Not only do we share of it equally, but we become what we eat, and we are called to share what we have become with each other.  As a servant leader I am called to share my gifts of service and enable others to do likewise. As part of “one body” I must respect and honor all the other parts, lest I dishonor myself.  I cannot lead alone in the tower.  I must be surrounded by my community, my team, in order for us all to succeed together.

The Social Dimension

The cultural norms of the community of which we are a part shape our worldview through the social dimension.  These norms can be generalized to most members of a particular society.  This is changing with the advent of more sophisticated communication technology, namely the Internet.  In both small-scale societies and large, the trend towards pluralism and secularization is blurring the definition of what it means to be a member of a given cultural community.  I have experienced this blurring of culture and belief as a Gen Xer living in America, both culturally and religiously.

I am a cultural mutt.  I am 100% American.  I always chuckle to myself when people start talking about their heritage because most people list off three to four nationalities while I am aware of at least seven countries from which my ancestors came.  It is apparent my ancestors did not have the hang ups with mixing outside of their cultural group that were common in early America.

With the dilution of my blood came a dilution of culture as well.  I did not grow up surrounded by the cultural traditions of one specific nationality.  My enculturation was piecemeal.  Grandpa Fredrickson insisted on having lutefisk and lefse at our family Easter meal every year; that is what I know about being Norwegian.  My German heritage was expressed in lots of food and beer surrounding all celebrations, and dancing the polka at any gathering that was so large as to require renting a hall to hold everyone.  My Polish roots can be seen in my love for big patterned clothing, and the Bohemian in me is expressed through my free spirit, my love for travel, and my ability to adapt to whatever new community I find myself a part.

All other influences have been lost in the mix of American culture.  We celebrated the secularized holidays of Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter in the typical way of most Americans (scary costumes, Santa Claus, turkey, and big bunny).  As a Catholic, the religious aspects of these holidays were emphasized in our home and at school, but this focus often took a backseat to the secular traditions of the day.

My family has a history of religious mixing as well; also uncommon in early American society.  I have a set of great-grandparents who were Protestant/Catholic and one who was different flavors of Lutheran (German/English).  One set of grandparents were Lutheran/Catholic until Grandma finally convinced Grandpa to convert to Catholicism after the children had all grown up.  The openness to differing religious perspectives has been carried on by my sister who married a Shiite Muslim and has converted to Islam herself.  The idea that love knows no barriers is evident in my family history.

How has this melding of culture and religion in my life shaped me as a servant leader?  I am very welcoming of the “other”.  I don’t judge someone based upon their label; I look to their character and spirit to define who they are.  I am comfortable around lots of different types of people, and can easily assimilate into their customs and traditions since I was not raised within a closed box of custom.  I do not seek to pigeon-hole people because I have a hard time pigeon-holing myself.  And I have learned that love is a very powerful force.  It can overcome all obstacles if the love is strong.  Love can build bridges and close gaps.  Every good relationship has its basis in love.

Conclusion

Through the course of this paper I identified a number of core commitments in servant leadership that emerged from certain dimensions of my worldview:  adaptability, balance and wholeness, and justice to name a few.  However three core commitments came up repeatedly in several worldview dimensions:  service, connectedness or interbeing, and love.  These three commitments define who I AM.  They are the essence of Krista Clements Orlan.  They are the seeds of the emerging servant leader that I am.  It is now my work to tend to these seeds as I continue to grow and blossom as a servant leader.

 

References

Dictionary.com. (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/doctrine

Marshall, E. O. (2008). Christians in the public square: Faith that transforms politics. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Smart, N. (2000). Worldviews: Crosscultural explorations of human beliefs. (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2012).Evening mass of the lord’s supper. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040512-evening-mass.cfm

Whyte, D. (1996). The heart aroused: Poetry and the preservation of the soul in corporate america. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.

 

Discography

LET US BE BREAD

by: Thomas Porter

© 1990 GIA Publications, Inc. All rights administered by GIA Publications, 7404 South Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638.

All Rights Reserved

ONE BREAD, ONE BODY

by: John Foley, SJ

© 1978 John B. Foley, SJ and New Dawn Music. All rights administered by GIA Publications, 7404 South Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60683

All Rights Reserved.

WE ARE MANY PARTS

by: Marty Haugen

© 1986 GIA Publications, Inc. (Renewed) All rights administered by GIA Publications, 7404 South Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638.

All Rights Reserved.

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