Appreciative Inquiry at St. Mary's Manhattanville

To appreciate something is to value it. To inquire is to seek understanding by asking questions. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a collaborative and highly participatory approach to seeking, identifying, and enhancing the life-giving forces present when an organization or system is at its best. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 St. Mary's Manhattanville did its first congregation wide Appreciative Inquiry in 2007. A team of five lay people and the rector learned about AI and designed the process, led by Anne Ditzler who had been trained in Appreciative Inquiry. A useful resource book was Mark Lau Branson's "Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change." Below are all the documents we used at our first gathering (of about 50 people): participant materials and the leader agenda. We did it on the Sunday after Easter, having only one worship service in the morning (instead of two), and providing lunch so people would be encouraged to stay all day. At the end of the event we had themes, "Provocative Proposition" about our future, and beautiful banners for each theme that hung in the sanctuary throughout Easter. We have continued to do at least one AI gathering per year, but often use AI for smaller groups focused on specific topics. Feel free to use and modify these documents. However, it is wise to work with someone who is experienced in AI if you have never done it before. Important principles and theory undergird the work. Many other resources can be found online. For Episcopal churches, see particularly the work of Rob Voyle at the Clergy Leadership Institute.