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'Upward Bound' preparing congregational leaders to lead

By Daphne Mack
[Episcopal News Service]  For the third consecutive year, the Episcopal Church's Office of Congregational Development, in partnership with the Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF), will offer congregational leaders a four-day training seminar designed to heighten self-awareness and skills required to lead congregations in times of change and transition.

"Upward Bound: Leading Congregations through Change, Decisions, and Conflict" is set to run from October 9-12 at the Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.

"We wanted to help leadership learn how to be a self differentiated leader, standing separate from the conflict, able to view it, and understand what dynamics are at force," said Sally Dresser O'Brien, vice president of ECBF.

During the training participants will:

  • Learn how to examine a conflicted situation and their place in it;
  • Explore their awareness of how they receive approval and support;
  • Understand the different levels of needs and their implications for congregational behavior;
  • Distinguish between problems that are theirs and others;
  • Develop skills to stop participating in destructive games and negative cycles;
  • Increase listening and feedback skills for clarity rather than inference or judgment and;
  • Renegotiate relationships after conflict has erupted.

The Rev. Charles N. Fulton, III, director of Congregational Development and president of ECBF, said Upward Bound will offer "practical skill development and discernment" to help the leader neither ignore, nor become immersed in conflicts, "but to become a constructive presence in the midst of turmoil."

Fulton and Mary May, president of May and Associates, will serve as the seminar presenters.

Fulton, coordinator of the national churches' response to the 20/20 resolution that aims to double the membership of the Episcopal Church by the year 2020, also co-chairs an ecumenical network of church growth leaders, and supervises the work of research, stewardship and ministry to new and small congregations.

May spent 22 years as a professor of English and linguistics at several major universities. Her interest in psycholinguistics and semiotics led her attention to cognitive theory and its application to all aspects of daily life. She authored "Metacognitive: Thinking About Thinking" and "The Cognitive Cycle: A New Model for Choice and Change." She continues to research and write about understanding the way in which we take in and process information when given the tools needed for personal and professional transformation.

O'Brien stressed that this seminar is "not just for a congregation in a crisis."

"It really is for personal development and leadership," she said. "[Basically] holding yourself together when diverse opinions clash. It's a gift that the leader is going to give to the people that they are calling together."

The cost of the seminar is $675 which includes tuition, four nights lodging, and seven meals.

Space is limited to 36 registrants. Visit or call 800.334.7626, ext. 6003. Registration ends September 5.

"We hope that people who attend Upward Bound will walk away with a greater sense of calm about being in conflicted situations," O'Brien said. "They will know that as the leader they will be able to help read what is really going on, understand the different ways that different people might be emotionally involved in the conflicts, and what strategy might be helpful to reduce the conflict."

The next "Upward Bound" seminar will be held February 5-8, 2007 at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotels in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.