As anyone who has been following our recent blog posts knows, we held our semi-annual board meeting a couple of weeks ago. In the time leading up to it, we made a firm commitment that, since Axia is a very different Orthodox women’s organization, we are called to do things differently. We are trying to pull together a cross-jurisdictional board and, quite frankly, the last two years have been hard. Members agreed that our administrative structure -- a typical, old-school board -- wasn’t capitalizing on our strengths, our range of thinking and experiences, but constraining us to make quick decisions and pushing aside what was truly in our hearts.
So, we had to try something new. At this last meeting, we tested out several processes to encourage active and deep listening necessary when bringing together diverse voices. We went into it with a different mind set: to value how we did our work together more than the work itself. If we want to see woman-friendly (heck, laity-friendly!) change in our parishes and our jurisdictions, we ourselves would have to model how to do this regularly and often.
We took a big, giant step back to set our own community agreements: new rules of engagement. Everyone’s voice was respected, which meant intentionally taking turns. We constantly took ‘temperature checks’ by asking how ideas landed on members, and we used hand signals during discussions to find out where we were in our thinking (5=totally in support; 1= take it off the table for another time). If a member was triggered and felt a painful reaction emerge during a session, we didn't breeze over those feelings, but rather took time to listen actively and offer comfort towards individual and community healing. While we did have one or two times when old-school ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’ voting was necessary, our starting point was always to build consensus and sift through concerns. That meant setting an agenda that embedded silence, prayer, and meditative walking throughout the day to foster reflection.
With those pieces in place, we found courage, understanding, and compassion, just as Christ did, and many of the Saints, like St. Photini, St. Katherine and, of course, our most Holy Theotokos. What we found is that, at the end of our meeting, our members left feeling whole, heard, nourished, and more energized than ever to continue the work and act on our decisions.
Unexpected bonus: in the weeks since we’ve gotten at least three times as much Axia work done than we usually do—so keep an eye out for upcoming events and activities, such as our prayer service on (September 20 and our October crafting fellowship.
Jennifer Nahas, a former program evaluator and an expert in organizational development, is our Secretary/Treasurer.