Middle Project Leadership Lab

November 11, 2011 @ 11:49 am by Jacqui Lewis

Middle Project Young Adult Leadership Lab graduate Kerry Docherty shares these thoughts about relationships, learnings and being in a spiritual community.

Kerry Docherty, a lawyer, during a Middle Project Young Adult Leadership Laboratory.


I spent most of my spiritual life a loner. I would attend a religious service, sit in the back, and silently creep out the back door when it ended. Just when I resigned to the belief that I may never find a sangha (my spiritual community), I found Middle Church.

Soon after I attended my first service, Christina found me in the pews and provided me with a warm welcome. A couple months later, Jacqui and John posed the possibility of the The Middle Project Young Adult Leadership Lab. I was hesitant at first, reluctant to become an active member of the church community as I had been disappointed in the past. My previous exposure to youth groups focused on handholding, talks of love, and kumbayas. The Middle Project, however, proved much different. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely still a lot of warm fuzzies involved, and some singing, of course (thanks to Jacqui), but most of the time we get down and dirty, working on self-examination, honest communication, and intentional listening.

The Middle Project participants are diverse in every capacity, including race, profession, sexual orientation, and spiritual background. That being said, we all share a common denominator – a desire to integrate our spiritual faith into our everyday experiences. Many of us entered the project with practical questions: what does it mean to be a progressive Christian? How does my faith influence my community? How do I know what God has planned for me and how do I know what I should be asking for? How can I, if at all, be an effective leader (spiritual or otherwise)?

Though I hadn’t met many of the other “Middlers,” prior to the project, I felt an immediate connection as we began to openly share our stories, doubts, opinions, and struggles. Even when there were disagreements, we respected each other. We allowed each other to feel heard. And although I had a tendency to feel vulnerable during class, I often left feeling empowered, expanded, and supported in both thought and spirit.

Since then, my relationship with some of the Middlers has deepened into friendship. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong to a spiritual community.

What We Learn

Each Leadership Lab session has three different layers: (1) personal reflection, (2) our relationship with God, and (3) leadership in the community. In any given class, Jacqui and John effortlessly weave together academic exercises, experiential learning, and discussion groups. For example, in one of the first classes, we read articles on personality dynamics, took a personality test, and then did a sociommetry exercise, where we stood in different parts of the room to measure where people categorized themselves socially. The introverts then shared what it felt like to be in a room with extroverts and vice-versa. In another class, we explored the idea of “Being Storied,” where we read some of our very own Jacqui Lewis’ book, examined how the history of the United States has affected our current cultural issues – such as racism, inequality, and greed – and then shared with each other some of our own stories, stereotypes, and desires.

I left each class with a greater insight on the interplay between reflection, God, and community, and how these three jewels play out in the ordinary routines of life. By the end of class, my heart, mind, and stomach were full.

How The Middle Project Affects Work and World

The Middle Project is not focused on the esoteric or religious philosophical debate. Rather, the classes are centered on practical solutions to everyday problems. The class exercises encourage us to unearth our own strengths, insecurities, desires, and prayers and then explore how we can utilize them to effectuate change in our communities, be it at work, in school, or in our family. We’ve learned techniques such as how to communicate with difficult people at work, how to confront stereotypes, how to view our stories and histories from a different angle, and how to harness our power. Not only are we learning practical tools, but we are doing it in an environment that is both safe and challenging.

At this stage in my life, I’m still processing what my role is in this world – how I describe my faith, how my faith affects what job I pursue, how my faith affects how my interactions, how I can find my strengths and apply them, how to be an effective leader, what stereotypes I still harbor. Middle Project provided me with a safe environment to explore these questions, articulate some of my thoughts, and learn from the people around me. I would undoubtedly recommend the Project to anyone who has a lot of questions and wants to spend some time working through the answers with diverse, yet similarly passionate, individuals.

About This Blog

Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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