Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Wanted: Sustainable Community Flourishing Models/Methods

Written by: on April 29, 2015

Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone offer a window into wonderfully holistic engagement with ourselves and the world around us in their text Active Hope.

I appreciate that early on in their work the authors note that this is a text about practicing and doing more than it is a text about arriving or having per se. [1] Active Hope, being a practice, is applied and this application is accomplished in three stages: 1. take a clear view of reality; 2. identify what is hoped for; 3. act to move oneself and one’s situation in the hoped for direction. Encouragingly the authors note that Active Hope doesn’t require optimism, but instead functions on personal choice and intentionality. [2] Focusing on personal choice over determinism/fate allows the authors to emphasize that this is a book is about empowerment.

Now, I want to move even more toward the very beginning of the text in the Acknowledgements section. I found this section to wonderfully “prime the pump” per se for the entire narrative to come. The authors begin the book by referring to a saying from Thich Nhat Hanh that is a variation of the idea that one who is truly wise can see that all the world is contained within a grain of sand, “If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there would be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees we cannot make paper.”[3] I see this as profound, poignant imagery communicating the authors’ orientations related to their emphasis of their whole text being The Work That Reconnects.[4] As well, I found it encouraging to see the names of two people that have influenced the authors in their pursuits also having been people who have influenced me: Nelson Mandela and Elise Boulding. I am going to take the risk of assuming that Mandela is known at least peripherally known by most people by this point, but Elise Boulding was a wonderful educator who happened to also be Quaker. Boulding’s Quaker influences further guided her toward redemptive, reconciliatory, connective and sustainable education/community practices. Reading her work was very meaningful for me.

I greatly valued the diagram that shows the cyclically connective nature of what the authors propose is our participatory work in the world. [5]

It is this reconnective work that allows for what the authors have deemed should be the title of their work, Active Hope.

One way that Active Hope works itself out can been seen from the diagram – Gratitude. Gratitude allows us to be able to literally say, “enough is enough” and act upon such a statement. Gratitude allows us to mitigate and at best avoid the disease of Affluenza. As the authors note, gratitude can be an “antidote to consumerism’;[6] really an antidote to jealousy and avarice.

Finally, I appreciated the authors ending in Chapter 10 with Jared Diamond’s work Collapse. I have read most of Diamond’s works and have found him to be a keen observer of socio-cultural interaction. Collapse simply (well, sometimes not so simply…) stated from a comparative perspective what is the obvious outcome of unmitigated greed to a society and its surroundings: depletion moving to complete exhaustion of its resources leading to catastrophic failure of the society as a whole.

We can have Active Hope through self-limiting behavior that allows both our own selves and the community around us to sustainably flourish. This is the overarching message of Active Hope. It is a message which should particularly resonate with a church basing its paradigmatic worldview on the life of Jesus Christ.


[1] Joanna Macy & Christopher Johnstone, Active Hope (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012), 3.

[2] Ibid., 3.

[3] Ibid., xii.

[4] Ibid., xiv.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Ibid., 47.

About the Author

Clint Baldwin

2 responses to “Wanted: Sustainable Community Flourishing Models/Methods”

  1. Stefania Tarasut says:

    Clint, this is such an important line… “Gratitude allows us to be able to literally say, “enough is enough” and act upon such a statement.” I find it easy to say “enough” but there are many times when I say “enough, but…” or “after this purchase, I’ll have enough…”
    I pray that we would be so satisfied and Christ and so overflowing with gratitude that that would sustain us and give us strength to say “enough is enough” and act upon it.

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