Spirit is associated with religion, but also encompasses the life force that animates the bodies of living things, the enthusiasm that fans show toward their sports teams and the creative spirit of the arts.
Although you can’t physically see, taste, hear or smell spirit, you can feel it. Spirit often represents the highest aspirations of humankind.
The Spirit of ’76 is the phrase associated with the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the revolutionary feeling of colonial America in 1776.
Representing a step in the evolution of human governance, Americans were excited that their new nation would derive its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” Never before had a government been instituted based on “the consent of the governed.”
The founders proposed an ideal of governance that did not yet exist and whose promise we still aspire to fulfill. And that is what spirit does. It causes us to “aspire to fulfill.”
Tom and Carolyn Albright founded Ripple in 2006, as a community-focused Christian church serving inner city residents of Allentown, Pennsylvania; a city that, like many others, lost its prosperity when it lost its largest industries.
Their congregation has embraced “restorative practices,” its principles and processes, as a practical way to have a “ripple effect in our community by sharing Christ’s love through acts of kindness and cultivating healthy relationships.” For example, in the summer of 2014, Ripple offered a 4-week restorative practices course, with a tuition cost of $1 per session.
The course gave people the opportunity to participate in and learn about circles and other restorative practices; how to use them to resolve conflict; and about the basic premise of restorative practices—that it’s usually best to do things with people, rather than to them or for them.
At the closing “graduation” circle, participants had an opportunity to appreciate the empowerment strategies that the Albrights and their colleagues—other volunteer pastors—are using to build a new reality in downtown Allentown.
FaithCARE, a part of Shalem Mental Health Network in Ontario, Canada, brings restorative practices to faith communities struggling with conflicts in their congregation, helping them resolve their issues through a series of open and honest conversations held in facilitated circles.
As the FaithCARE website notes, “One of the mysteries of faith is that some of the most difficult, painful and damaging conflicts between people take place in church settings,” leaving “people hurt and embittered—perhaps even questioning their faith.”
Since 2007, FaithCARE facilitators have helped over 30 Ontario houses of worship, representing a variety of denominations, deal with a range of conflicts including situations of great intensity. Congregation members have expressed that “we would not have been able to move from our pain and conflict to where we are now without the support of FaithCARE.”
As the website further advises, “Everyone has a voice, and the process is always invitational.”
Spirit of Champions
Green Bay Packers football team is the only major sports franchise in North America whose fans own the team. By engaging with its fans, the Green Bay Packers football team has an unshakable base of support that securely anchors the team to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It’s a city of only a hundred thousand people, while much bigger cities see their sports teams move away, much to the consternation of local fans.
In Europe, a growing number of teams have become fan-owned football teams, particularly in the U.K., where there are a number of “protest” or “phoenix” teams that have been formed in response to dissatisfaction with private owners, or when teams have shut down. Whether fans owning teams is a trend that will spread to other locales, including the U.S., is an open question.
But the spirit associated with the Green Bay Packers, as well as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid—two of Europe’s most successful football (soccer) teams—demonstrates how sports teams can thrive when their fans own them.
Spirit is the underlying motivation for a new reality that honors the worth of all human beings and infuses democracy into everyday life.
Writer Kerra Bolton interviews Detroit’s Henry McClendon, who comments, “To me, ‘restorative’ means bringing something back to its original intent. It means helping family be a real family, helping communities resolve problems, repairing harm, and strengthening relationships.”
Elections foster more conflict than conversation. However, under the right conditions, people with different political views can have a good conversation and even get to like one another.