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Leading Diverse Communities

Leading Diverse Communities: A How-To Guide for Moving from Healing into Action
by Cherie R. Brown and George J. Mazza
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004
192 pages
Reviewed by Karen L. Erlichman

Many spiritual directors as well as directees are engaged in social justice work and community organizing around a variety of issues such as homelessness, global warming, and racism. Others are actively involved in community building, interfaith dialogue, education, and training regarding issues of diversity regarding race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. Fortunately, there are a small but growing number of books and materials of use to those who would like to integrate the practice of spiritual direction with social justice activism and community diversity.

Leading Diverse Communities is an excellent practical handbook that could easily be used by spiritual directors and educators who lead groups in a variety of settings. Leading Diverse Communities is a hands-on, ready to use tool kit that outlines thirty-two leadership principles in a brief, concise, and useful manner. The book divides these principles into four chapters, and each chapter section briefly describes a leadership principle, followed by a related theory, example, and an activity that can be done to further explore the topic. In addition, each chapter concludes with a worksheet for journaling and exploration.

The four chapter themes are as follows: “Building Environments to Welcome Diversity,” “Healing Ourselves to Change the World,” “Becoming Effective Allies,” and “Empowering Leaders to Lead.” Each chapter outlines a handful of principles that reflect the theme. For example, chapter two includes nine principles of leadership, such as “Diversity leadership requires reclaiming courage” (p. 62).  I was particularly drawn to this section because it connects the journey of individual healing with the practice of transforming our communities.

Even though there is no explicit mention of any theological, religious, or spiritual perspective, and no mention of God, I was able to read the book with a God centered lens, sit with some of the principles, and use them as affirmations or resources for prayer. At the end of each section’s worksheet, one could easily add a question like How might you bring this topic to prayer? or How is God present for you in this leadership principle?

Leading Diverse Communities concludes with an “Assessment Worksheet for Moving from Healing into Action” (p. 159) that is a wonderful resource for congregations and other organizations who are “moving from healing into action” around interfaith dialogue and creating a more inclusive, diverse community. As our global spiritual direction community becomes increasingly diverse, this book is a much needed contemporary and progressive addition to the traditional canon of resources.

Karen Lee Erlichman, MSS, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in San Francisco, California, USA where she provides psychotherapy and spiritual direction. Her writing has appeared in Tikkun, and online at interfaithfamily.com.

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