Information :: In-Formation :: Formation
Information, processed, leads to the formation of ideas and attitudes.
A piece of information can be understood as a “thing”, an objective fact which can stand by itself. All pieces of information can be seen in this way.
Nevertheless, what we are really understanding is our perception of the “thing” out there. The way we perceive a thing determines what we think it is. No two people see any one thing in exactly the same way. No other person has my eyes, ears, or the other senses which enable me to register the presence of something other than myself. No other person has my nervous system and brain which process the stimuli coming from my senses. It is my interpretation of my perception that is the reality for me.
Yet we are social beings. There is also a community perception of things. When, through respectful listening and dialogue, we share our perceptions of things we develop a common understanding of things. We also come to share a common interpretation of the meaning certain things can have for us.
The things that we dialogue about take on a form or a pattern for all those involved in the dialogue. The commonly perceived and discussed things become in-formed, formed into common knowledge for those involved in the process.
This coming together of information, through communication, generates knowledge, wisdom, energy, growth and life.
The life of any living organism provides an illustration which, by analogy, can shed light on the process.
A living organism has a distinctive identity which is determined more by its DNA than by its constitutive elements. Through its own lines of communication, the DNA provides a pattern into which substances are incorporated, or in-formed, in a distinctive way. DNA has a communication function: allowing its organism to exchange messages, ensuring the organised maintenance and growth (and death) of the organism.
Over a period of time all the physical parts of the human body are replaced. Yet because of the DNA, the organising communication principle, which every living being has, a human body retains its distinct identity.
It is said that the outer skin of a living human body is renewed every four weeks, the liver changes every six and 98 per cent of all the cells in the human body are new every year. Growing old is built into the DNA communication program, so even when the skin of a 90 year old is replaced, it is “90-year-old” skin, for this person, complete with distinctive personal characteristics, according to the DNA program.
The church community is like a human body which has an internal organising principle, which programs the body of the Church never to grow old, because it is also the Body of the risen Jesus Christ. The organising principle is the Holy Spirit, a gift of God, which comes to the world and to the Church in a whole host of ways and is also manifested in prayerful dialogue.
Parts of the Church can fall away, when those parts lose their connection with the organising principle – the Holy Spirit. Other parts heal and grow as they are open to the Holy Spirit.
When the church community comes together in prayerful, reciprocating dialogue, it creates the conditions for the Holy Spirit to be effective in renewing the Body of the Church community, giving it energy and enthusiasm and allowing it to grow and respond effectively and creatively to the changing conditions in which it lives.
Prayerful, reciprocating dialogue is a key to new life in the church community. How well is it working in your church community?