Thomas R. Hoerr
Talking to the Reverend
in many ways,
feel a sense
Thomas R. Hoerr is
head of school at the
New City School,
5209 Waterman Ave.,
St. Louis, MO 63108;
school.org. He is the
author of The Art of
(ASCD, 2005) and
for the Future (NAIS
The reverend and I were at the coffee shop, sharing backgrounds and philoso- phies and getting to know each other.
He didn’t look like a reverend, at least not to
my mind. He was fairly young, wearing jeans,
a turtleneck sweater, and a ski vest. I wore my
requisite tie and a sports coat. We were meeting
at my request, not for spiritual guidance but
because I was curious about how he went about
creating a sense of community in his church.
I often drove by his church on Sunday mornings and was struck by the crowded parking lot.
I’ve read about dwindling
church attendance, but
that wasn’t the case there.
Most of the parishioners I
saw entering or leaving the
church were young, often
with small children in tow.
“What’s going on?” I wondered. So I invited the reverend to meet me over coffee.
I believe people work and
learn best in a community.
Sure, there are times for
quiet contemplation, and
many people need “alone
time” for reflection. (I do.) But many significant
problems are more likely to be solved when
people come together and collaborate. Peter
Senge is often quoted as saying, “
Collaboration is vital to sustain what we call profound or
really deep change, because without it, organizations are just overwhelmed by the forces
of the status quo.” We credit Jonas Salk with
finding the cure for polio and Thomas Edison
with inventing the light bulb, but they were part
of research laboratories; even if they were the
smartest person in the room, they were part of a
learning community and gained from working
with and learning from others. This is Roland
Barth’s idea of collegiality.
A community offers safety, comfort, and trust
to its members. Each individual feels ownership
of the organization and its mission. In a com-
munity, people are not merely consumers who
use a service or employees who provide skills;
rather, they belong to the organization and work
to make it better.