Human beings have stood outside at night looking up at the stars over centuries on centuries and wondered, “What or who is out there?” “Why am I here?” “Who am I?” “Who and what and where are those points of light?”, “How did it all come into being?” and “What does it all mean?”
In our interpersonal relationships we ask ourselves a related set of soul-searching questions: “Who am I?” “What makes me special?” “Why am I here?” “Why am I so different?” “How do I fit in?” “How am I like other people?” “Who am I in relation to others?”
Both sets of questions can lead human beings to reflect on the incredible diversity and uniqueness of life, as well as on the vast unity and connection in all life. On the one hand, we know of billions of life forms on Earth ranging from single celled organisms to gigantic creatures: plants, mammals, rodents, insects, bacteria, molds, and more and more.
These life forms have a huge variety of characteristics and live in a vast array of environments. Within each species and category of life, we find differences making each individual unique. And that is only what we know about this one planet at this point in time. The incredible diversity of life is a fact.
At the same time, at a distant point in the universe looking back towards earth, we human beings appear as one, living as companions on our shared planet. In a similar way, when someone gazes from afar at my family or a group or congregation I belong to, we are seen as pointing in the same direction, sharing characteristics, perspectives, and understandings of how to be in the world.
We are clearly completely interrelated and form one whole, undivided unit. These perspectives appear diametrically opposed and yet they are both true. We are inescapably interconnected and at the same time we are separate, unique and independent.
Individual human beings do not act and respond in isolation, but as part of a larger system that has developed and is perpetuated over time.
Family and congregational systems work focuses on learning to recognize the patterns of interaction and emotional responses between people in a particular family or congregation, then intentionally making changes in one’s own functioning aimed at optimizing the positive functioning and overall health of the system.
The central challenge of systems theory is to sit at the kitchen table with family, or to enter a place of worship with others from our faith tradition, while being aware of and living out our uniqueness and distinctness from others, and at the same time being aware of and living out our unity and connection.
Systems work is about consciously and intentionally being a unique part of a larger whole. If you have that all figured out, this website is not for you. If you still have work to do and want to engage the challenge, keep reading.