Unfolding plans 79 – the Independent Chapel

Chapel Street runs from West to East across the top of Manchester.  It is on the boundary between the city to the south and Salford to the north.  I think it might be in Salford, which is a city in itself.  I don’t know if it is eponymous but there is a chapel within the street, just near the junction with New Bailey Street and round the corner from Salford Central Station.  I think that should be a clue as to where the chapel is.

It is called the Independent Chapel and was erected in 1819 if I can read Roman numerals correctly.  It is a small dirty brick building set slightly back from the road. Now I don’t consider myself as a religious person, spiritual perhaps but not religious.  I’ve raised this before yet I am interested in the history that such buildings tell you.  If you want to learn about the place you are in then start with the local church, or chapel.

I haven’t been in the building.  It’s near where my youngest lives and so I’ve passed by it many times.  That’s not the point of this tale though.

What I wanted to talk about was the sign that appeared on the notice board out front.  It wasn’t there the last time or at least I hadn’t noticed but having seen it and read I’ve been giving it a lot of thought.

The sign read ‘Come in, we may not have all the answers but we can work together on the big questions.’  It has reminded of the book ‘A more beautiful question – The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas’ by Warren Berger.  In the book, the author focussed on using questions to improve outcomes.  Rather than being prescriptive in what we are hoping to achieve we should use questions to shape the way that people are thinking and this will in turn improve outcomes.  So, to get a better outcome we need to ask better questions and the more beautiful the question then the more successful will be the outcome.

What I liked about the notice was that it appealed to me on various levels.  They didn’t try to out-smart me or belittle me by suggesting that within their walls lay the answers to the world’s problems and all I had to do was to come in.  That would have been too much like a snake-oil salesman.  What they did do was to pique my interest.  Perhaps I would have liked to go in and talk about some of life’s imponderables.  Perhaps I’m not looking directly for answers but rather want to be part of the dialogue that moves our thinking forward.

I found it to be an interesting stance for a religious organisation.  In effect they were saying that God is not necessarily a solution but instead an answer to some of the most difficult questions that we face.  If we want to find the answers then we need to work together to make sure we are asking the right questions.

Is there a difference between what the chapel is trying to do and what we are up to at work?  The scale is perhaps different yet the principle could still be applied.  It’s odd where inspiration or intervention can come from.  It may even be divine.

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