David Sibbet | Community Building
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bobdentonI like to think of my life as a tapestry, with all the threads from people who have influenced me woven together with my own abilities and interests. One of the strongest threads is from my godfather, Dr. Robert Denton, or Dr. Bob as people in Bishop, California called him. He died October 28 at age 95. I gave this tribute at his memorial Saturday, November 18, 2017.


“I met Bob Denton at age four when his wife Betty along with other leaders of the First Presbyterian Church in Bishop asked my father, Laing Sibbet, to be their pastor. Dad was fresh from seminary in San Anselmo and a pastor in the Two Rock Presbyterian Church near Petaluma. Bob and Betty took it upon themselves to introduce Dad and our whole family to the East Side—fishing, hunting, its people, and its culture of independence and resilience in the high desert.

Our families were very close, and I learned from Bob what it meant to be an adult man in service to a community. His influence has been a warp thread in my weaving—the long threads on the loom that hold the others as the years create their patterns.

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As summer heats up, I’m thinking ahead to the fall and Leading as Sacred Practice (LASP), the week-long conference that Gisela Wendling, Alan Briskin, Holger Scholz and I will be facilitating this October 23-27 (2017) at IONS’ Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California. Last year’s gathering in Germany was exceptional and some are coming back a second time, so I’m looking forward with anticipation. But it’s taken on some new meaning and urgency.stringofbeads

I began to feel strained several weeks ago supporting the launch of The Grove’s Global Learning & Exchange Network (GLEN) while simultaneously starting a year-long Leading Change Program in Minnesota for a cohort of 20 participants from several agencies in the Metropolitan Council. This last program ended with an inspiring “stringing-of-the-beads”; more on that later.

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My struggle to make sense of this new era of Trump has sent me back to my journals to look for longer threads and themes. I’m having an old feeling. It’s one I associate with the time of the assassinations in the 1960s, the lying during the Nixon and Johnson years, and the warmongering of the Bush years. In such times of disruption in my mental model of a world that progresses—carefully inculcated by my post-war teachers—I am thrown into questions.

Finding myself back in the questions again, I came across a journal entry from December 1994, recounting a talk with my friend Bob Horn about postmodernism. Our talk began with a review of Walter Truett Anderson’s schematic of the postmodern challenge:

postmodernchallenge-94

As Bob drew the boxes, I had wondered at the casualness with which he could lay down a box and label it “postmodernism”, as if all the perceptions and theorizing and turmoil of the times could be neatly packaged in a historian’s bow. “I won’t say anything,” I thought. “I’ll listen past it to the meaning.” Meanwhile, in my own mind I began to frame a story of fragmentation and return, of choices and confusion.

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trump_clinton_vote“This is what our democracy stands for, the smooth transition of power.” Obama’s words came in the deliberate, stately cadence that we’ve all heard so many times over the last eight years. “I’ve asked my team to do everything possible to ensure that the new President elect can hit the ground running” he said. “George Bush’s team did that for us when we took office.”

We are going to miss this intelligent, civilized man and his family. Riding waves of populist anger, the quintessential infotainment tongue surfer is our next President. And where will this take us all?

As a student and practitioner of change, I hold a few assumptions as I think about all this.

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