Some time ago there was an anthropologist who lived for a long while with a North American tribe. It was a small group of about this size. The hunter-gatherers have typically lived in groups of twenty to forty. Agricultural group units are much larger. Now, from time to time that tribe met like this, in a circle. They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader. And everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more-- the older ones-- but everybody could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well. Then they could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.
A couple of weeks ago we tried something I call the Open Round Table in an attempt to exercise a new way to do leadership or elders at our church. It was open to anyone from the community who is interested in the church and has its welfare at heart. No one was excluded. I was quite nervous going into the meeting because I had no idea who was going to be there, how many, and what was going to happen. I had no agenda, except that we needed a handful of people who could make final financial decisions and deal with delicate matters. I was hoping that we would learn how to dialog as a community, and that this would facilitate care for the community. I was pleasantly surprised. About 40 people showed up. We gathered into a large circle. At first it felt very awkward, with long stretches of silence with us just looking around the room. But eventually conversation started and I believe true dialog occurred. I gave a little preamble to explain why we were doing this. As a part of this preamble I read this passage from an essay of quantum physicist David Bohm, "On Dialog and Its Application":