Ridgefield pastor shares wisdom at Vienna conference

Ridgebury Congregational Church Pastor Debbie Rundlett connected with colleagues from across the globe at the International Academy of Management, Spirituality and Religion's conference in Vienna, Austria.

Ridgebury Congregational Church Pastor Debbie Rundlett connected with colleagues from across the globe at the International Academy of Management, Spirituality and Religion's conference in Vienna, Austria.

Debbie Rundlett

RIDGEFIELD – As well as engaging with colleagues from across the globe, Ridgefield pastor Debbie Rundlett learned how leaders experienced wisdom at the conference for the International Academy of Management, Spirituality and Religion held in Vienna, Austria that she attended earlier this month.

The academy encompasses different divisions and special interest groups –  the Management, Spirituality and Religion group is one of the most widely attended groups, said Rundleett, who, along with her roles as pastor of the Ridgebury Congregational Church and director of The Meetinghouse at Ridgebury Commons, works as an organizational development practitioner and a global coach and facilitator. 

“It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it,” she said, about the group. “In a time when institutional religion is in decline, you see this extraordinary increase in interest coming from management faculty and researchers.”

Rundlett left for the Vienna conference Sept. 5, returning Sept. 9. Welcoming colleagues from across four continents and 17 countries, Rundlett said part of gathering and making the trip to Vienna was to “look at the commonality that we’re already seeing across the globe – this sense of shared desire to actually make a difference.”

“As we come out of the pandemic, what are the opportunities then to extend care in an intentional way that actually don’t just build back but instead build forward in a way that honors our interdependence, our care for the environment, our attention to social justice issues,” Rundlett said in regard to what was discussed at the conference. 

By gathering at the conference, Rundlett said she and her colleagues looked at the goals they’d need to meet in order to address those global issues.

Additionally, each conference attendee presented a position paper that examined the intersection of management, spirituality and religion.

For her own paper, Rundlett was inspired by the interviews she conducted with 50 Ridgefield leaders to learn where they were experiencing wisdom; she also conducted 25 interviews with global leaders as a comparison.

Rundlett said her interviews began with questions that related to her interviewees’ experiences, such as how they experienced wisdom in their bodies. The responses, she said, were beautiful and varied, with many of her interviewees saying they experienced wisdom in their heart or solar plexus. 

Another question asked about the ways in which wisdom is important to equipping 21st Century leaders. 

Rundlett said she really appreciated how consistently the leaders she interviewed talked about the importance of compassion, of wanting to understand what the others are saying as opposed to simply responding out of their own world views and perspectives. As well as naming times in which they felt compassion, she said her subjects named times in which they “got hooked and returned to apologize and came back with new ears.”

Whether their practices were tied to a particular faith tradition or practices of silence and solitude, Rundlett said many of the people she interviewed engaged in mindfulness practices, and all of them understood the importance of “having moments of stillness to collect one’s thoughts to not be reactive.”

Rundlett described Ridgefield as “a community of leaders,” adding, “All of our relationships – whether it’s local or statewide, national or global – impact one another.”

“I think people really care and I think if we can untap their agency, it will be amazing what we can collectively accomplish for the flourishing of our communities,” Rundlett said. “We’re at the end of a 5,000-year cycle, and with the end of significant cycles comes challenge, and out of challenge comes opportunity to create in new ways and to actually move to a new level of consciousness, a new level of understanding of what it means to be a community. What in our dark times are we going to give birth to? I believe we have the capacity to give birth to a new renaissance that honors body, mind and soul - not just of the ones but of the whole.”