Dear Members and Friends,
This coming Sunday I will facilitate a congregational conversation regarding the Capital Campaign Construction work. A few weeks ago, the architect shared the plans for replacing the windows, chancel, and the floor. This Sunday provides an opportunity for members to share your thoughts, questions, and concerns.
This past Sunday I shared my plan for our Shared Transitional Ministry. You can watch it here and view the slides here. As your Transitional Minister, I will not make significant decisions for the Congregation outside of the Transitional Ministry work. I will reflect back to you and your leaders what I am hearing and seeing. The work of Shared Transitional Ministry is yours—my job is to hold the space in which important and essential conversations can be held. Years from now, you will be here while I will not.
Some of you have asked about my approach to Conflict Transformation. The goals for the work of Conflict Transformation in congregations are:
- To help us understand how our own minds and bodies respond to conflict—and learn new ways of responding.
- To develop skills for responding to conflict in relationships in a healthy and productive manner.
- To understand the cycles of conflict and systems in congregational life.
- To develop Congregational practices in which conflict can be treated as an opportunity for growth rather than a crisis of division.
I take these from Rev. Terasa Cooley’s thoughtful book, Conflict Transformation. Rev. Cooley is a UU interim minister who used to head the New England district and then region. She also enumerates practices that enable Conflict Transformation:
- Live in Shared Covenant — Agree on what we promise one another.
- Cultivate deep listening skills among a growing number of members.
- Increase individual awareness of reactivity & how trauma lives in our bodies.
- Hold spaces, small and large, where people share honestly and openly.
- Create brave space, seeking to make all spaces safe.
- Intentionally include all voices, especially those not dominant.
- Open conversations on how white privilege contributes to our behaviors and how power differentials exist in relationships — and how greater awareness and sensitivity allows the Congregation to become more inclusive and welcoming.
The work of Conflict Transformation begins with the core leadership. I look forward to beginning this work with the Board of Trustees.
I know there are a lot of questions how this work unfolds. It is not something done quickly. It takes time to rebuild trust. This is why I believe this Shared Transitional Ministry will take at least two to three years.
I look forward to seeing many of you in worship—remember it’s Cornbread Communion that we take in the spirit of Thanksgiving and we shall lift up the commitment of this congregation to be welcoming of all people, including our LGBTQ+ neighbors!
PS: In the spirit of this message, I share with you a favorite poem from William Stafford.
“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors around us
storming out to wreck through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.