God’s Tapestry Conversation Continues

“God’s Tapestry” – The conversation about racial reconciliation continues.  Clergy and other parishioners engage this vital but challenging conversation about race and God’s mission of reconciliation in light of recent events in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md., and Charleston, S.C.
Facilitators (9:30 a.m.): The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, The Reverend Joslyn Ogden Schaefer

Guidelines for Communication Across Difference based on work by VISIONS, Inc.

1.    “Try on” new ideas and perspectives.
2.    It’s okay to disagree.
3.    It’s not okay to shame, blame or attack.
4.    Practice self-focus – as much as possible use “I-statements” instead of “We” or “They.”
5.    Notice both process (how we say things, who is saying things) and content (what is being said).
6.    Practice “both/and” thinking.  More than one thing can be true at the same time.
7.    Be aware of both the intent and the impact of your message.  Be willing to give and receive feedback about the impact of our words upon others.  Be willing to say “ouch” and explain why something didn’t sit well with you.
8.    Confidentiality – Please don’t share details of another person’s story outside the group.  You are encouraged to share your story and general perspective and learnings from the course.
9.    It’s okay to be messy.

St. Peter’s Parish Vision [is to become]
a community of bold followers of Jesus;
a crowd that effects good change for the world;
a place known for radical love and welcome; and
a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.

Background for Reconciliation Work in the Life of St. Peter’s
The mystery of creation and the human condition calls each of us to understand and celebrate differences that make each of us who we are as God’s beloved children, made equally in the image of God (imago Dei).  Regardless of our natural cautions and generalizations, inherited perspectives, and even experience-based positions about the “other,” reconciliation is a central aspect of “An Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism” in The Book of Common Prayer.  Specifically, we are reminded [Catechism] that the “mission of the Church” is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

Rooted in The Baptismal Covenant, Episcopal Christians and all people, for that matter, are invited (and vow) to: strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being; seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; proclaim the by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; and persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and turn to the Lord.”  All of this is vowed to be done “with God’s help.”  More than ever, the world needs the Church, the body of Christ, to lead the change that the world both needs and desires, but quite easily and naturally does not know where to begin the journey of reconciliation.

After St. Peter’s March 6-8 Lenten Reconciliation Retreat Weekend facilitated by the Rev. Dr. William Kondrath, author of God’s Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences, parishioner Jim Bartos posted the following on March 23 on St. Peter’s “God’s Tapestry” Blog (www.st-peters.org)
“Ouch,” she said. Barely had the Lenten retreat at St. Peter’s concluded. There was the usual post-event chatter in the parish hall. Participants were lining up to thank the retreat leader, Dr. Bill Kondrath, for challenging and (yes) entertaining us. It was good. And thanking Joslyn for making it happen. And saying good-bye to the familiar and the brand new friends. And then she said “Ouch” to me and the two of us, in our own mini-retreat, added a coda on an informative, thoughtful event. Did I say challenging? My new friend, a St. Peter’s member whom I had seen at Sunday Eucharist many times, but always from a distance and never spoken to before, put into practice one of the guidelines for the retreat: be aware of intent and impact, and when the impact hurts say “Ouch” and so she did and so we both learned. I learned that no matter what I meant or did not mean, what I do/say can cause pain in another. And not necessarily wanting to speak for anyone else (another learning that weekend), I rather suspect she learned how courageous she could be to admit her vulnerability to a relative stranger (me). So we talked, and learned, and grew. And it was very good. — Jim Bartos

Questions to Guide Our Conversation on May 31

1.    As you reflect on the various reports of racial injustice and unrest, particularly in light of recent police-involved shootings, what Biblical stories come to mind?
2.    What feelings have you had or do you have now when we think about this issue or hear about these news stories?
3.    What do you “do” with your feelings?
4.    Where do you see hope in the neighborhood, local, state or national context?  How do you think God’s Spirit is moving among us to enable reconciliation?

Retreat Reflection by Jim Bartos

“Ouch,” she said. Barely had the Lenten retreat at St. Peter’s concluded. There was the usual post-event chatter in the parish hall. Participants were lining up to thank the retreat leader, Dr. Bill Kondrath, for challenging and (yes) entertaining us. It was good. And thanking Joslyn for making it happen. And saying good-by to the familiar and the brand new friends. And then she said “Ouch” to me and the two of us, in our own mini-retreat, added a coda on an informative, thoughtful event. Did I say challenging? My new friend, a St. Peter’s member whom I had seen at Sunday Eucharist many times, but always from a distance and never spoken to before, put into practice one of the guidelines for the retreat: be aware of intent and impact, and when the impact hurts say “Ouch” and so she did and so we both learned. I learned that no matter what I meant or did not mean, what I do/say can cause pain in another. And not necessarily wanting to speak for anyone else (another learning that weekend), I rather suspect she learned how courageous she could be to admit her vulnerability to a relative stranger (me). So we talked, and learned, and grew. And it was very good.

Jim Bartos

Understanding and celebrating our differences can be hard to do!

josI’m re-reading Dr. Kondrath’s book God’s Tapestry as part of our “Parish-Wide Lenten Read.” I first encountered much of the content for this book when I attended Episcopal Divinity School, though some of the book’s ideas were familiar to me from past work training. Some of you will be familiar with the content of Chapter 1, where Dr. Kondrath presents the “Guidelines for Recognizing and Valuing Difference,” as I’ve used them in several St. Peter’s contexts, including a Parish Hall Forum series on Outreach and Social Justice and at the beginning of retreats.

Each time I read or work with the Guidelines I uncover new insights that help me become a more effective communicator and more compassionate human being.

For those of you not able to read along with us, here are the Guidelines, and a few personal reflections on each one:

1 – Try on new ideas, new feelings, new behaviors.
I don’t know about you, but judging situations comes quickly and naturally for me. This guideline challenges me to a) become conscious of my ideas, feelings and behavior in a given situation and b) consider experimenting with another approach.

2 – It’s okay to disagree. It’s not okay to shame, blame or attack oneself or others.
Growing up as a woman in South, I learned disagreement was something to be avoided at all costs!  Much better to be polite than to “make waves.” But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized there is a real cost to always “keeping the peace,” beginning with a cost to my integrity. The trick for me has been practicing the ability to disagree and maintain healthy relationships. More and more, I understand that healthy, respectful conflict is a sign of relational strength, not failure.

3 – Practice self-focus.
So much of this guideline resonates with mindfulness practice and Jesus’ teachings about staying alert and awake. The more I can be in touch with my emotional reactions to a situation, the more consciously and grace-fully I can respond.

4 – Practice “both/and” thinking.
This one is so challenging because we live in an “either/or” culture in which we yearn to quantify and qualify everything. “What is the “right” thing to do?” “What is the “best” way forward?” These types of questions imply either/or thinking. But I am hopeful as Anglicans we might have some intuition to ask, “What is the middle way?” What if there are at least two “right ways”? What if there is no “best”?

5 – Be aware of intent and impact.
This language provides a way forward in many interpersonal conflicts. I was in a meeting where a man used a derogatory term in describing a specific woman. His intent was to describe his strong negative feelings about this particular woman. However, the impact of his using that term was hurtful to me and to several other women. By using terms like “intent” and “impact,” we can own our feelings about situations without assigning blame.

6 – Take 100% responsibility for one’s own learning.
As a white person it is easy for me to surround myself with other white people, predominantly white media, and white culture. Yet I want also want to grow in my understanding and appreciation of multiculturalism. This guideline invites me to go out of my comfort zone and spend time in places and situations where I am the minority.

7- Maintain confidentiality.
Nothing violates trust more quickly not being able to honor another person’s story theirs, not mine. It can take practice to say “I hope to talk to so-and-so directly about that,” but once you get into the habit, you’ll enjoy not being draw in to unnecessary gossip or contributing to unnecessary drama.

8 – It’s okay to be messy.
Like guideline # 2 about disagreement, for some reason growing up I got the cultural message that relationships needed to always be polite and if conflict emerged to snuff it out as soon as possible. Permission to be messy recognizes that conflict and difference can take time to truly understand and eventually celebrate. The key is everyone being committed to working through the mess, instead of running away.

9 – Say ouch.
I have a fear of being perceived as “weak” or “too emotional,” and at times that fear prohibits me from honestly communicating when I’ve been hurt. This guideline establishes the norm that genuine relational work will sometimes result in hurt feelings. We don’t do anyone favors if we consistently keep hurt feelings to ourselves.  

Feel free to contact me at anytime if you’d like to discuss the content of the book further. I look forward to being with many of you this weekend at the retreat.

Wishing all of us Lenten Mercy –

 

Joslyn+