Building a Culture of Understanding

Jun 2, 2021 | Beacon, Members News, News

Seventeen of us gathered on May 8 to share practices used in Restorative Justice circles to help people understand each other and restore relationships broken by hurt and attachment to perspectives and opinions.  The practice of reflective listening slows things down and provides people with the space to be fully heard.  Usually, once people experience being heard, they can open up to hearing others.

We started with a demonstration of reflective listening using a hypothetical topic:  Should East Shore be called a church?  Or should it be called something else?  Members of the Restorative Practice sub team of the Right Relations Team staged the demonstration, and then invited others to join in – to share their thoughts on the topic, or to reflect back what they heard from someone else – a practice that opens us up to hearing anew.  While the process was the focus of the session, some interesting things came up about the topic as well!

And during the discussion following the demonstration, people noted that this process does not produce consensus or validate someone’s notion of truth.  It does not necessarily create agreement.  It does create deeper understanding and appreciation of other’s feelings, values and views.  People were more comfortable with the disagreement and valued what they learned about a different perspective – things they hadn’t thought of before.  And most important, they felt more connection with and appreciation for each other.

We explored the possibility that these methods could help us address some of the underlying tensions that currently exist in our congregation, and that they could form an approach for future conflicts and controversies.  Some participants noted that it takes more than these practices to restore or maintain relationships.  It takes a willingness to risk, to trust, to be vulnerable, to examine strongly held views, and to engage with others with whom we may have a strong disagreement. These practices can create a container, an opportunity, a guided methodology.  What we bring to this container is up to us.

We invite your thoughts!

The Right Relations Team
Carrie Bowman, Mark Norelius, Sue Yates, Louise Wilkinson, Mary Anderson, Susan MacDonald, Milly Mullarky, Maury Edwards, Nancy Barnes, Michelle Danley, Mike Radow