Right Relations: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

By Mary Anderson and Louise Wilkinson

We are an enthusiastic, dedicated team with ambitious goals for East Shore. We know that if we build trust and mutual understanding within our community, we can create a church that lives our faith and values, and practices love even within disagreement and conflict. We can increase the equity among voices and leadership, deepen our connection with one another at East Shore, and fully include the marginalized among us. This will allow us to grow our faith, grow in number, and become an increasingly important voice in the larger community.

To those ends, the Right Relations Committee has been busy, albeit somewhat behind the scenes to date, but we are ready to burst out in service to the entire congregation.

First a little background. The Right Relations Committee was established as a standing committee of the Board of Trustees this past May. However, work had begun months before on restoring and enhancing trust among us.
Since the inception of right relations work at East Shore in February 2017:
• The Committee sponsored two all-church workshops one on diversity and the other on conflict resolution.
• The Right Relations Committee presented an all-church Covenant of Right Relations at this past June’s Annual Meeting which was adopted by the membership.
• The Right Relations Committee established a menu of guidelines for committees and teams to create their own set of guidelines. This helps to embed the principles of right relations into the culture of our teams.
• A Right Relations Facilitation Team was recruited and trained to coach individuals to address a conflict they are having with another person. We are all discovering the power of this process to reveal underlying needs and perspectives and to discover areas of connection and caring.
• Currently the Facilitation Team is creating approaches for enhancing relationships and effectiveness within team meetings. Committee member Mark Norelius has already been serving as a right relations consultant on the Holly House Development Task Force. Please stay tuned for more information in 2019.
• The Right Relations Committee, Facilitation Team, Beloved Racial Justice Team, and People of Color group all have worked with consultant (and right relations mentor) Pam Orbach of Empowering Connections to enhance their compassionate listening skills, developing trust and brave community.

But that’s not all! In 2019, Right Relations will begin offering monthly gatherings for discussion on a variety of topics using compassionate conversation skills. The purpose is to create a space where trust and openness become the norm even in areas of disagreement. This will help us increase understanding and connection among those in different areas of the church including the marginalized among us. This is an exciting prospect just in the planning stages.

And, there’s more! We have engaged Pam Orbach, the restorative practitioner who has been working with us for the past 9 months, to continue her work with East Shore throughout 2019. She will begin with the Board of Trustees and other leaders within the congregation conducting restorative circles which will explore and build community.

And still more! Watch East Shore’s Adult Program schedule for a course in Compassionate Communication 101. This will offer everyone the opportunity to learn new skills and enhance the effectiveness and depth of their communication.

Remember this! The Right Relations Facilitation Team continues to be available to provide guidance and coaching if you would like assistance with an interpersonal problem or conflict. Members of the Facilitation Team are Dave Porter, Michelle Danley, Peter Sugarman, Milly Mullarky, Mike Radow, and Jennifer Sumner. The Right Relations Committee is comprised of Mary Anderson, Mark Norelius, Jose Garcia and Aisha Hauser all under the leadership of Louise Wilkinson, Chair.