Meeting notes by Efrain Zavala and Joshua Warner
What is the purpose of conversation, in our context?
In my mind, conversations should not be primarily intended to change minds. It seems to me that we are constantly exposed to fruitless debates where people just want to get their point across without giving themselves the opportunity to learn from others. Conversations can be carried as a way to connect with other people and learn about them. Perhaps as Christians, we could approach the conversation as a spiritual discipline. What difference would that make in our ministry settings? Could we think of dialogue as a “trialogue,” of which God is also an important part?
Jody: To identify common ground…in what ways can we and do we agree? More importantly, our conversations should also be used to develop an understanding of where the other person is coming from, why they think the way they think, and why they believe the way they believe.
Meredith: One thing I try to stay aware of is who’s voice is NOT included in the conversation. How will we include those who do not use technology? Will our youth voices be included? What about people who shy away from such a public format but prefer more intimate settings, and are not “joiners”? How will we capture them in the conversation?
- Every person is a child of God
- Listen before speaking
- Strive to understand from another’s point of view
- Strive to reflect accurately the views of others
- Disagree without being disagreeable
- Speak about issues; do not defame people
- Pray, in silence or aloud, before decisions.
Can we find anything in scriptures that point us to the importance of fruitful, respectful, courageous conversations?
Efrain: Could we apply the three simple rules (do no harm, do good, stay in love with God) to the way we conduct our conversations? What difference would that make?
Jody: We need to incorporate and apply the Quadrilateral (scripture, tradition, reason, and experience) as part of the ways in which we conduct our conversations.
When we engage in fruitful conversations, some agreements are necessary. Important agreements that have to be made include:
- To be courageous and reach out to others
- To be respectful and empathetic
- To speak for yourself
Jody: To be authentic
Fruitful conversations require that we are aware of the different dynamics in our conversations. An important question we could ask ourselves is “Who is included in the conversation?” Are kids included? How about people who speak different languages, or have different abilities?
How can we get churches and church leaders involved?
Jody: Our conversations need to be not only within the context of our churches but between churches.
It is hard to have fruitful conversations when they are forced. So, what format would facilitate a more fruitful conversation?
Judy: The role of listening as part of our conversations. One thing I learned in CPE during my pastoral training was the importance and value of listening – actively listening – without forming responses before the individual who is speaking is even finished.
Ann: Cross-pollination of ideas is a good thing.
- “The Gift to Listen, the Courage to Hear,” by Cari Jackson
- I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Still Listening): a guide to grace-filled political conversations, by Sarah Stewart Holland
These resources and several others are available at www.dscumc.org/way-forward/resources.
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