3.2 - Developing our Community - Exploring a Dilemma

3.2 – Developing our Community – Exploring a Dilemma (55 minutes)

Materials needed: Copies of Scenario Response Worksheet (3.2a or 3.2b). Pencils or pens.

Purpose of piece: To use a scenario to reveal participants’ thoughts about how various tensions manifest, provide an opportunity to create a common understanding of the issues, and strategize future responses.

Facilitator’s Note: Two scenarios are provided so that you might select the one that is most appropriate for your group. Each has its own handout version. Skilled facilitators who are aware of a particularly relevant issue that the community is facing may want to write out an alternative scenario and use that in place of those printed below. Keep in mind the degree to which it aligns with the specific tensions highlighted in this chapter, and modify the exercise accordingly.

Facilitator’s Note: To prepare for implementation of this section, reflect on the first question yourself and develop possible answers regarding what tensions exist in this scenario that relate to the book content. Share these with the participants as prompts as you begin the exercise.

Say to group: Read this scenario silently to yourself. Then answer the first set of prompts on the worksheet: 1) what are the tensions in this scenario, 2) to what degree do the themes in this scenario play out in communities of which you are a part, where do you think they come from (culturally, theologically, etc.), or how are they supported, 3) how is privilege and/or racism manifesting, 4) how would you feel if you were in this situation, and 5) what would you say in response? (Silent reading/reflection – 10 minutes)

Scenario 1 (Handout 3.2a):

A church committee, composed of mostly white individuals, is meeting to discuss a decision about making a public statement in support of an organization seeking justice for a marginalized group, a group composed of people of color.  The committee chair, a white person, has been talking to some of the congregants who are part of the marginalized group and is proposing that the congregation place a banner up in front of the church. The minister has been preaching for weeks about the importance of standing up for those who are being targeted in the U.S. One committee member, who is also white, is really uncomfortable with the preaching, believing it is focusing too much on politics and not enough about one’s inner experience and growth. Another white member expresses concern that there have been complaints from some congregants that they don’t want to come to church anymore until the overt attention toward politics stops. The committee chair tries to convince those who are skeptical that making a public statement would be an enactment of their faith.

Scenario 2 (Handout 3.2b):

Yoga sutras are assigned reading at a retreat. During a discussion session, an African-American participant asks a question about the concept of karma, saying, ”How am I supposed to go to the West side of Chicago, where a woman has just lost her son to violence, and tell her this is about karma?”  A white participant offers that if she was working on the South side, she would think about karma internally, but not say it out loud. The African-American woman replies, “I’m not asking you to fix this. I’m asking someone to tell me how you hold this idea of karma without it being victim blaming.” The white retreat leader says, “What you’re talking about is activism. That’s important work. But, that’s not what we’re here to do.” The African-American woman says she’s not an activist and doesn’t identify that way. The retreat leader continues, “No one should judge how someone spends their time. I read the Bhagavad Gita, and that’s just as important.” A different participant says in a fairly exasperated tone, “How are we going to make change in the world?” Another questions, “What are we here to do? I’m here to focus on my liberation and my transformation, and that’s what’s going to change the world.”

Say to group:  Now that we’ve finished with the silent reflection, let’s get into groups of 4 or 5 to share our responses, each person taking two minutes to share what they wrote down. (Small group sharing – 10 minutes)

Staying in the same small group, discuss the next set of questions on the worksheet: 6) How would you hope our community would respond to this situation, and 7) How could the use of “both/and” thinking inform the response? (Small group discussion – 15 minutes)

Facilitator’s Note: Prior to beginning this workshop, try to answer the large group discussion question #3 for yourself. Be prepared to offer an example for the group.

Say to group: Let’s come back together and talk as a whole group about this scenario and what we can take from it. (Large group discussion – 20 minutes)

  1. In what ways do the communities you are a part of deal with the issues raised in this scenario?
  2. How do people tend to respond? Where do we learn these ideas?
  3. How would a “both/and” approach be helpful, and what might that look like?
  4. For faith-based and spiritual communities: Where in the principles, scriptures, philosophy, and/or theology is support for these ways of thinking found?

Wrap up: The purpose of this activity was to dig into a complicated issue that faces many communities in order to learn more about each other and our tendencies so that we can be more prepared to respond when something arises in our own community.