4.2 - Developing our Community - Exploring a Dilemma

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

Materials needed: Copies of Scenario Response Worksheet (4.2a or 4.2b), pencils or pens.

Purpose of piece: To use a scenario to reveal different group members’ feelings about how various tensions manifest, provide an opportunity to create a common understanding of the issues, and begin to 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, 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 4.2a):

A group of white friends are having lunch together after church. A couple of the friends begin to talk about how the social justice committee has been so successful in making changes that they don’t recognize the service anymore. They complain about the new musical director, how they don’t know the songs, and that the sermons seem to be more story-telling than informative. One person says things are changing too much, and that it’s only trying to cater to the folks of color. A lament is that they don’t seem to be making connections between people as much as focusing on the differences between groups. The person then suggests that if the church is dedicated to this way of doing things, then the 10AM service should remain more traditional, and this new contemporary service should occur at 8AM. Another couple of the friends try to provide a different perspective, arguing that the new music has helped them experience the church in a new way, and they appreciate that change might be necessary if they want a truly multi-racial congregation.

Scenario 2 (Handout 4.2b):

At a conference workshop focused on healing practices, a white, male teacher, who uses yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices to support people suffering from PTSD, speaks of the need to move beyond seeing the “other.” He shares with the audience that he has done enough meditation that he no longer sees “other,” and that it allows him to see beyond the suffering to the innate divinity of the person. He says that with that comes a responsibility to everyone, that because another person’s suffering is his suffering that he has a responsibility to alleviate suffering the world. A white participant interrupts to ask him if this means that he believes we all need to pay attention to racism and other “–isms” that impact people in today’s world. He responds that he is not political. The white woman presses the point, saying she is not trying to be political, and that she’s trying to understand if a responsibility to everyone, to reduce everyone’s suffering, includes a requirement to work against racism. The teacher responds to her by saying, “You need to stay in your garden. My garden is working on PTSD and helping people wake up spiritually. Your garden may be activism. But, I’m going to stay over here and do my work.”

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 people 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?

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

Wrap up: The purpose of this activity was to provide us with a chance to dig into an 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 to issues that arise in our own community.