5.2 - Developing our Community - Exploring a Dilemma

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

Materials needed: Copies of Scenario Response Worksheet (5.2a or 5.2b), 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, 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 5.2a):

A white music director, working with an almost exclusively white church congregation, approaches you with a quandary. She tells you that a few white church members recently approached her individually with concerns about the Negro spirituals that are periodically sung during Sunday service. She feels conflicted because she inherited the program, and the story she heard is that the spirituals were included by the previous director years ago after consultation with church membership and after questions were discussed regarding whether or not it would be a respectful form of appropriation. From what she understands, the decision to include the songs was made based in part on one of the community members conferring with a Black friend (not a congregant) who agreed that it would be alright to sing the spirituals as a way for this white church to take regular note of the pain and suffering experienced by Black people in the U.S. (There were no Black congregants at the time, and there are relatively few today.) The current Black congregants have made no comments about the songs, but a visiting Black attendee mentioned to her white friend that it made her feel uncomfortable. The white woman is one of those who approached the music director with her concern.

Scenario 2 (Handout 5.2b):

A yoga studio offers a special deal for newcomers. An Asian-American woman decides to try out the studio and brings along her white friend to an evening session. Upon entering, they exchange glances as they immediately notice a huge dream catcher where the yoga teacher stands. The co-owner of the studio is wearing a t-shirt that says “Straight Outta Yoga.” And, in a far corner, there is a sage bundle burning on an altar which includes spiritual elements from Hindu and Buddhist traditions. After the yoga session, the white woman approaches one of the owners and alerts her that there are some things in the studio that could be considered cultural appropriation and that these may be offensive to people, especially those from the cultures of origin. The yoga teacher says the studio doesn’t really have any problems like that since only white people come to the studio.

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?

Wrap up: The purpose of this activity was to dig into a complicated issue 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.