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Toward an Understanding and Faithful Response Workshop

45-Minute Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Ministers
  • Religious educators
  • Congregational leaders

Goals

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of the different forms and definitions of interpersonal violence
  • Become comfortable communicating feelings, values, and Unitarian Universalist (UU) beliefs in relation to abuse and interpersonal violence
  • Identify prophetic and pastoral strategies for coping with interpersonal violence
  • Develop educational strategies for your congregation to address interpersonal violence

Materials

  • Copies of “Toward an Understanding and Faithful Response” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice, three candles, and matches
  • Your congregation’s covenant and mission statement

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute “Toward and Under-standing and Faithful Response” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 1 minute
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to “May the Light Around Us Guide Our Footsteps” by Kathleen McTigue, reading 706 in Singing the Living Tradition, and read it aloud together.

Focusing, 10 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting, 10 minutes
Patricia Hoertdoerfer describes the culture of violence in American society and in faith communities. Ask participants to discuss how this description reflects the culture in your congregation and in the UU families in your community.

Exploring, 15 minutes
Open a discussion on the “Ministry in Response” section of the essay (page 8). Ask participants:

  • What policies and procedures are in place in your congregation to meet Marie Fortune’s three goals?
  • What prevention education resources are available for children, youth, adults, and elders in your congregation? What are your next steps?

Closing, 10 minutes
Place three candles in the center of the meeting table. Ask three participants to each light a candle when you give the signal during the closing ritual. Say something like:

"When we gather we bring our whole selves to this place: our burdens and our joys, our scars and our triumphs, our fears and our hopes. At times we have caused harm to another; at times we have shed tears of grief remembering all that has been lost; at times we have shared laughter in celebration of life.

We remember that in the particular complexity of our individual lives, we carry the realities of our collective selves; the power and privilege of our ethnicity, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, class, age, and able body or lack thereof."

Signal a participant to light the first candle and say something like:

Some of us, if we are able, acknowledge that we carry with us painful memories of harm done to us by another person. We bear scars or still open wounds of abuse, sexual exploitation, and interpersonal violence. We have found some justice and healing in the presence of those who have stood with us and given support.

Light the second candle and say something like:

"Some of us, if we are willing to look honestly at ourselves, carry memories of harm that we have done to another when we have exploited the other’s weakness, when we have pretended to possess another, when we have abused and victimized. We seek ways that we might be genuinely accountable for what we have done."

Light the third candle and say something like:

"Most of us carry memories of times we have stood by while another was harmed. We have hesitated when we could have advocated. At other times, we have been able to advocate for another person, to step forward or step aside as needed. We have brought our resources to bear in the service of justice and healing. We go forth to do what we can when we can to transform ourselves and our congregation to be safe sanctuaries and faithful people. We have gathered here to empower and guide each other. For this we are grateful."

Extinguish the three candles and the chalice.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Ministers
  • Religious educators
  • Congregational leaders

Goals

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of the different forms and definitions of interpersonal violence
  • Become comfortable communicating feelings, values, and UU beliefs related to abuse and interpersonal violence
  • Identify prophetic and pastoral strategies for coping with interpersonal violence
  • Develop educational strategies for your congregation to address interpersonal violence

Materials

  • Copies of “Toward an Understanding and Faithful Response” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice, three candles, and matches
  • Copies of Handout 1, Wheel of Power and Control, and Handout 2, Wheel of Nonviolence and Equality, for all participants
  • Your congregation’s covenant and mission statement
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s)
  • Distribute “Toward an Understanding and Faithful Response” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 5 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to “May the Light Around Us Guide Our Footsteps” by Kathleen McTigue, reading 706 in Singing the Living Tradition, and read it aloud together.

Focusing, 15 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting and Exploring, 65–75 minutes
Patricia Hoertdoerfer describes the culture of violence in American society and in faith communities. Ask participants to discuss how this description reflects the culture in your congregation and in the UU families in your community.

Distribute Handout 1, Wheel of Power and Control, and Handout 2, Wheel of Nonviolence and Equality, to the participants. Allow time for participants to read and reflect on them individually. Ask participants to form pairs and discuss examples of abuses of control and power from their perspectives and experiences inside and outside the congregation. Then ask participants to form small groups of three to four and discuss ways to nurture family nonviolence and ways to support congregational practices of equality and nonviolence. Finally, invite the whole group to regather and individuals to share insights from their discussions.

Integrating, 15 minutes
Hoertdoerfer asks, “What does our faith require of us? Is a faithful response to interpersonal violence and abuse possible in our congregations? Can UU clergy and lay leaders speak prophetically and respond pastorally to all forms of interpersonal violence?” Invite each participant to name one insight he or she came to from the previous conversations and one next step for the congregation.

Closing, 10 minutes
Invite participants to gather in a closing circle. Place three candles on the table in the center of the circle. Ask three participants to each light a candle when you give the signal during the closing ritual.

Say,

"When we gather we bring our whole selves to this place: our burdens and our joys, our scars and our triumphs, our fears and our hopes. At times we have caused harm to another; at times we have shed tears of grief remembering all that has been lost; at times we have shared laughter in celebration of life.

We remember that in the particular complexity of our individual lives, we carry the realities of our collective selves; the power and privilege of our ethnicity, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, class, age, and able body or lack thereof."

Light the first candle and say,

"Some of us, if we are able, acknowledge that we carry with us painful memories of harm done to us by another person. We bear scars or still open wounds of abuse, sexual exploitation, and interpersonal violence. We have found some justice and healing in the presence of those who have stood with us and given support."

Light the second candle and say,

"Some of us, if we are willing to look honestly at ourselves, carry memories of harm that we have done to another when we have exploited the other’s weakness, when we have pretended to possess another, when we have abused and victimized. We seek ways that we might be genuinely accountable for what we have done."

Light the third candle and continue,

"Most of us carry memories of times when we have stood by while another was harmed. We have hesitated when we could have advocated. At other times, we have been able to advocate for another person, to step forward or step aside as needed. We have brought our resources to bear in the service of justice and healing. We go forth to do what we can when we can to transform ourselves and our congregation into faithful people and safe sanctuaries. We have gathered here together to empower and guide each other. For this we are grateful."

Extinguish the chalice and the three candles.

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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