As of May 1, 2021, Hope for Us: Conflict Engagement Team has been working together to develop teams and processes to help Congregational Life Staff serve congregations in conflict. This process of formation will, of course, take time. We are off to a great start.
Hope for Us: Conflict Engagement Team is the culmination of many things:
- the vision of the late Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson
- years of training in different processes for conflict management and restorative practices
- developing and practicing a variety of district and regional models for conflict engagement
- the iterative process of comparing and improving those practices
- this time of change and opportunity
- the maturational growth of Unitarian Universalism
Many of us close to congregations have seen the need for a process that could help congregational leaders regain and recommit to covenant with the goal of community vitality. The Widening the Circle of Concern report includes a call for the development of a conflict team (p 119-120).
It is no accident that this conflict engagement team is led by religious educators, because conflict engagement is faith development at its core. Team Director Connie Goodbread, former Co-Lead of the Southern Region, gave us the mantra, “Faith Development is all we do. Unitarian Universalism is the faith we teach. The congregation is the curriculum.” Rev. Tandi Rogers, who cut her religious leadership teeth in youth ministry, is notorious for saying any time a rule or community covenant was broken, “Ooh! Faith formation is about to happen!” as the community worked to right itself through faithful process. The third member of the team is Dr. Janice Marie Johnson, also a religious educator, whose dissertation work is in conflict engagement and multi-faith ministry. Janice Marie has served Unitarian Universalism in many leadership roles and is now the Co-Director of Ministries and Faith Development. The fourth team member we are blessed with is Rev. Megan Foley, the Lead of the Central East Region, who is advising Hope for Us on process and communications. In this beginning formation stage, Connie, Tandi, Janice Marie, and Megan will develop tools and strategies and will partner with your UUA regional staff to support congregations in conflict. A paid Advisory Panel, composed of people with a wide variety of identities, will hold the team accountable.
Core to the design is a paid nation-wide team of specialized coaches to help congregations engage conflict, covenant and re-covenant, love boldly and faithfully. This conflict engagement approach is a long time coming and is specifically called for in the Widening the Circle of Concern report.
Dear siblings in faith, we are building the world we dream about, starting with ourselves and our congregations. This is the only place we can begin that work. Beloved Community starts in our communities centered in love and justice.
How will you be able to access Hope for Us: Conflict Engagement Team? Through your UUA Congregational Life regional staff. They are always your first call.