All Westside members are invited to participate in the new Westside Conversations for Connection program, a three-session listening and conversation series designed to give members an opportunity to feel heard and to renew and/or form connections with others in small groups. The program aspires to achieve these goals by:
- Encouraging members to share their stories and experiences of our congregational community in a small-group facilitated setting.
- Connecting members with each other across existing congregational and affinity groups in structured formats with sequential questions (one question per session).
- Prioritizing the opportunity for congregants to experience intimacy and cultivation of trust in conversation groups, rather than using sessions mainly as a vehicle to generate “output” for church leadership.
During the six years our congregation was without a settled minister and in particular during the COVID pandemic, connections between and among many Westside members became frayed. Many have expressed an urgent need for small-group conversations so that we may move toward wholeness as a community.
An informal version of this listening and conversation program was held between February and May 2021 with nine members of Westside participating. They all found the program offered healing, as well as renewed trust and connections with each other. As such, the group felt it would be a valuable program to offer to the rest of the congregation this summer, with additional offerings in the fall and beyond if enough people are interested.
The group developed and presented a proposal for the program to the board and Rev. Christopher, who gave it their approval to proceed.
- Each Conversations for Connection group will include the same 6-8 participants and 2 trained facilitators (who are Westside members) for all three sessions. All participants and facilitators agree to be guided by the Conversations for Connection Covenant.
- Each of the three sessions will last 90 minutes and will be held on Zoom. Sessions will be held at two-week intervals (dates listed below under Registration).
- Each session will focus on a particular question and include a mix of sharing/listening (without cross-talk), reflection, clarifying questions, and/or conversation. The specific format for each session will be common across all groups and will be shared with participants in advance.
- Facilitators will guide participants in following the prescribed meeting formats and adhering to the covenant, but will not participate in sharing and conversations.
- The sequence of questions for all groups is as follows:
- Session #1: “What is your experience of Westside as a community right now?”
- Session #2: “Given the challenging circumstances of the past six years, what would be helpful to you in moving toward greater wholeness in our church community?”
- Session #3: “What is your hope for how these conversations will benefit the Westside community as a whole?”
- Facilitators will capture general themes for each session—without identifying who participated or made comments. After each session, the facilitators for each group will share the captured themes with their group.
- Following the third session, facilitators will debrief to consolidate what was heard in the individual groups and to make meaning of what was learned. They will share those learnings in summary form with church leadership.
- Registration is now closed for the two summer groups that were open to the wider community
- Registration for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Conversations for Connection is now open.
The registration deadline is Friday, July 16.