A message from your Core Team (Don Wahl, Henry Bennett, Jade Wilde, Kristina Darnell, Shannon Day, and Tracy Burrows)
This is fruitful work!! We want to share with as much clarity and transparency as possible, what’s been happening.
Here we are in the middle of our fourth month with Pam Orbach as our guide, and we are experiencing profound shifts in our learning about how to hold caring and inclusive community.
Our path forward with Pam has been grounded in Nonviolent Communication, Restorative Justice, and circle structure. And it has become even more than that.
We are learning how to truly hear and hold all of the unique experiences we have each had with our varied views of the many elephants in the rooms of our congregation’s history. We are learning how to skillfully and care-fully build trust with each other. We are learning that we can move forward into thriving while also leaning into the healing needed from our past to read the short transcript from a an fun activity Pam captured on video with the Core Team, that engaged us in naming what we want to share with the broader congregation about what we’ve been learning.
Since January, our core team has been meeting every week with Pam. At the end of January, we participated in a full-day retreat, and beginning in February, a self-selected Community Wellbeing Team has been meeting every other week. We are all learning to be more and more skillful with these new tools grounded in Nonviolent Communication, Restorative Justice, and circle work. Pam is guiding us into ownership and facilitation of this work as it expands through our community.
We’ve had three whole community circles – the first Sunday of each month. The first two were attended by over 50 people in our congregation, and the third had closer to 30 of us. We’re learning how to do this in a way that works for us at Westside, and one learning is that there are benefits to meeting in smaller circles! Our intention going forward, with agreement from Rev. Carter, the board, and our Worship Team, is to hold the first Sundays of each month for these whole community circles through next year.
We’ve held two healing circles so far, starting with board presidents and vice presidents, staff, and leaders deeply impacted in recent years of pandemic ministry and our time with Rev. Christopher. The healing circles have also been fruitful, and we and other participants have used words like transformative, and what we didn’t realize we needed, to describe the experience. The Core Team is reaching out to identify other areas of impact, and to form healing circles to hold that. We see this work as ongoing, and we have come to believe that there IS enough time for the healing work needed.
Currently we have about 15 Westsiders participating in a Nonviolent Communications training with Pam, meeting weekly on Thursdays through April and May. Each of us can bring these skills into the community, wherever we are engaging.
This is our right relations work. Listening to each other’s experiences. Learning where our capacities as a community have not been able to hold our needs. And mourning that gap, together. And building our foundation of trust in each other for how we can move forward.
Every path that has been structured so far for engagement in our right relations work, is open to all community members. We would like to build other core teams with people who want to devote a deeper level of time and energy. And our core and community wellbeing teams can be fluid, so members can move in and out of them as needed, to accommodate our many life and congregational commitments. Healing circles can become something we call at any time they are needed. Whole community circles can offer a way for us to continue to learn and reflect together. These circles can help us to move more consciously into engagement around core issues and topics important to us in this faith, such as what we want to hold as our community intentions, and what we believe as Westside UU’s, and how we want to grow in living our beliefs. Click here to read the latest version of a living set of needs and intentions that include contributions of everyone who has attended any circle so far.The Core Team views these as a starting point for thinking about the next iteration of our Covenant of Right Relations.
With this update, we whole-heartedly invite you to share what comes up for you when you read this, and as you experience any changes or shifts in our community. We invite questions and curiosities. And we’d love to know if you feel drawn to engaging in this work more deeply. You can most easily reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don, Henry, Jade, Kristina, Shannon, Tracy