Ever since the tragic shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas last year, I have been praying and discerning ways to respond that can be impactful, gracious and long lasting in the midst of our polarized communities.
With the election and the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the need for gracious dialogue among people with different perspectives, passions and experiences is even more urgent, not just on race but also other issues such as women’s rights, human rights, health, immigrant, freedom of press, religion, speech and to assembly, and many others.
Here is my big idea:
Imagine every church and ministry across the nation—Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc.—is a gracious place for truth-seeking on race and other important issues of our time. Specifically, in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Jon Bruno, the Program Group on Multicultural Ministries and I had proposed that every congregation invite a team of at least two people to be trained as dialogue facilitators. The Kaleidoscope Institute will provide the training both in person (one full day training) and via the internet (webinars). The facilitation team will be trained to:
- Invite people from the local neighborhood community (including law enforcement personnel if possible) to come to a dialogue on race.
- Create a gracious environment in which participants feel safe and also challenged to speak their truth of their experience of race in light of recent events.
- Facilitate constructive dialogue to achieve mutual understanding (not debate) through deep listening.
- Form local communities consisting of church members and neighborhood people who may continue to dialogue on race and other issues, moving toward greater social and spiritual wellness as a community.
This movement will enable the diocese to not only empower every local community to move toward wellness and reconciliation but also enable our churches and ministries to be truly missional — manifesting the grace of Christ in our broken world.
Bishop Jon Bruno wrote in an invitation to the congregations of the diocese, “The only way we are going to see change in our increasingly violent world is by building bridges, not barriers, between cultures, economic systems and faith communities, among other societal groups.” (see complete invitation at http://episcopalnews.ladiocese.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/3180210)
In Los Angeles, we have already done two trainings at the end of last year involving 40 people who will be facilitating dialogue groups in their neighborhood communities. We are doing another facilitator training this weekend, January 28, at St. Paul’s Cathedral Center in Echo Park (9 am- 5 pm.) There is still room if you are in the area and would like to participate. Also a second training is scheduled for February 18 in the greater Los Angeles area (location TBA.) The trained facilitators are expected to continue their learning by participating in monthly webinars to learn more skills and processes in order to facilitate future dialogue sessions.
If you are interested in implementing such a movement in your area, I would love to be of assistance to make it happen. All we need is at least 12 participants representing 5 congregations in your area. The Kaleidoscope Institute can arrange to get someone to do the facilitator training.
For more information, go to our website: http://www.kscopeinstitute.org/dialogue-on-race/
You can also register at this website for the Los Angeles facilitators training. We welcome ecumenical participation.
Reflection Questions for 4th Sunday after Epiphany (Year A)
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world