To speak out of our hearts, to listen lovingly and well, to grow in grace–those are the goals of a facilitated conversation. These facilitated conversations happen in the sacred space co-created by facilitators, participants, and the Holy Spirit.
Our Conflict Transformation Ministers use a relational covenant to facilitate safe(r), sacred spaces for holy conversations. The main points of the covenant are listed below.
Suggested Covenant for Facilitated Conversations
- We will honor and respect the facilitator as the one leading the conversation.
- We will remain seated at all times.
- Each participant will speak only from his or her own experience. Each participant will use “I” statements when describing her or his experiences, thoughts, or feelings.
- We will speak the truth in love at all times, meaning, whatever is said should be meant for building up and not tearing down one another.
- We will allow others to speak without interruption, rebuttal, questions, or comments. We will provide everyone with the opportunity to be heard through the use of a talking object.
- The participants will speak directly to the facilitator, not to one another. The facilitator may periodically reflect back to the speaker what she or he has said and the speaker will have the opportunity to correct, add, or clarify.
- We will not take notes for purposes of rebuttal or sharing information with others outside of the conversation. Participants may briefly note in writing an issue that they want to address when it is their turn to speak.
- We will keep the conversation confidential, meaning that what is said is not to be shared with anyone outside of the room, including spouses.
Our relational covenant may seem unnecessary and even strict. However, the covenant is necessary to create healthy conversations. Conversations are often derailed when people speak harshly or out of turn. Many of us have never experienced the kind of grace-filled conversation that covenantal conversations permit. Covenantal conversations allow us to speak carefully and listen thoroughly as we dialogue about difficult topics.
The relational covenant for facilitated conversation is inspired by the covenant that God made with Abraham in Book of Genesis. God’s covenant with Abraham bound together the human and the Divine, the sacred and the secular in a mutual relationship of honor and trust.
When God’s people come together in a similar relationship of mutuality and trust, new possibilities for healing and reconciliation emerge. Give it a try. You might just be surprised by grace.