Caring Conversations / Thanksgiving At The Food Pantry

Caring Conversations   

by , Director of Religious Exploration

colorful tapestry with words "Religious Exploration"

As I write this, I am in a hotel room in downtown Denver, Colorado after the final evening of my national Liberal Religious Educators Conference.

I came to the conference, entitled “Building Brave Spaces” with hundreds of fellow Religious Educators from around the world . When describing the focus of the conference , the LREDA site stated:

“In today’s complex world, there is growing need for us to show up together, to show strength when answering the call of love. We will provide tools and strategy that will help us to better understand how we can cultivate practices for transforming conflict and restoring relationship. How can we effectively build brave spaces that will allow us to show brave love and that will help us develop skills for shared empowerment and collaborative relationships?”

I was excited to be a part of this!  I was interested in bringing the tools of caring conversation back to my church and especially to the young ones that I work with and our teachers.

The conference sort of blew up.

The presenters for the conference, two white male nonviolent communication “experts”  from outside the UUA,  caused many people harm with their language and behavior.  Unacceptably , the rhetoric was especially hurtful to people of color and women .  In our Unitarian Universalist space, it was contrary to what most of us practice as Religious Educators.

As the program awkwardly progressed, and more and more people began speaking out about language and unsafe exercises these facilitators were asking the conference attendees to participate in;  the LREDA board stepped in and suspended the program.

People of color broke away and met in caucus groups .  White participants met in caucus groups to discuss restorative practices:  What Happened? How I was Involved? How was I or others hurt? How am I feeling now?

Many of us felt confused, irritated, ripped off about our conference not  being what it was supposed to be, and ultimately sorry that this had to occur.

The LREDA board met to regroup and plan actions going forward;  and then we all met to process the situation in focused covenant groups. The two presenters were asked to leave the conference.

Ultimately, the conference that got hijacked by ignorant presenters, turned out, almost accidentally, to become the ultimate lesson in building “Brave Spaces”, conflict communication, caring conversation, and education in critiques of white supremacy culture.

It was uncomfortable, hard, raw, and messy.  Some people still do not feel appeased.  Many people feel guilty, many victimized, many confused. But the work to heal was attempted.

My feelings about what occurred this week went from doubting my instincts that something was wrong, to anger, to guilt , and ultimately to guarded gratitude.   I am grateful that I had the opportunity to witness and learn about what it means to be in a Brave Space .

I will fly home in the morning with fresh ears and a stronger voice .  I feel braver and more equipped to stand up and most importantly trust my gut instincts and speak up when something’s not right, fair, or safe for me or another human being that I inhabit this earth with .

For us to “Build Brave Spaces”  definitely means that we should be or become  an “upstander”, knowing that at first it feels uncomfortable and messy, yet ultimately- it’s what we should be doing as a faith community and a human being – everyday.

With Gratitude and Love,

Robin


Thanksgiving at the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry 

by

Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry logo

Many holidays are special. Yet, Thanksgiving is my favorite. I love the time spent with family where there is no hustle and bustle. We spend time enjoying family, being grateful for what we have and enjoying a lovely meal – a meal usually replete with turkey, potatoes and gravy, vegetables, cranberry sauce, special treats. It has a special mixture of love in every bite. At least that’s how it is at my house.

I love this time of year at the Pantry also – mostly because I love the folks we help. They are a group of elders, disabled folks, young children, immigrants and others who just want to enjoy the Holiday in the same way we do. While we normally distribute food to 60 families, we can expect almost 100 in November.

And always, we see a group of folks who are new to us. At their initial intake we get a sense of what’s going on in their life. A couple years ago I met a woman whose son had committed suicide and the funeral expenses had left them with very little money. Be assured that Reverend Payson and I ministered to her with a great deal of love. She was so appreciative. I will never forget her and the work all of us did that day to help make her Thanksgiving a little better.

To help make all our folks, whether new or old, a little better off this season and to know we are thinking of them, we provide each of them with a bag of Thanksgiving goodies. These bags usually have a veggie, instant mashed potatoes, gravy mix, cranberry sauce and a dessert item (like a pudding, instant bread mix, pie filling, etc.) in them. We also provide a gift card to use toward the purchase of a turkey.

This Sunday, the children in Religious Exploration will be collecting items for these “Thanksgiving Goodie Bags” during the service. Then they will sort the items and bag them during their lesson that day. It is a magical experience to watch their assembly line in action. I am asking you to donate as generously as you can toward this effort to make Thanksgiving special for all of our folks.

If you have any questions about the Pantry, what to donate, etc., please contact Dianne Mann at . Blessings on you this Thanksgiving for all you do to support the Pantry.