“In structuring Welcoming Conversations, the Golden Rule does not apply.” – says David Anderson Hooker in the series about the four principles that define the JustPeace approach to conversation and engagement. He continues:
“The answer is not: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; rather, what makes a conversation welcoming is if you find out how they want to be treated and structure the conversation to account for those concerns. And it gets much more complicated, when there are many participants with a variety of needs and concerns.”
I was reminded recently of the nature of Welcoming Conversations when speaking with Tom Albin, Dean of The Upper Room Chapel and member of the JustPeace Board of Directors, about his experience at the United Methodist 2016 pre-General Conference briefing in Portland, Oregon. The General Conference prayer team designed a unique wooden medallion with Protestant prayer beads* that was to be given to international United Methodists as an aid to prayer. The combination had deep spiritual and theological meaning for the prayer team, as it was intended to represent the praying community that undergirds General Conference delegates and friends.
Tom shares the following:
Symbols and words have different meanings and intents. What does it mean for us to ask questions and listen to another’s experiences, history, and lens? With God’s help, let us prayerfully prepare ourselves to be welcoming in our conversations.
*The strand includes three olive wood beads from the Holy Land that represent the three persons of the Trinity and eight jasper beads to honor the Pacific Northwest, known for its earthy character and vast outdoors. The four different colors for the accent beads represent the basic elements of creation: blue = water; brown = earth; green = air; and, red = fire. The custom medallion is made from wood and features the United Methodist cross and flame, the year 2016, and a mountain sheep; the sheep reminds us of our Christian call to go and find the least and the lost. See more at Prayer Community for the UMC General Conference: http://60daysofprayer.org/.
Written by Stephanie Hixon and Tom Albin, March 16, 2016
Stephanie Anna Hixon serves as Executive Director of the JustPeace Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation in the United Methodist Church. She is a consultant and facilitator in severely conflicted situations and has extensive experience with strategies and processes that assist institutions and communities foster environments of mutual respect and regard for all persons. She seeks to integrate best practices in alternative dispute resolution with principles of faith and spirituality, communication theory and group process. Stephanie earned degrees in Music Therapy and Music Education from Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music (Shenandoah University) and later pursued theological coursework through the Washington, DC consortium of schools, earning an MDiv from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Her professional certification in Alternative Dispute Resolution was granted by Hamline University School of Law. She is an ordained elder in the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church.