(This is a guest blog post Dr. Ellen Ott Marshall. Ellen is a board member of JustPeace and an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Conflict Transformation at Candler School of Theology).
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In congregational life, some common topics activate anxiety. I call these hot buttons or triggers of anxiety. When these topics emerge, anxiety appears and can easily escalate. Although the list is not exhaustive, it highlights some common topics that escalate anxiety in congregations with whom I have worked:
Leading a successful change process in a congregation, even a very traditional one, is possible. But to do so a leader must earn the right to make that change and partner with others to make it happen. Lone ranger leaders who ride into Dodge and transform an entire community exist only in the movies. In the reality of congregational life, we need a patient posse.
If I am to be a builder of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, I must remember to think small: peacebuilding and conflict transformation begins with recovery of peace and transformation in my own soul and with those around me; those nearest to me which cross my path.
As the Lenten journey unfolds, the tensions increase. The anxieties escalate. When Jesus gathers for the Last Supper and shares the cup and the loaf with His closest followers, there is tension in room, conflict in the room. Betrayal and denial are all a part of this Lenten story.
This workshop will offer and explore different ways for leaders to see and understand leadership, human interactions and systems. Family systems and the theologian Martin Buber’s I-Thou work are key lenses as we look at the theology, theory and best practices for leaders.
The alternative to extremes is a middle path that moves in-between and walks “the narrow ridge”. An alternative middle path is able to hold “paradoxical curiosity.” This middle path is a soulful, grounded, humble way that takes courage and strength to hold. It is the in-between space where the in-between conversations occur.
As ministers and leaders, knowing how to engage conflict and difficult conversations well is both a skill to learn and an art to cultivate. No longer is it optional. To be a minister and/or leader moving toward excellence, working with conflict and walking with others through difficult conversations is part of the terrain. It will help participants formulate both a theoretical understanding and practical steps for working with individuals and congregations caught in anxiety and conflict and/or facing difficult conversations.
In this seminar, we will explore questions such as: What is at the heart of conflict? Why do so many conflict and change efforts fail? What is the best way to impact or influence conflict situations or change efforts so that communities are invited to grow and bring sustainable healthy change and peace? How do we engage in a way that increases the opportunity for response and minimizes resistance? What are some components we can put in place to help have difficult conversations?
This webinar will explore the lens of seeing congregations as emotional systems, especially during times of high anxiety and conflict. Transforming such anxiety and conflict is both an art and a science. We will discuss anxiety and its impact on congregations/communities and best practices for helping communities find their way through it. In this conversation, we will also explore the theologian Martin Buber’s insights on an I-Thou way of being to help congregations and leadership grow through conflict and become stronger, deeper and more vital.
When individuals and groups are aware of the shadow, their own and others, they are more accepting, forgiving, compassionate and loving, acting for justice while having mercy, honor and humility. To change the shape of ourselves is to change the shape of the shadow we carry and cast. To become transparent is to know, accept and relate to one’s shadow appropriately. I have heard people say that we can lose our shadows altogether, but I think to be human is to carry a shadow