“Sacred Conversations on Race, Culture and Reconciliation” is a guide designed to assist people in having honest and gracious dialogues in a safe environment which can deepen participants’ understanding of others’ experiences and points of view.
Developed by the territorial multicultural ministries department, the guide has been used in territorial, divisional and corps settings. Its flexibility and clear instructions for facilitators make it adaptable.
Discussions and workshops using Sacred Conversations and other thought-provoking approaches such as “Building Bridges” are ongoing in divisions, reported Karen Young, territorial multicultural ministries specialist.
Major Valerie Carr has been a big proponent of such endeavors in the Midland Division which began using Sacred Conversations at divisional headquarters (DHQ) during the lunch hour from January to mid-February a couple of years ago. DHQ employees, as well as officers and soldiers in the area, were invited. After the first year, they surveyed participants, made adjustments and asked the Urban Mission Center to facilitate sessions for 11 consecutive weeks the following winter before concluding its use. They found people’s experiences naturally varied. For many it was positive, but for others it proved painful.
“The conversations can be difficult, and after a series of sessions sometimes a break is necessary to assess what is most helpful to people,” said Karen. “Always, people need to enter into the dialogue with an openness to learn, a willingness to listen deeply and a commitment to mutual respect and sharing. And we pray for understanding and hope for healing.”
“We learned from each other and shared ways we could unite to show the love of Jesus to people of different races, religions and economic backgrounds,” said Major Ron Key, St. Charles, Mo., corps officer about the training for St. Charles County. A county-wide coalition of more than 30 churches and numerous agencies, school districts, hospitals, police and fire departments were involved in monthly discussions for a year. Hundreds of individuals took part.
This June at the commissioning weekend more than 60 people gathered on Saturday afternoon to experience Sacred Conversations and be encouraged to use the guide.
Captain Katie Harris-Smith, chaplain for mission integration at the Chicago North Side, Ill., Adult Rehabilitation Center, who attended the session concluded, “I realized I needed to better understand the anger of others, especially in my ministry with women in recovery. I now know there are some things I can’t overlook, but I can help people channel their anger by being part of the solution rather than just expressing rage.”
For more information or to download a copy of the resource guide visit multiculturalministriescentral.org