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Reflections: District Day with Eric Law

Last Sunday (the 9th) I attended another district learning day, this time with Rev. Eric Law. I've heard Eric Law speak before, at a GBCS meeting, and I wondered what this session would be like among clergy and lay people on the district.

Here are some of my thoughts/notes on the event:

* Scheduling note: Sunday afternoons (the workshop went from 3-8:30 with a dinner break) are a brutal time to schedule a workshop like this. I enjoyed the presentation, but I find myself usually exhausted on Sunday afternoons, and by the end of the time together, through no fault of the presenter, I found myself trying very, very hard to remain focused...

* What do we need for competent leadership in a diverse changing world:
- Self-awareness, and understanding privilege and power, understanding from cultural background
- appreciation of differences as opportunities, rather than as problems
- commitment to pluralistic understanding, still able to make decisions
- active theological reflection on diversity issues related to self, others, community, creation
- discipline in applying skills, models, etc., that will increase inclusiveness in situations
- ability to guide/support community to move toward change faithfully in response to changing environment
- knowledge/skills in technology to enhance interpersonal communication and to build inclusive community (medium is neutral)

Responsibility for what you say – “I” statements. Avoid should. I notice, I wonder. When I _(situation)_____, I feel _(reaction)_________, because ___________.
Empathetic listening
Sensitive to differences in communication styles
Ponder what you hear before you speak
Examine your assumptions and perceptions
Confidentiality (keep it!)
Trust ambiguity – not here to debate who is right or wrong

Mutual Invitation. Leader shares first. Invites someone else to share. If invited, can pass for now, or pass, or respond. But if pass, can still invite. Do until everyone has been invited.

Cultural make-up
External cultures – explicitly learned, conscious, easily changed, objective knowledge (see, hear, taste, touch)

Internal cultures – implicitly learned, unconscious, difficult to change, subjective knowledge (beliefs, values, patterns, myths)

The first step to becoming inter-culturally sensitive is to know your own culture.

What usually happens: Culturally dominant group doesn’t have to do own iceberg work, because they’re dominant, their iceberg is society’s iceberg. (this isn't a good thing)

Organizational Iceberg
Every church has a profile of what a good member looks like, though they’d never say so out loud.

Exclusive Boundary Function:
Prototype – ‘look’ like us – you’re in
Legal – If you follow rules, you can be in without prototype. Watched. Pressure.
Political – have to get along with powerful people/group

Inclusive Boundary Function: Has a grace margin outside the safe zone
Covenant of time. Ask for time. Doesn’t happen by self.
Thou Shalt/Thou Shalt Not (Set Ground Rules)
Images and Concepts of God (Study Scripture Together)

I really liked Law's concept of "grace margins" and Jesus always working to make a bigger "grace margin" for people. He talked about churches needing to be better at creating grace margins, spaces of interaction for people in the church and people out of the church to be together.

Methoblogger Joe Tiedemann also has some reflections on Law's visit to his district.


John said…
I read Law's book The Wolf and the Lamb recently for seminary.
Beth Quick said…
What did you think of it John? He mentioned it a couple times, but I've not read it.
John said…
I can't remember it very clearly, but I do remember that the system that he proposed for discussing race and other inequalities would be good, if changed somewhat.

I think that he said or implied that white people are inherently racist and that white men cannot understand oppression because they have never experienced it. Essentially, he made wild generalizations based upon race and gender, which I found to be ironic.

Still, it is a good book worth reading.
Eric Helms said…
I haven't read his book, but from the presentation, I though I heard him say that white people cannot understand oppression as it is experienced by black people, that black people cannot understand it as experienced by asians, and minorities cannot understand the experience of race relations from the perspective of white people. Similarly there may be forms of oppression as experienced by single moms, single dads etc. I appreciated how broadly he defined culture and acknowledged that blacks don't know what it is to be white, nor whites black, nor old young/young old, etc. I believe that is the purpose for the intense listening exercises. We all have cultural baggage that forms our understanding of the world. I heard his primary way forward to be understanding your own assumptions about the world and listening to those who have different assumptions. I look forward to reading the book someday.

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