UUCA Connections, our monthly newsletter, includes service descriptions, columns from the Minister, Board of Trustees President, the Director of Lifespan Religious Education and the Assistant Minister. It also includes upcoming events, timely articles, and one page that is devoted to our Earth & Social Justice Ministry discussions and program offerings. Read Rev. Mark Ward’s column below, or click here to read the entire newsletter, and get a better feel for our congregation and how you would fit in!
It goes without saying that we all struggle and stumble at times at trying to make ourselves clear in our communications with others. But sometimes the way that we stumble can leave others feeling hurt, alienated, or even abused. As a religious community seeking to help people lead lives of integrity, service and joy, we do our best to communicate well, but we, too, miss the mark at times. And when that happens we hope to find a way back, to help each other understand how we feel, what we need and what a way forward might look like.
Knowing how to do that, though, doesn’t always come naturally. When we find ourselves at cross-purposes, we can be reactive, defensive, or embarrassed. Part of what I think we exist as a community to do is to learn to treat others as persons of inherent worth and dignity and so to be kind and compassionate in our dealings. To help establish and reinforce that kind of a culture in our congregation, I asked our staff this fall to take part in training in the practices of what has been called “non-violent communication.”
The training builds on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, who argues that many of the difficulties that plague us today come from growing up learning to compete rather than connect when we communicate with others. Our words are often full of denial and judgment, instead of the empathy that could resolve conflicts and build relationship. In the eight-week training, we worked on observing dispassionately, identifying our own feelings and needs, listening for the feelings and needs of others, and responding empathetically.
It may sound easy in the abstract, but we all discovered how challenging it can be to apply these principles to our lives. We’re not experts at it now by any means, but we’ve done some good work. I’m proud of how everyone responded, and I hope our learning will reap dividends for the larger congregation.
A realization I came to in this process is that when we speak from our hearts, rather than from some disembodied, heady place, we speak from our power, from our best selves. It is my hope that that is how we can be with each other in our work together.