A Covenant to Guide Adult Forum (particularly through some of its more spirited discussions)

A Covenant to Guide Adult Forum (particularly through some of its more spirited discussions)

The crafters of the Sunday Adult Forum are mindful that Old First Reformed UCC is a surprising congregation that aims to honor and celebrate diversity in every dimension of its ministry. With regard to its formation experiences for adults, this means offering a variety of topics, opportunities to interact with people with varying points of view, thereby enhancing the possibility that participants will deepen their spiritual lives.

It has been a long-standing practice in communities of faith to establish covenants, mutual agreements that guide interactions among participants. Based on the conversation last week, our covenant began to take shape. It consists of group expectations of participants, as well as promises that participants make to the group. In addition, the covenant is made up of both expectations of and promises made by the facilitator of each session. Ultimately, the purpose of this covenant is to make the Adult Forum a SAFE ENVIRONMENT for an open, deep, respectful, caring exchange of thoughts, feelings, and reflections nurturing learning and growth, even when we disagree (or because, if we disagree, there’s a richness in hearing it fully without anyone getting hurt).

Below is a listing of some of the expectations and promises that the gathered group on 10/6/13 came up with. They included the two categories listed below. The Adult Forum is trying these out to see if they are helpful in their time and work together.

Participants promise to (expected to):

1. speak for oneself; use “I” statements;
2. remain open to new ideas;
3. not use the bible as a weapon in argumentation “proof-text;”
4. respect the opinions and people in the room (especially if they hold a different perspective); this includes not arguing with another within and outside of the Forum;
5. not interrupt someone else when they are talking;
6. not engage in cross-talk — (get stuck in a debate to win an argument with another participant);
7. not expect to receive or deliver final answers to questions raised or issues discussed;
8. support the facilitator;
9. listen deeply to allow for feelings not just thoughts and recognize that feelings may take a range of expressions; allow each other’s expressions;
10. respect confidentiality of participants. Ideas and perspectives raised during the Forum may be freely discussed outside of it. Participants should decide if they wish to divulge what they shared during the Forum particularly if it is sensitive and personal. (We are not sure we’ve completely figured out this last commitment, and there might be further discussion or fine-tuning.)

Facilitator promises to:
1. encourage openness;
2. explore depth of an issue or perspective;
3. make room for dissent;
4. allow for quiet spaces; don’t fill the space with words;
5. create inclusive conversations by setting limits on dominant participants and issuing specific invitations to those who have not shared;
6. ensure that everyone is listened to;
7. pay attention to body language; check in with those who seem withdrawn or uncomfortable;
8. respond to a participant’s feelings in the most appropriate manner. this may include follow-up later;
9. respect “the right to pass,” meaning not share.

Rich Forcier and Nancy Donahue
(who distilled and formulated what the group discussed)