January 25 – January 25, 2018
In the course of 12 days, 13 people from Canada, the United States and Mexico shared a unique experience of training, learning, Bible Study and prayer that for many was indeed a transformative experience.
Of the baker’s dozen that they were, four were men, nine women; three were from Mexico (one an Australian-Mexican, one a U.S. American-Mexican), one from Canada, and nine from all over the United States (Florida to Michigan, Connecticut to California); remarkably, only three were members of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the remainder was a mixture of Baptists, AMEs and Catholics. We ranged in age from 20s to 70s; three of us were racialised, five were pastors. A good half of us spoke Spanish.
We investigated together a number of topics, learning to welcome and get to know one another, to listen to one another; learning about learning, experiential, risky, discomfiting, challenging and stretching learning. We discussed and played our way through issues around difference, diversity, race and racialisation, unsurfaced biases and prejudices, economic literacy, the contours of conflict and how we respond to it, restorative justice and the economic roots of violence. And we did so in the bucolic surroundings of Lutheridge Conference Center and Camp in the mountains of western North Carolina!
|Shelley, Iván, Billie, Lee, Rose, Barbara, Joe, Garth, Anna, Gwenyth, Chris, Rachel, Maddie, Linda, Evelyn|
We learned about and practised Non-Violent Communication, Body Prayer, methods of non-violent social change, personality profiles, consciousness and mindfulness, stereotyping, CT training across religions. We put Paulo Freire’s Paedagogy of the Oppressed, Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege, Bill Moyer’s How to Plan a Campaign, Training for Change’s Chairs of Power, and a variety of power, rank and privilege tools into our respective toolboxes. Some inspiring videos showed us CT in action in Liberia and in Serbia.
|"Thank you for an experience that lived up to the training’s promises of personal transformation and the gaining of skills for world transformation."|
We sang, prayed in novel ways, walked the retreat centre’s labyrinth, read scripture, wrestled with scripture. For the duration of the two weeks we kept returning to the question, introduced the first day: What do we mean when we say that THIS is the Word of God? Over sometimes difficult terrain, we let the Bible speak to us, listened to the Holy Spirit, present amongst us in remarkable ways – and ended in a place that was readily embraced by both the self-identified ‘liberals’ and ‘evangelicals’ in the group. It was a profound encounter.
"I have felt and experienced God directly working in my spirit calling me to boldness."
As we prepared to depart, we held one another in the safe space we had created – where stories of wonderful wealth, pain and joy were shared – and covenanted with one another, clarifying our needs, offering our gifts, committing to put all of this into action. Many already had a high degree of clarity with respect to what they were going to do with this new person – a trainer in conflict transformation – once they got home – with youth groups, community groups, health sector colleagues, University classes, church councils, family members, neighbours…
‘I learned so much about myself (and others) through the many exercises – which weren’t just information or tools to learn for the future but experiences I will treasure for what they gave to me and created in me.’
|Co-facilitators Evelyn Hanneman & Lee McKenna|
In the few short weeks since the training happened, participants are already reporting actions, initiatives, plans, breakthroughs. One has heard God’s call to transformative action in the economic war zone that is the City of Detroit. Another reports on her growing boldness to attempt things never before imagined, beginning with some facilitated ‘tastes’ of the training with members of her prayer group. Others are already at work on plans to resist a new drone manufacturing plant, create a workplace curriculum on conflict transformation and train the youth group. Two have joined the BPFNA; one of the Mexicans is coming to Peace Camp!
Only days after her return home, another found herself one of only a handful of white people who responded to a pastor’s call for support for an African American church in conflict with its neighbours. The neighbours were demanding that the church’s Vacation Bible School be terminated because of the traffic it generates, citing an arcane law about ‘unallowed activities’ to bolster their case. During a break in an angry township tribunal meant to rule on the issue, she approached the five white male commissioners and asked them to apply the same law to all of the white churches in the neighbourhood: she was quite sure that her church was likely in violation… While the story continues, suffice it to say, a foregone conclusion was interrupted.
|"Some people do peace; some pray. Here I found something I have never seen before: peace-makers praying, pray-ers doing peace!"|
Surely this is what we mean when we talk about ourselves as equippers and mobilisers – labouring together in the world to transform it, beginning with ourselves.