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Conversation matters

Detroit Conference Clergy Delegate, Rev. Joy Barrett, speaks of a gift she received and now plans to share.

JOY BARRETT
Clergy Delegate, Detroit Conference

As I begin the second week of General Conference, I am encouraged by a profound and sacred experience from last week.

In the subcommittee of our legislative committee, before engaging in conversation about a potentially controversial and divisive petition, the thirteen of us were invited into a time of conversation. Around our circle we spoke of how we were feeling. We named our hopes, our fears, our concerns, and our dreams. We took time to listen to one another.

In listening to one another’s stories, I found myself able to bring a deeper level of understanding and engagement into our conversation and deliberation. We were not mere allies or opponents in a debate; we were persons of sacred worth, each striving to work together with respect. Is there a way to hold a place for each of us in our decision?

I understand that ours was not the only group to engage in the practice. Over and over I have heard persons speak of the difference such conversation made in their work. In fact, my friend Melanie reported hearing from another delegate, “Is this what Rule 44 was about? If I had known that, I would have voted for it!”

Why does such conversation make a difference? I believe the answer is two-fold. When I open myself to hear another’s story, I am changed. I move beyond my own understandings. My perspective is widened; my awareness is deepened. And, this kind of listening makes room for the Holy Spirit to come into the conversation – softening, guiding, challenging, shaping. It isn’t all about me. It really is a Pentecost moment!

Whatever else happens at General Conference, I have received a gift. I hope to share this gift, and continue to benefit from it, in all my circles of relationships.

I think this is what John Wesley had in mind for the church when he said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”

Truly friends, the conversation matters.

~Rev. Laura Speiran’s blog, “Human Sexuality … it’s a journey,” also speaks to the power of face to face conversation.

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