I have now served in Unitarian Universalist congregations for 14 years, first as an intern, then as a parish minister, and now as a community minister and consultant. In this time, boy howdy, have I seen conflict! For a long time, and even still, I experience confusion regarding how I and others find it difficult to see the beauty of the other and their needs when our own needs are not met. We move into judgment and blame, and repeat disconnecting thoughts and behaviors. Over time in a particular congregation, these patterns can become entrenched, leaving individuals desperately longing for authentic and deep relationships that can weather the diversity of human expression, experiences, and wounding. What then to do?
My greatest hope lies in Nonviolent Communication, also known as Compassionate Communication. I am not alone. The authors of a new book I just finished, Transforming Church Conflict, write, "We have become convinced that nonviolent or compassionate communication is the best singe resource available for learning the complex interpersonal and pastoral leadership skills needed by today's church." They go on to say, "Compassionate communication helps us maintain our inner clarity and sense of direction in the midst of challenging situations in which we have significant personal investment." I love the hope and the vision of congregations, and perhaps this is why I can become disheartened when I perceive that we are not making the most of the transformational possibility inherent in conflict. Does this resonate with you?
If so, then I recommend this book to you, as well as the practice of compassionate communication. This authors in their writing support me in my practice, which in turns keeps me engaged with others in the work, perhaps with you too. Please join me here in this blog, for I treasure companionship and the interdependence of sharing a way of being in the world that I cannot do alone. My commitment is to write regularly here about compassionate leadership in congregations. If you have any comments or situations in which we can offer empathy and understanding to one another, I would be delighted to hear from you.
Let us share and build upon the hope of compassion.