On March 1-3 2019 over 70 people from the Methodist Church met near Oxford to discuss the question: ‘Racial Justice: what is our calling?’. The symposium was organised collaboratively by the Methodist Church and the Susanna Wesley Foundation. The planning group included, from the Methodist Church, members of the Methodist Church Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee, one Learning and Development Officer, and Rev Ermal Kirby, who spearheaded the event. Alongside these was Megan Seneque, a specialist in transformational change and Theory U.
The event was structured around the processes of Theory U, a methodology for transformational change that provides tools for groups to think and listen deeply together. During the event these tools included small listening groups, prayer, role play (termed ‘social sculptures’) and the copious use of craft supplies to build models together. The variety of tools enabled participants to think about the issue of racial justice from different angles, at times literally embodying the reality of their experience and the change they sought to aim for. During a time of reflection, one participant wrote these words:
There is a dance, a dance of love –
It is the whirlwind from which creation spills forth.
The dance stretches out work-worn hands and
bids us all to join.
To move, to change, to put our trust in someone else.
We need not worry about where we put our feet
because others lift us up and in turn we lift others.
The processes of Theory U are usually deployed over a much longer time period and thus some activities were inevitably curtailed just as they were beginning to open up new ways of thinking. However, it served to open up spaces for honest conversation, to provide a chance to ‘connect to Source’, in Theory U terms, and to begin to think about ways forward. A primary outcome of the event was to demonstrate the fundamental yet often overlooked power of deep listening to stories in a non-hierarchical setting. It pointed to this and other fruitful ways forward in the continuing, longer journey towards racial justice in the Methodist Church, and in looking for ways of interacting with people who are different.
Susanna Wesley Foundation has a free ‘conversation guide’ booklet for groups seeking to listen to each other in the areas of Diversity, Otherness and Privilege. It provides helpful discussion questions and diagrams that encourage positive conversations, and comes with a Facilitator Guide, which is available on our website. Find out more on our facebook page and request a sample by contacting us.