This fall I have started a series of informal and open conversations which have been called Coffee and Conversation. We have had two and they have been very rich. At one this week, a member shared with me that people don’t understand the idea of Beloved Community as the goal of our conversations about hard matters, especially around race.
Conversation with another person is so different that conversation ABOUT another person. For one thing, the latter is inevitably a conversation with myself—and also, when I am not directly engaged with someone, I don’t get the gift of their experience and perspective.
That was an “aha” moment for me. For me, the idea that the end would not be obvious. The goal is not to shame or blame people, it is to awaken people to a larger conversation which has been going on for centuries among people of color and which is now out in the open in our Association.
Conversation is a blessing because it helps us realize what we can’t know outside ourselves. It never occurred to me that the goal was not obvious. And I have been thinking since about how this interpretation is complicated by dominant culture assertions around not being vulnerable, not making mistakes and not needing to be lifelong learners.
One of my Meadville students in another powerful conversation this week, reflected on the response to the discussions of racial bias in our Association, said she has come to realize that we are so trained to believe that conflict is bad, and discomfort is bad.” Another said he had come to realize that racism is like plaque, you don’t just decide to address it and then it is gone, it requires daily hygiene and practice.
Conversation is a blessing, especially in a world where we are called to be vigilent in our learnings. Coffee, tea and water are great as well. Please help keep the conversation going. I will hold another coffee and conversation soon—a chance for us to share our ideas with one another openly and in the spirit of engagement.
With gratitude and in faithful resistance, Leslie
PS If you want to learn more about Beloved Community, this is a good place to start.