Don't run away from change

The Rev. Beth Horne loves the conflict transformation skills she learned in Walking in the Way workshops, but she loves conflict as well.

“If a church doesn’t have conflict, it’s dead,” says the minister of the 200-member Highlands Church UCC in Melrose, Mass. 

Instead, what she values are the skills she learned — and continues to hone — in listening, talking and helping others to listen and talk.

Horne has attended Walking in the Way workshops both while in seminary and again as a pastor and says they “really allowed me to see conflict in a different way.”

A four-day program based on the teachings of Walking in the Way is scheduled for July 20-23 at The Brookfield Inn  “To Bend But Not Break: Leadership for Growing Resilient Congregations”  ill focus on “inoculating” congregations in order to respond to the ever-present changes confronting them in the 21st century, says facilitator Karen Nell Smith  The program will help with basic skills as well as the theory and theology of conflict transformation and dialogue, she says.

The interactive training is designed for ministers, lay leaders, chaplains educators, denominational heads — anyone involved with healing and working with congregations and communities in transition, or in the wake of trauma or turmoil. 

Horne appreciates the resiliency training offered through Walking in the Way, which helps her and her congregation stay grounded in the community. But change is still front and center, she says, with congregation members discussing their values — and sometimes finding some they might be able to change or even do away with.

“We ask for an explanation of why they value that position,” she says of the process. "Is there a shared value? Maybe we can uncover that. Then we have a conversation about values.” Among the lessons in “To Bend But Not Break” will be helping participants “clarify the context,” understanding the larger forces and patterns at play, the hidden effects of trauma and conflict and their effects on a community.

Participants also will learn the skills of deep listening and dialogue, how to maintain healthy boundaries and “Christian assertiveness.”

Horne says she’s keen on that last concept, which she sees as helping others to “stand their ground but be open to another.”

“I call it the ’tyranny of nice,”” she says. “Congregations feel they always have to give way to the other, but out in the parking lot they do the opposite.” Part of what she’s learned — and what she teaches others — is to “stand in your truth, allow both voices to be heard.”

Rituals for healing will also be explained, something Horne has helped congregations with, whether through healing services or simply recognizing people and their participation — celebrating them or the past traditions that have been laid to rest.