New curriculum encourages healthy communication in the midst of conflict
Although Anabaptists are known for their peace theology, that peace witness can unravel in their own congregations.
In recent years, polarizing political rhetoric and widening chasms between churchgoers’ deeply held beliefs have divided churches and separated friends and families.
To help people to learn to work through divisive issues, MCC U.S. has produced a new curriculum, Peaceful Practices: A guide to healthy communication in conflict. It invites churchgoers to follow Jesus’ call to peacemaking through dialogue with each other.
“When we talk about conflict, and we envision the huge polarization in our country, a first step can be to think about how we engage and respond in the relationships that we know,” said Jes Stoltzfus Buller, MCC U.S. peace education coordinator and Peaceful Practices author.
“If we respond with child-like curiosity, we deepen our understanding of the real differences that exist, as well as often find that we have more in common under the surface than we previously thought."
MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder
Peaceful Practices invites adult Sunday school classes to consider dialogue as a spiritual discipline or even an act of wrestling with God, not unlike the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling in the night before he reconciled with his brother, Esau.
“True dialogue requires a transformation of the heart,” Stoltzfus Buller says. “The goal is transformed relationships rather than changed opinions.”
“In this sense, peaceful practices can also be approached and embodied as a spiritual discipline. Our responses to conflict reflect our theology and can open us to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our conflicts.”
MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder
Each of the nine sessions has a peaceful practice, biblical reflection, conflict transformation tool, at-home reflection questions, group activity, closing blessing and resources to go deeper. Sunday school teachers will find tips for facilitating the lessons virtually or in-person.
The final session focuses on creative processes participants can use to address small church conflicts before they turn into large, destructive problems.
To download a digital copy of Peaceful Practices or to order a print copy, visit mcc.org/peaceful-practices.
In the coming months, MCC U.S. will create conversation guides on specific sensitive topics that churches can use alongside Peaceful Practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about them.
Caption for top photo: Lynn Chalfoun listens to Cara August talk about a given topic during a group activity to encourage careful listening. They were part of a healthy dialogue training led by Jes Stoltzfus Buller, MCC U.S. peace education coordinator and author of Peaceful Practices at a 2018 North Baltimore Mennonite Church retreat. MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder