About 35 New England Conference leaders – activists, artists, connectors, educators, healers, and neighbors – gathered May 1-3, 2019 for training with a team from Fearless Dialogues
On its website, the Atlanta-based Fearless Dialogues describes their work as “creating unique spaces for unlikely partners to engage in hard heartfelt conversations that see gifts in others, hear value in stories, and work for change …”
“During the last seven years, one of the things I have realized as your episcopal leader is that sometimes we do not get into deep and difficult conversations because of fear,” Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar told the gathered leaders.
Bishop Devadhar said he was praying for a way to encourage those deeper discussions, when the Council of Bishops went through a training with Fearless Dialogues in preparation for the 2019 General Conference.
The bishop asked Fearless Dialogues founder Gregory C. Ellison II, Ph.D., and Executive Director Georgette "JoJo" Ledgister, Ph.D., if they would do a training here in New England. For this session the two were joined by the Rev. Toby Sanders, who serves as an advisor to Fearless Dialogues.
During the two days, NEAC leaders – including board and committee chairs, District Superintendents, the Conference Secretary, and some Conference staff members – were asked to identify themselves by one of the gifts listed above, and participated in exercises – or experiments, as the Fearless Dialogues leaders called them – as members of those groups.
The work included work on active listening and seeing – particularly to those who are frequently ignored by our society – along with work on truly seeing and knowing the Conference by answering questions about our collective identity and purpose.
The work concluded with each group: Activists, Artists, Connectors, Educators, Healers, and Neighbors writing its own blessing for the New England Conference. Read the blessings here
“You are a gifted Conference,” Bishop Devadhar said. “My days are numbered [the bishop will retire in 2020] … I said to myself, what if Fearless Dialogues comes here and meets with the key leaders of this Conference so we can talk about the issues we have not talked about? What a difference it would make to this Conference if when your new episcopal leader arrives, this is a take-off point for him or her.”