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🦠 Disruptions in the Circle

C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels
Good morning, Friends.
This week’s reflection is a short one based on a talk I gave a couple of weeks ago on transition (see the full video of that talk below). There are a lot of ways in which we are and will remain in transition for some time due to all that is going on. Transition, as I have written about before, is different from change in that change is an event, whereas transition is the long and ongoing psychological process that unfolds at its own pace and often brings with it loss, grief, new insight, and disruption. As William and Susan Bridges say in their book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes:
> It isn’t the changes that will do you in; it’s the transitions.
I’ve found helpful for thinking about dealing with disruptions - as a normal and often healthy thing - from (maybe) an unlikely source: the teachings of Godly Play. For those of you who are not familiar, Godly Play is an amazing children’s spiritual curriculum that is participatory and starts from the assumption that children have rich spiritual lives.
Godly Play is:
> “a curriculum of spiritual practice exploring the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. The Godly Play curriculum engages what is most exciting about religious education: God inviting us into—and pursuing us in the midst of—Scripture and spiritual experience. Godly Play practice teaches us to listen for God and to make authentic and creative responses to God’s call in our lives.” -Link
I became aware of Godly Play while pastoring in the Pacific Northwest where I had the lucky chance to train with the amazing Caryl Menkhus Creswell and have been a fan and student of it ever since.
Today, as we think about disruptions in our circles, whether those are our religious communities, families, workplaces, or other communities, I think there is wisdom in this teaching for all of us.
Thanks for reading,
Wess Daniels
Haw River Watershed (Greensboro, NC)

disruptions in the circle
disruptions in the circle
Disruptions in the Circle
We are living in a time of great disruption. The powers and principalities are being unmasked and we are being invited, challenged, and pushed to give up our old ways and welcome in the new. Something new is truly wanting to be born. The birth pangs of God’s movement of liberation and love are all around us, pushing us into a great transition how will we handle all of this? Will we welcome it or push it away?
How do we respond individually and corporately to transition matters not just for our personal mental and emotional health – which don’t get me wrong, is important – it also matters on the scale of great societal change, on the level of only some being safe and having what they need, or ALL PEOPLE BEING SAFE and ALL HAVING WHAT THEY NEED TO LIVE FULFILLED LIVES.
I think Godly Play offers some interesting insight into how to deal with and move through disruptions (granted I have taken some liberties here, too). If you are not familiar with Godly Play, some of you may be familiar with the Quaker curriculum based on it called Faith and Play - it is very good if you do not know about it and I would commend both versions to you. It is based on the work of Jerome Berryman, an Episcopal priest, who created Godly Play to be an experiential, Montessori-based, way of learning about the Bible and spirituality.
For our purpose, today, consider a community important to you right now that is experiencing disruption. This is one of your circles. I think it would be very safe to say that COVID certainly counts as a disruption to whatever circle you consider.
What follows is from training materials on how to help teachers leading their Godly Play circles in the midst of disruption. Here are a few key takeaways and adaptations from those ideas I have found useful as I consider how to respond in the midst of transition and disruption in a community.
Guidance for Responding to Disruptions in the Circle
Take time to breathe. Gather information, listen deeply, broadly. Instead of being hyper-focused on one person or one problem in the midst of disruption, pull back and pay attention to the whole community. It is easy to get locked in power struggles, make sudden decisions, become reactive. Instead, use this as a time of information gathering, listening, truly taking in the major issues, and see what is are unmasking. 
One caveat I want to include here is: if you are clearly aware of the cause behind the major disruption you should deal with it appropriately and immediately.
Check yourself. Are you as grounded and as deep into your own practice and tradition as you can be? The goal is to not be knocked off-center, to keep your anxiety at bay as best as possible, and to make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to remain healthy and grounded. Think about it like going deeper into the story - the story of your life, the story of your community, and the story of your faith tradition.
Keep moving through the disruption. Help others keep moving. As we learned earlier, there are phases in a transition and they are hard but we don’t want to get stuck in the middle of a transition. We want to keep moving. It may take a long time to get through a transition, don’t make it take longer by avoiding the work that it presents to you. It is our goal to help people - especially in our close community - not lose hope. Help the story keep moving forward. Help them go deeper into their own stories and their own practice.
Remember what we are doing is important spiritual work. In the Godly Play literature, some of the guidance for teachers in dealing with disruption in the circle of learning are:
  • Disruptions are to be expected
  • Disruptions can be good. They are an opportunity for teaching and learning.
  • Disruptions can be about testing “outer” safety or even “inner” safety.
  • Disruptions are part of the human “common core” as my friend Peggy Morrison would say.
Remember that what we are doing right now, living and existing in a very difficult moment is also an opportunity for learning, growing, changing. This is important spiritual work. This is the work for us to be doing right now. Stay awake to it.
Finally, enlarge the circle. In this time, I have found it incredibly helpful to grow my community, to reach out to friends I haven’t talked to, to build new connections and community. We can also enlarge the circle historically. I understand that people in my own faith tradition have also lived through and been faithful in very difficult times of change and transition. Rather than stay focused on me, myself, and I, in times of transition, I enlarge my circle. I look for relationships, stories, examples, and help from a broader pool of people who have gone through these things before or are going through them now. I want to hear more broadly in this time and see ways in which transition itself can be an opportunity to expand experience, perception, and connection.
Know that in times of transition we are not alone. God is with us and in these moments; as is our community, our tradition, our ancestors, our family, and more.
  • What does transition mean to you? How is it similar to or different from change in your experience? What does it feel like in your body to be in transition? What has it felt like spiritually? Emotionally?
  • Consider a time when you were in transition. What happened? What was it like? Did you know you were in a transition right away, if not when did you become aware of it? What did you do? What did you not do? What helped the transition go smoothly? What was hard about it?
  • What helps you remain grounded in the midst of transition?
Will The Circle Be Unbroken by Pop Staples
Pops Staples - "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Full Album Stream)
Pops Staples - "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Full Album Stream)
Video Presentation: In a Time of Transition: Seeds of Change, Roots of Strength
Wess Daniels - In a Time of Transition: Seeds of Change, Roots of Strength
Wess Daniels - In a Time of Transition: Seeds of Change, Roots of Strength
This is a presentation I gave this past a couple of Saturdays ago on the Topic of transition for Yonge Street Half Yearly Meeting in Canada.
Wess Daniels is still trying to figure it out.
Can a theology rooted in individual comfort & self-proclaimed Enlightenment w/in a predominately middle-class, white (previously) religious community be counted on to fight racial injustices, rampant poverty, trans & homophobia, & Xian Nationalist claims?
David Dark’s Free Frame Of Reference
What’s a prophet? Someone who tells the difficult truth. Poets and prophets speak and sing in tongues justified and ancient, calling past and future to the rescue of the present.
what’s your favorite Pedro the Lion song
Dress Down Friday Links
A sampling of interesting links from around the web.
The Loneliest Creature On Earth ~ Laura Ann Bates
An Argument for Reparations
History of Philosophy - Summarized & Visualized
How to build a better writing habit - Ness Labs
Radiohead Adding More Archival Concert Films to YouTube
Epilogue: Motion of Love
MOTION OF LOVE by bill jolliff and seth martin. A song inspired by Quaker Minister and Abolitionist, John Woolman. You can listen to Seth Martin’s version here.
make my eyes open eyes, eyes awake to view
the way that stands before me and the work that’s mine to do.
make my hands working hands, ready, kind and free
with the time and energy and goods you’ve given me
make it all be a motion of love.
make it all be a motion of love.
make my legs soldier’s legs, fit to march or stand
strong in solidarity as my time demands
make my mind a prophet’s mind, quick to see the sin
that keeps some folks in poverty and others poor within
make my face an honest face, a face that hides no lies
a face that mirrors to all i see, the good that meets my eyes
make my heart a servant’s heart, wounded for your sake
yours to hold, yours to mold, yours to mend or break
make my ears quick to hear the truth that goes unsaid
slow to speak and slow to wrath, swift to understand
make my life a simple life, rooted in one place
where yes is yes and no is no and deals are face to face
make my life a freedom song, charged in every verse
with bonds of deep humility no forces can disperse
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Thank you! -Wess 💚
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C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels @cwdaniels

Old and New (Spiritual) Technologies For Life Today in the Face of Empire. Renewal and change in the hopes of mobilizing communities for love & liberation.

Wess Daniels
Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College

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