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?