From Your Healthy Congregation Team
Dear Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Family,
I recently found myself in the mountains of North Carolina, listening to a man who called himself Swami Ravi at a Restorative Culture Conference. While this may be normal for some readers, I am much more accustomed to addressing someone as lieutenant, first sergeant, specialist, or simply as sir or ma’am. I have only ever done yoga for exercise (and only one instructor led class), and was incredibly uncomfortable using a term I was unfamiliar with from a culture I did not know with a person who did not appear to be from said culture. But there I sat. All weekend. And I learned.
I never would have found this Restorative Culture Conference, or learned about communication at all had it not been for the Healthy Congregation Team at Piedmont UU Church. The last two years or so, I have been introduced to a lot of new ways of thinking and speaking thanks to the Healthy Congregation Team. The classes I have participated in lead me to be more considerate of other people’s feelings, and lead to more productive communication with other people… sometimes.
You might be reading this and finding yourself a bit confused already. Maybe the term “Healthy Congregation” is unfamiliar to you. The purpose of the Healthy Congregation Team is to encourage Piedmont UU Church’s emotional health and to provide training and support for conflict engagement. I first learned about the team through Nonviolent Communication (NVC). It took me some time to attend my first session of NVC. While I had been curious for several months, I also felt concerned. I thought that an emphasis on non-violence was inherently a condemnation of all acts of violence, which seems a little too hippie dippy for me.
I have found, though, that Nonviolent Communication is incredibly practical. Hugh Hammond put it well during his sermon in June when he said:
“We all share the very same human needs. The perhaps astonishing corollary to this- and one that turned my world upside down- says this: Every action humans take – and I mean everything – everything we think, say, or do – is an attempt to meet these human needs we all share. Even when we do it poorly, tragically, or even horrifically.”
I find the needs based communication Hugh talked about in his sermon useful and intriguing when considering our current political divide, or why Charlotte would consider building a soccer stadium, or my neighbor who lets their dog poop in our backyard. I find it to be the most difficult and most necessary at home, for example, when trying to understand my four year old’s needs when she raises her voice and cries in a store, my mother in-law’s needs when she brings my children a bag of toys from the dollar store, or my husband’s needs when he steps over the cat vomit in the middle of the doorway in the morning. It can be even harder understanding my own needs when I get angry with my children, when I am short with my mother-in-law, or when my child repeats a swear word they heard after I stepped in vomit. These are the places I am finding Restorative Culture and Nonviolent Communication to be useful. I am working on actively learning and applying what I have learned as much as I can.
I’ll be working on my journey more this fall in the introductory Nonviolent Communication sessions beginning September 13th, and I hope you will consider attending too. I solemnly swear there will be practical applications to all of it.
Michelle Boesch, Healthy Congregation Team Co-Chair