THE WELCOME CIRCLE
We hold this truth to be self-evident:
That ALL PEOPLE are created equal
WELCOME TSILUGI WITAM BIENVENIDOS SWAAGAT WILLKOMMEN HUAN YING MARHABA BIENVENUE DOBRO
(English) (Cherokee) (Polish) (Spanish) (Hindi) (German) (Chinese) (Arabic) (French) (Portuguese)
THE WELCOME CIRCLE: GENERAL STRUCTURE
“If our differences or equality of power feel unsafe to me, I may experience a lack of welcome here”
“Be prepared for a high feedback environment”
“This is not therapy or a place for venting”
“It is a place where we can learn to speak from solidarity and strength”
“It is a place where our differences and commonality are acknowledged and celebrated”
The leadership pair opens the Welcome Circle by welcoming all present and introducing themselves. They invite all in attendance to introduce themselves if they wish. Introductions may include answering a prompt offered by the facilitation team according to the size and of the group and other considerations: What brought you here? What do you hope to take with you? What is a favorite animal? Anything you want the group to know about you?
The learning time will comprise the first hour of a Welcome Circle will provide an opportunity to experience communication practice, cross-cultural/racial models, skill training, reflections, and relevant videos--all led by the leadership pair or guest facilitators. Recommendations may be sought from, or provided by, the Governing Body or attenders. The purpose of this time is to deepen our "internal work" and to understand, and effectively engage with, others across power and other differences.
A short break (5-10 minutes) is taken at the end of this time to use the restroom and/or have a snack if the group decides to provide this.
2.The Sharing Round
The leadership pair marks the transition to the Sharing Round by lighting a candle and ringing a bell. A “talking piece” is set in the center of the group and any who desire to share their experience of the sacred may do so by picking up the talking piece (this could be any object and could change weekly).
If there are more than 10 participants, an inner circle of 4 chairs is arranged during the break. Those that wish to share (if there are two circles) sit in the inner circle when they are ready. It is suggested that at least two people sit in the inner circle at one time and that after sharing, a person remains in solidarity until a third sits in the inner circle—so that no one is alone in the inner circle.
Sharing could include anything, simple or profound, that reflects the speakers sense of value, meaning, sacredness. It could be a little story, a ritual, a song, a dance, a poem, or an artifact they hold sacred.
Silence is honored after each sharing (approximately 30 seconds). The talking piece is then replaced.
• “Leanness of speech” or “distilling language” in an attempt to best say what is important is asked of all present...leaders/others may ask questions in order to facilitate this process for the speaker.
• Participants are asked to share only once in a given Welcome Circle unless/until all others have also shared.
3. The Closing Round
Lastly, in closing the Welcome Circle, all present are invited to share one word or phrase to express what they will take with them, their appreciation, and gratitude. These are offered randomly until silence returns and the Circle is considered closed signified by the ringing of a bell and the blowing out of the candle.
Duration. The Welcome Circle will last one and a half to two hours. Leaders will split the group in half for the sharing time, each leading one group, if there appears to be significantly more sharing than can be managed in this single hour. Typically, it is best to split groups larger than 18 in half.
Apparent Conflict/Lack of Closure/Need for Relationship Building or Repair/Solidarity
In gathering to cultivate an authentically welcoming faith community, we acknowledge two foundational ingredients:
We enter this circle with the acceptance of a responsibility to provide a high level of feedback for others and to receive it.
We provide this feedback using the following three protocols:
a.When we experience a strong emotional charge that we don’t wish to speak about for any reason we ring the bell at the conclusion of another’s sharing (could be sadness, fear, anger, or an “Ah, hell no,” though we need not be clear about its’ source). The bell will “call” the Circle into a minute of silence and provide non-verbal feedback for the group/individual.
b.When we have a clear judgement, without an emotional charge, that a person’s behavior or words may be negatively impacting the overall experience of welcome for members present, or not present, we say:
• When you: _____________
• I assume you have a good intention to: _____________
• And in order for this circle to be welcoming for everyone, I’d ask that you: ____________
c. When we have a strong emotional charge and a sense of ferocious solidarity with un-named, unheard, or absent voices (could be oneself), we say:
• When you: ____________
• I felt called to speak in solidarity with: ____________
• Because: ____________
Example: A white woman from South Africa share’s how she likes to “walk on her land in the mornings” another white person, mindful of the history of apartheid, shares in response: “When you shared your story, I felt called to stand in solidarity with people of color who could not safely stand unthreatened under apartheid in South Africa and whose land was taken by white, English colonizers.”
The leaders will ask for a period of silence to be taken after a spiritually/emotionally “loaded” statement(s) as in the above example. In this way, the original speaker has the opportunity to deepen their awareness of their impact across difference. The original speaker may be moved to express gratitude for this learning. Leaders will be responsible for setting boundaries during this process so they do not become debates, justifications, defenses, or explanations. Leaders, or others, will ask “How was it to for you to receive that feedback?” and other follow-up questions as needed. If the leaders or other participants do not sense completeness of this process they may request further facilitated time to take place after the Welcome Circle has closed.
“Shadows” of Welcome are exclusion, hatred, aggression, violence, judgement, fear. After the sharing round is complete, a “shadow round” may be requested by any present in order to provide an opportunity/time for any attending to express/name how they have acted/intended to act unwelcoming in their past in these ways, to name their learning, and to ask for support if desired. They may express how they have been afraid to speak/act in solidarity with others. For a well-established Welcome Circle, requests may be made during the shadow round for others to call out our shadow by the group: what are the places others may see that we might act out of alignment with the sacredness of welcome, love, solidarity?