Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space III

Continuing along the theme of sacred space, I would like to offer a method of creating sacred group space-especially in places of conflict or tension. Previous posts on sacred space are on the personal labyrinth and personal prayer patterns styled upon praying with beads.

Creating Sacred Group Space

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to facilitate group sharing (or participate in) around a sticky topic or situation? It is really difficult to get people to move beyond finger pointing, conflict, and blaming. Eric Law developed a method that facilitates sharing in a sticky environment that offers mutual respect and honor to the participants. It is commonly called Eric Law’s Method of Mutual Invitation. I love using it!

Rev. Eric H. F. Law
(c) California-Pacific Conference of the UMC

One of the problems with most decision making settings is that a decision must be made! That necessitates a winner and a loser. It is rarely a win/win situation. Most often if one person wins, there is another person who loses or gives in. Eric Law’s Method of Mutual Invitation is not a decision making process, it is a listening process that can lead to deeper points and through long and hard work, lead to a consensus building model where every voice is heard and honored. It is at once simple and profound.

The Method

Mutual Invitation is a small group process designed to allow for inclusion and disciplined sharing in diverse settings, especially where there might be a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds, different beliefs, or personality types present. The process allows for each person in the group to have an opportunity to share, as well as to participate in group dynamics. The process of Mutual Invitation can be adapted for different settings and purposes, e.g. family meal time, small group sharing, and office meetings.

Someone begins the sharing, related to the chosen topic.

  • The facilitator will set a time limit for each person.
  • No questions, responses, or interruptions are allowed during the process.

After the sharing there is a brief pause to allow the others to reflect upon what has been shared.

  • Responding begins after the pause. The pause should be stretched to a couple of minutes or longer if possible.
  • Responding is done by asking open ended questions designed to allow the person sharing to examine further her experience.

In a group sharing session, the person who is sharing invites the next person after others have responded to him/her.

  • Avoid inviting the person sitting next to you. This avoids the tendency to “go around in a circle.”
  • The goal of mutual invitation is to randomly invite the next person. This random invitation prevents distractions such as anticipating or worrying about what to share. Random invitation also helps keeps the focus on the person sharing.

The invited person may choose to share, to pass for now, or to pass.

  • Pass for now means she/he can share later when re-invited.
  • Pass indicates that she/he does not choose to share during this session.
  • Regardless of what the person chooses, she/he always invites the next person.

The process is repeated until everyone in the group has been invited. And every person has either responded or finished with a final pass.

Pattern sample:

  • Facilitator states the question being pondered and offers their own response.
  • Then silence is held for a couple minutes.
  • The group then asks questions-they must be either clarifying questions or open-ended questions. One person at a time.
  • The facilitator responds to questions as they come.
  • At the end of the questions, silence is held for a couple of minutes.
  • The facilitator invites the next person to share.
  • The next person responds with either their own sharing, a pass, or a pass for now.
  • Then silence is held for a couple of minutes.
  • The group then asks questions-they must be either clarifying questions or open-ended questions. One person at a time.
  • That person responds to questions as they come.
  • At the end of the questions, silence is held for a couple of minutes.
  • That person invites the next person to share.
  • And so on, until all have shared or responded with a final pass.

This sharing methodology, as simple as it is, has opened up sacred space. I love using it! Especially when confronted with sticky situations and group conflict. It keeps things calm, peaceful, and invites a sacred and healing quality to the space. You could even use it in a study environment! Imagine opening up a text and sharing responses in a group in this sacred, invitational manner! Beautiful.

The most profound time I have ever used this method involved a group in conflict. It was a group coming together after a major loss all with different ideas of how to move forward and very few ideas of how to sit in the loss. We used this method and brought out people’s fears, hopes, sorrows, and even some joys. It became a place of healing rather than a cantankerous committee meeting. It forced us to be still and to hold each other loosely and gently. Creating sacred space.

A bit about Rev. Eric Law:  He is an Episcopalian priest, is the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute, the mission of which is to create inclusive and sustainable churches and communities. He has been writing and practicing for more than 20 years. He can be found online at The Sustainist.

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

© 2013, essay, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Author:

I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too. (PS My photo is by Eric Lyons Photography).

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