FaithCARE (Communities Affirming Restorative Experiences)

  • How do we build a church culture where everyone has a voice -a church where dress or posture, economics or education, tuneful singing or faint stammering do not prohibit anyone from experiencing value or acceptance?
  • How do we create spaces where there is no dominance, resentment and thoughtless words?
  • How does a church lay aside its misunderstandings and painful interactions?
  • How does a church become an “agent of reconciliation” when some members delight in the status quo while others seek new possibilities?

God created beautiful difference in the church. He created those differences so the church would be stronger, holistic and more present of the world to see His beauty, justice, compassion and faithful provision.

One of the struggles of our faith communities is that some of the most difficult and painful conflicts between people take place in church settings.  Many of us may know of congregational disputes that have left people hurt and bitter with unresolved pain – perhaps even questioning their faith.

How do we reconcile people and heal conflict in the church?

In guiding people to work cooperatively and solve problems, Paul’s words in Philippians 2:4 are important:  “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Damaging and upsetting conflicts in faith communities can be navigated with tools related to restorative practice and, specifically, facilitated conversation circles. Vigorous differences may become dynamic forces in vibrant, meaningful ministry, serving God and neighbour. Healthy differences may be opportunities for growth.

Questions form the basis for these restorative conversations which navigate differences. Those conversations are also known as talking circles. Questions may include the following:

  • What happened?
  • What impact has the incident or issue had on me?
  • What impact has the incident/issue had on others?
  • What do I think needs to happen to make things right?
  • What am I prepared to do to help make things right?

Restorative practice, in general, is not necessarily a “toolbox” or a series of techniques, but it provides a framework for healthy relationship-building in congregations and communities. Though it may on occasion involve criminal justice, it is  not about criminal justice. Restorative practices are grounded in the belief that

  • Every person has God-given worth.
  • No one is disposable.
  • Conflict and harm are most effectively addressed by attending to the needs of everyone affected.

Everyone has a voice and the process is always invitational. Restorative justice is far more than  a strategy. It is a way of life with others. The most critical purpose of restorative practices is restoring and building relationships.

For more information on the process, or for consultation and facilitation, visit Shalem Mental Health Network.