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OUR VISION 

 

We are working to create a community, community process, and community model that asks "how can we..."

 

1) Honor our amazing human differences of sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, race, ethnicity, sex, religion, class, ability, age, nationality, language, our common humanity, and our planet?

 

2) Value non-violent power; social, economic and ecological justice; shared decision making and lifelong support?

 

3) Work towards self-sufficiency and sustainability--cultivating meaningful alternatives to the dominant systems of violence, oppression, and inequality?

 

4) Play and celebrate?

 

 

 

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The primary concrete feature that differentiates Araminta from communities across the country is, not only this vision, but how this vision gets operationalized in the model/structure below.  We also use this model as the core of The Welcome Circle - a new multiracial faith community in Charlottesville.  Individuals may experience this model/structure by attending The Welcome Circle on Sunday afternoons rrom 1-3 pm.

 

 

THE STRUCTURE and AGENDA OF THE “COMMUNITY CIRCLE”

 

 

“If our differences or equality of power feel unsafe to me, I may experience a lack of community 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”

 

 

Learning Time. The first hour of a Community Circle will provide an opportunity to experience communication practice, cross-cultural models, skill training, relevant videos--all led by the leadership pair or guest facilitators. The purpose of this time is to deepen our "internal work" in order to understand and effectively engage with systems and those who are different than we are. Suggestions for the facilitators for this learning time are welcome.

 

Sacredness Sharing. Physical set-up: chairs are set in a circle. If more than ten (or so) are present, a second "witness circle" will be created outside an inner circle of 4 chairs/seats. In this case, all attending are asked to sit in the outer circle (if room) during the sharing round and enter the inner circle when wishing to share.

 

The leadership pair then opens the sharing time with the ringing of a bell. Those that wish to share in a given moment (if there are two circles) move to sit in the inner circle. 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 then moving from the inside circle to the outside circle after the other person has shared. Sharing could include anything, simple and/or profound, that reflects the speakers sense of value, meaning, and sacredness.  It could be a story, ritual, song, dance, poem, reading, or an artifact they hold sacred. Sharers hold a "talking piece" while sharing and pass it on or set it in the center of the group after approximately 30 seconds (or longer if they wish) of silence has been honored. “Leanness of speech” or “distilling language” is asked of all present. Leaders, or others, may ask questions in order to facilitate this deepening/clarifying process for the speaker. Participants are asked to share only once in a given Circle unless/until all others have also shared.

 

A High Feedback Environment: The Ingredients

 

In gathering to cultivate an authentic and welcoming 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.

 

We provide this feedback using the following three protocols:

 

a.When we have a clear judgement that a person’s behavior or words may be negatively impacting the overall experience of welcome for members present, or not present, we can say (does not need to be verbatim):

 

• 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: _____________

 

b. When we experience an internal stirring/rub/friction that may stem from our own history, from our understanding of the world/systems or a combination that we don’t wish to offer to an individual or speak about for any reason we can ring the bell at the conclusion of another’s sharing (could be sadness, fear, or an “Ah, hell no” – though we need not be clear internally about its’ source). The bell will “call” the Circle into a minute of silence and provides non-verbal feedback for the group/individual.

 

c. There may be times when what a person shares stirs a sense of ferocious solidarity in a listener with un-named, unheard, or absent voices (could be oneself). If we experience this as a listener, we may 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 speak in solidarity with people of color who could not safely speak out 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) like these above. 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 Community Circle has closed. This is not conflict resolution but an opportunity for anyone and everyone to find and speak from their empowered voice.

 

We enter this Circle with a general desire and willingness to have others give us feedback about our unconscious spots and how we impact them in ways we may not intend.

 

We may be receiving feedback as part of the protocols listed above. We may feel moved to express gratitude for that feedback and/or we may express how it was for us to receive that feedback on other levels.

 

“Shadows” of welcome and community 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 Community 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?

 

Closing. All present are invited to share one thing that they will take with them, their appreciation, and/or gratitude. These are offered randomly until silence returns and the Circle is considered closed. A facilitator rings the bell to signify closing.

 

 

 

Final Notes: The Community Circle will typically last between one and two hours. Leaders will split the group in half, each leading one group, if there appears to be significantly more sharing than can be managed in this single hour. Usually, it is best to split groups larger than 20 in half. Welcome Circles can meet anywhere, anytime.