I first heard the term “graceful engagement” from the founding director of Intersections International, Rev. Robert Chase.1 He was describing to me the peace-building approach that Intersections uses across its programs, and once I heard it, I started seeing other examples everywhere.
This week, I came across a resource from the Institute for Welcoming Resources, a coalition of trainers that supports local congregations in nurturing their members and deepening their practice of hospitality. As IWR describes it, graceful engagement has three prerequisites:
1. Parties need to be open to learning, and therefore be open to listening or truly attending to one another.
2. Parties should be willing to perceive each other as peers and siblings rather than as “Us” and “Other.”
3. Parties will need to stretch beyond these first two steps, and actively attempt to recognize the Divine in each other, just as fractious siblings sometimes recognize their parents in their age-mates.
Graceful Engagement is a way of practicing holy conversation, where each person is treated as a loved child of God. It is about listening, sharing one’s own story, hearing one another’s perspective, finding commonalities and shared experiences. It is about building relationships around values that bring us together as opposed to things that polarize us.” —The Institute for Welcoming Resources (2013)
Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer have practiced this approach in their own context over the last near-decade, and a group of pastors, teachers, and lay people attempted to do likewise last spring. I participated in this extended conversation. If you still haven’t seen it, please download it and watch at your convenience.
- Intersections is one of McKenzie Consulting Group’s current partners and recently hired me.