Sanctuary for Dialogue
Our Mission: To facilitate civil and respectful dialogue in which people express their beliefs and ideas, and seek to understand better the beliefs and ideas of themselves and others, including why they believe as they do.
Our Vision: The Community Church’s Sanctuary for Dialogue program is seen as a highly valuable resource, both within the congregation and in the broader community, for effectively facilitating discussions regarding topics on which the participants have strong disagreements, leading to increased trust and respect between the groups that disagree.
Upcoming Sfd Events
SfD members are conducting workshops in the community to address political polarization. We are using the Better Angels model, which brings together an equal number of conservative and liberal participants for structured discussion exercises, plus observers. If you are interested in participating in or observing one of these workshops, please email us by clicking the "Contact SfD" button above.
"Better Angels State of the Union" Watch Party: How can we depolarize America? Join the Sanctuary for Dialogue team Thursday evening, Jan. 31, to view a State of the Union address from Better Angels, the bipartisan organization who trained us to lead our depolarization workshops. Social hour with snacks in the Community Room at 8:00, televised address in the Sanctuary at 9:00, and Q&A until 10:00. Bring friends and family, especially those whose political views are different from yours! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Previous Sfd Events
Let's Talk Turkey: A Skills Workshop for Talking across the Political Divide. On November 12 and 17, 2018 we again held Better Angels workshops for teaching people skills for constructive, non-polarizing conversations between people who disagree politically.
Addressing Income Disparity: On April 29 and 30, 2018, we held a dialogue on income disparity in this country - how people feel about it, what are the root causes, and what are possible solutions. Approximately 25 church members participated. Facilitators were Steve Warshaw, Caroline Sherman, Joe Swain, Rick Szymanski, and Joan Garnett. Based on participants' interest, a SEA course on a related topic is being planned for the spring of 2019.
Let's Talk Turkey! Talking across the Political Divide, a Skills Workshop on Difficult Personal Conversations. On November 20 and 21, 2017, we held two workshops designed to teach people what it takes to have constructive, non-polarizing conversations between people who disagree politically. It was taught by SfD members but was designed by a new bipartisan organization called Better Angels. (Several SfD members recently received training from Better Angels.)
Free Speech on College Campuses: On May 7, 2017, SfD held its first youth dialogue, convened by RE Director Marion Hirsch, on the limits of free speech on college campuses. Six members of the youth group participated in this dialogue on issues such as whether people such as Milo Yiannopoulos who hold extreme or controversial positions should be invited to speak at colleges and universities, and whether it is right or wrong for those who disagree with them to interfere with their ability to speak. George Thompson and Laura Gilliom facilitated.
Palestinian - Israeli Conflict: In October and November of 2016, there were multiple sessions of dialogue on the Palestinian - Israeli conflict. Twenty participants took part in three meetings each. Facilitators were Steve Warshaw, George Thompson, Dan Hill, Laura Gilliom, Caroline Sherman, and Brenda Ungerland.
Privacy and Security: Held on May 20, 23, and 27, 2016, this dialogue dealt with the conflicts that can occur between personal privacy and the potential for greater security through surveillance, as in the case of Apple vs. the FBI. Twenty-two participants attended the three sessions, which were led by our four new facilitators: Dan Hill, Caroline Sherman, George Thompson, and Brenda Ungerland (with support from Laura Gilliom and Steve Warshaw.)
Religious and Political Differences in our Congregation: Held on January 29 and February 1, 2016, the full title of this dialogue was "Should we be concerned that when individuals within our church community express their opinions in matters of religion or politics it leaves others in our community feeling excluded or even demeaned?“ Nineteen church members participated, with Steve Warshaw, Peter Bird, and Laura Gilliom facilitating and Cecilia Warshaw supporting.
"Personal Conviction and Public Duty”: Our pilot dialogue, on November 6, 2015, addressed issues inspired by the ongoing debate surrounding Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses once the Supreme Court decision made gay marriage legal. Fourteen church members participated; facilitators were Steve Warshaw, Peter Bird, and Laura Gilliom, with support from Cecilia Warshaw.
Click on the links to learn about the nonprofit organizations in Boston and New York that developed the dialogue methods we are using. There are many wonderful resources there to explore.