CEF has been in great discussion about communities of practice. From this came a decision to focus our upcoming conference on developing communities, not just as an organization, but in such a way that we can return from conference and equip our own communities, both for CEF and local ministry settings. Out of our discussion came the phrase “join the conversation.”

Studies are showing that our country is becoming more polarized. In this process, we are losing the ability to be in conversation with one another. It seems that no one is listening. We have forgotten how. I get frustrated for the future as people seem less willing to listen to one another. During discussions about communities of practice, CEF Board member and recently retired Discipleship Ministries staff member Carol Krau shared a book that spoke to this very issue.

So I share with you Margaret Wheatley’s Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009). The phrase “join the conversation” influenced the flow of the 2016 CEF Conference and what we will offer in the way of workshops and time for conversation. We know this conference will look a bit different. This has been intentional from the start.

As we prepare to gather in Nashville in October, I will be sharing periodic insights gleaned from this resource. It is especially relevant for those engaged in faith formation as we are often placed in positions to guide a variety of conversations. In her chapter on the practice of conversation, Wheatley offers this wisdom that speaks to the goals for CEF 2016.

“Most of what we do in communities and organizations focuses us on our individual needs. We attend a conference or meeting for our own purposes, for ‘what can I get out of this.’ Conversation is different. Although we each benefit individually from good conversation, we also discover that we were never as separate as we thought. Good conversation connects us at a deeper level. As we share our different human experiences, we rediscover a sense of unity. We remember we are part of a greater whole. And as an added joy, we also discover our collective wisdom. We suddenly see how wise we can be together.” (p. 32)

This is part of what we will be about at CEF 2016! And here are some behaviors to practice as we prepare for this process and to encourage you in your conversations (from p. 33)…

· Acknowledge each other as equals
· Try to stay curious about each other
· Recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners
· Slow down so we have time to think and reflect
· Remember that conversation is the natural way humans think together
· Expect it to be messy at times

In preparation for CEF 2016, I invite you to comment on the success and trials of practicing the lost art of conversation and to share your thoughts about this resource. #jointheconversation

Jenny Reilly