Multicultural Relations Courageous Conversations

What is Courageous Conversations?

Courageous Conversations is a seminary-wide initiative creating safe, confidential, and sacred spaces for hearing one another’s stories.

Through circles of open sharing, respectful listening, and committed presence, Courageous Conversations offers opportunities for deepening trust and caring among all who make up the Seminary’s diverse community.

Being united in Christ through faith does not mean that differences will be erased. Rather, ethnic and other categories (economic, gender identity, etc.) are no longer definitive of our identities.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV)

This verse is not a call to erase ethnic, class, gender identity and many other forms of diversity in an absolute sense. Rather, it is a call to break down any existing barriers and inequalities between them. We ask God to grant us wisdom and courage to confront these situations and our own sins, and the failures of our community in love and with a spirit of humility and compassion.

Why have Courageous Conversations?

Conversation and dialogue is the core component of Navigating the Waters program logic and strategy. Using clips from films, articles by practitioners, news clippings, etc., as catalysts, we facilitate conversations between participants.

When participants dialogue productively about race at a personal level, it can open insights, challenge assumptions, and facilitate healing.

What will we gain by engaging in Courageous Conversations?
Courageous Conversations on race, power, privilege, stereotypes, and justice, provide a new opportunity to nurture truth-telling relationships with people committed to change.

Race is a very broad subject. How do we decide what this conversation should look like in our Seminary?
Courageous Conversations are an opportunity to shine a light on both the problem and the promise — past and present. Chances are, there are people in our Seminary community who have stories to share about the damage racism has inflicted and the spiritual power that comes with resisting and healing this damage.

Is conversation enough? Isn’t it more important to work for institutional change?
Courageous Conversations are not intended to begin and end with words alone. Neither is it intended to be a program that simply imparts new information and knowledge about race, power, privilege, stereotypes, and justice. Personal and social transformation are the ultimate goals. As new insights are gleaned, Courageous Conversations can provide a context for people to challenge themselves and each other to ask: now that we understand this aspect of racism more fully, what are we going to do about it?

What if our Courageous Conversations stir up feelings that prove hurtful to some?
Talking openly and honestly about race can be challenging. Confronting the impact of racism on our lives, our communities, and our nation is difficult work. It requires openness of mind and heart, as well as humility of spirit, to risk discovering things about ourselves and the world we may not have known before. Along the way, we may very well encounter feelings in ourselves or others that are potentially hurtful: defensiveness,resistance, anger, self-righteousness, and moralizing. Skilled facilitators can help us acknowledge and deal with these feelings when they surface in destructive ways. They can invite us to engage in the emotional and spiritual work necessary to heal from hurt or misunderstanding.

What happens if we get bogged down or feel overwhelmed by these conversations?
The responsibility for safeguarding the trust and the community that is being created must be shared by everyone taking part in the conversation. Facilitators cannot do this alone; the entire group needs to covenant together to stay with the process and work through times of tension and growth.

By sharing this responsibility, the possibility of authentic relationships across difference will be nourished and enacted.

We encourage participation in these small group conversations from all members of the Seminary community. Please contact navigatingthewaters@ptsem.edu if you wish to contribute with your experiences and broaden your own perspectives with fellow Seminary residents, alumnae/i, and community leaders.

During the month of April we will provide orientation and training for new Courageous Conversations Facilitators to assume responsibilities in the fall semester. If you wish to be an active member of the Cohort of Facilitators, please contact the Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo, Jr. directly at victor.aloyo@ptsem.edu.

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Chaplain at the Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Khristi Adams, Class of 2008

“At Princeton, we had precept groups—we’d engage text and debate. That gave me confidence to have those conversations anywhere.”