Have you ever had a conversation which changed your life? One of those moments where you glimpsed a different way of seeing the world?
Perhaps you connected with someone else or a group of people at a profound level, even if just briefly, and something new, even unexpected, came out of the connectedness between those people on that day in that place and at that time?
This is a “creative conversation”, say the writers of a new resource – now available on the Church Mission Society Resource Hub – aimed at helping people create space for such encounters and to make the most of them when they happen.
Dr Cathy Ross, leader of the Oxford centre for CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training, is part of the team behind the resource, along with Anna Ruddick of Urban Life and Mike Pears of the International Baptist Theological Study Centre.
Cathy says: “Many of us find conversation easy and others don’t. But we really wanted to encourage conversations across difference. We think this is more important than ever – especially now if we look at all the animosity and fractures in our world.
“We wanted people to be aware of what they themselves bring to a conversation in terms of their own worldview, life experience and way of approaching others. But we also believe that everyone has a piece of the wisdom and that we can all learn from one another.”
This project was a partnership between Urban Life and CMS, with some funding from Durham University and Seed Bed to enable research and publication of the findings.
Cathy explains: “We had various community researchers in various contexts in the UK and Kenya engaging in conversations with people different from them and then reflecting on this – what they learned, joys and challenges, surprises and delights.
“We had several workshop days together sharing these insights and this is what you find in the booklet.
“The project took about four years – mainly as we are all doing other stuff – but it takes time to have these conversations, reflect on them and craft the research into something user-friendly!”
The Guide to Creative Conversations has five short chapters which distil the learning and consider the practicalities of what helps and hinders creative conversation.
Cathy says: “We learned from our community researchers that place is important. Place and space matter and can also be indicators of power dynamics.
“We also thought about our own stories and how these have shaped us; how we can learn to sit with discomfort and lean into uncomfortable conversations… and silences.”
Each chapter is accompanied by a guide for personal reflection, a brief discussion guide to be used in a group setting and practical challenges to try out in your day to day life and mission.
“We hope that this project will encourage us all to have more creative and life-giving conversations,” says Cathy, “conversations where we learn what it means to be human, what it might feel like to walk in someone else’s shoes, what roles we sometimes play in conversation and even how to have more fruitful an energising conversations online in our new zoom world!
“We hope people enjoy the creative exercises and that the Biblical reflections help you dive into Scripture for this.”