Solihull Quaker Caroline Gibbs provides information on the Restoring Relations project, including how to find out more at Yearly Meeting Gathering, and then provides a personal reflection on her experiences of the project.
Restoring Relations is a project started by Friends, joined by others. Since 2016, they have been delivering workshops, ‘live’ at first, more recently online, to help participants build skills, understanding and confidence in order to better handle conflict.
It’s inevitable that we experience disagreement and conflict – it’s how we deal with it that matters. Whether in our personal, working or Quaker lives, understanding the causes of conflict and how to handle it peacefully benefits us and others – it’s an essential life skill.
Many Meetings experience conflict at some point, often at times of change and stress. If left unaddressed conflict can, and does, damage Meetings. Often the knowledge, skills and experience to handle conflict are not readily available within a Meeting or from nearby Meetings.
Elders and Overseers are generally not trained or experienced in handling conflict and are sometimes seen as too close to a situation. Quaker Life estimates that at any time around ten Meetings are experiencing damaging conflict. A reluctance to involve the Quaker Life Conflict in Meetings Cluster means that when it does become involved the conflict is usually entrenched and the work becomes a damage limitation exercise. Earlier interventions can reduce damage.
In co-ordination with Quaker Life, Restoring Relations are starting to build a network of Local Facilitators to deliver education and facilitation, initially in the Midlands and East Anglia and, it is hoped, eventually country wide.
If you are interested in becoming a Local Facilitator or would like to know more please contact Alistair Heslop – Restoring Relations Co-ordinator (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Restoring Relations also provide free online information.
At online Yearly Meeting Gathering, Restoring Relations are offering a drop-in session Sat July 24th from 2.30 – 4.30 and a workshop experience Mon July 26th from 12.30. You can check the YMG programme when you register.
My personal experience has felt quite transformative. I originally signed up for a course that was planned to run on Saturdays at Kettering Meeting House but, due to the first lockdown, the workshop was moved online. This first course extended to 10 sessions spread out between early April and the end of June 2020. Eight of us were ably led by facilitators Alistair Heslop and Ivan Hutnik.
The whole course was carefully structured and provided safe and supportive space for us to learn, to practice new skills and to grow. During the sessions, and in between (using WhatsApp) we continued to share experiences and anything we have found relevant such as articles and quotes.
Restoring Relations gives me a place to make use of my existing skills and I’ve been able to utilise these and past experiences, whilst adding new tools to the toolkit as I grow.
Restoring Relations has enabled me to learn from my own past experiences of dealing (or not dealing) with conflict as well as from those shared by other trainee facilitators.
I have a much better understanding of how conflicts develop and I’ve learned that it is more helpful to have difficult conversations when conflict is still latent or emerging. Offering a safe space for all involved to be unconditionally listened to, heard and understood often helps. I also know there is advice and support available from people who have experience.
There have been 2 workshops delivered over the past 14 months – with a 3rd and 4th one about to complete. So far, 4 of the course participants, myself and Louise Scrivens included, have gone on to join Alistair and Ivan to take an active role in delivering this training and to facilitating a safe space for Meetings to take part in ‘restorative dialogue’
Caroline Gibbs, Solihulll