Have a Relational Meeting!
January 12, 2022
Last month, I took a walk on a sunny, early winter’s day. I was with a person new to our church community who had reached out over twitter to say hello. We talked a bit about where we come from – our families and hometowns and professional stories. We talked a little bit about where we are today – why I’m a pastor at Reservoir and what I like about the place, how my new friend likes his life these days and why he’s looking into our church. And we talked a very little bit about where we are going – some hopes we each have for our lives this year and beyond. While our backgrounds are very different, we found we have some similarities to our personalities and some similar hopes for what the Christian faith could more and more become in this country. I can’t speak for the other person, but by the end of our hour walking, I really wanted to know this person more. I hoped I’d be his pastor and we’d have opportunities to know each other better.
I have conversations like this a lot. Sometimes they are with people visiting or getting to know our church. Sometimes they are with longtime members of our community with whom I don’t have a deep relationship yet. And sometimes they are with fellow clergy or other community members throughout our city. There’s nothing strategic or timely about these conversations. They’re simply one-time opportunities to know and be known a little more. And simple and seemingly insignificant as conversations like this may seem, I think they are incredibly important.
In the interfaith organizing world I am a part of, these conversations are called relational meetings. They are when two people meet – in person, over zoom, over the phone, while walking – it doesn’t matter. Two people meet for between thirty minutes and an hour to simply know part of each other’s stories. That’s it. To matter to one another.
It’s a one-time thing. There’s no obligation to have a follow-up meeting or conversation unless that happens naturally. There’s no obligation to become good friends. It’s simply a practice of knowing and being known, of forming a wide network of people in your life that you know and care about in some way, and who know and care about you in some way.
In social justice organizing, we have these relational meetings a lot because they form networks of people who’ll show up for one another when we need each other.
In a church we do this because it makes us more of a church too, a place where we know and are known, where we all matter.
Reservoir is inviting its participants to have three 1 on 1 relational meetings this winter with another member of the Reservoir community you don’t know well already. You’d say to someone else in this community: hey, the church is inviting us to have three relational meetings. Can we have one? Or someone will ask you that. And then here’s what you do.
- Anyone is free to say yes or no. Some of us are more introverted. Some of us are busier. Some of us won’t want to participate in this for whatever reason. All that is fine.
- If you ask someone and they say yes, or if someone else asks you and you say yes, set a time and how you’re going to talk – over the phone, over google meet, outdoors on a walk, whatever. Plan on forty minutes to an hour.
- And then when you have the time, each of you just share a little bit of your story with the other. You can respond and ask questions and all – it’s meant to be a natural conversation. But each of you share.
- If you’re not sure what to talk about, here’s the prompt I encourage you to use. Share something about where you come from, something about where you are today, and something about where you think you’re going. These could be very concrete – like talking about the town or city you lived in as a child, and where you live today and what that’s like, and where you hope you’ll be in a few years. Or it could be more abstract – like some significant event in your past, and how you’re feeling about some part of your life today, or a dream or goal you have for your future. Whatever you’d enjoy sharing. However it is you’d like to be known.
- And just thank each other for your time and for sharing and that’s it. Keep the conversation to yourselves. It’s not meant to be a point of gossip or anything.
If we each have three conversations like this, so together we have hundreds and hundreds of them, Reservoir will end our winter a stronger, more beloved community, and lots of us will experience a few more opportunities to know we matter and to convey that to someone else as well.
This is one more step forward to the kind of experiences of loving community that we read about in the Bible’s New Testament, where city treasurers and children of slaves alike continually learned how much they mattered to God and matter to one another through participation in loving faith community.