The day before the recent Annual General Meeting at the Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre three members (Kath, Chani and Jaime) facilitated a Community Hui on the theme ‘Who teaches? What is teacher?’
They decided to use the circle process to explore this question.
The circle of 30 people was wonderfully diverse ranging from newbies to people who had been coming since the 1980’s.
The format was deceptively simple. One circle in the morning with the questions ‘What Teaches?What is Teacher?’
A second circle in the afternoon with a choice of one or all of the questions.
‘What’s moving in you to strengthen and nourish our community?
What is needed for our community?
What vision is emerging for the Wangapeka?’
People were respectful of the process and by the end of the intense day there was a consensus that the gathering had been wholesome and healthy. It provided a much needed opportunity for us to listen to each other and share in a safe and open space.
I reflected on some of the ingredients that created the conditions for this positive experience and I came up with the following.
- Careful collaborative planning between the facilitators.
- An open, honest and succinct introduction which set the context and also the tone for the circle.
- Pertinent and well considered open questions.
- Clear explanation of the four key principles of Council and a willingness to keep these alive.
- Genuine emphasis on the importance of generous listening and the option to share through silence.
- No hidden agenda. No intention or pressure to make a decision, reach agreement, formulate an action plan, report to the Wangapeka Board of Trustees.
- Time to complete the circle.
The space to really listen to each other revealed the diversity and unity of the community present. I felt a sense of the integrity of wholeness underlying the circling. The views expressed were unique, revealing our differences, and at the same time we were united in our appreciation of and commitment to the Wangapeka. A number of people commented that listening to other perspectives shifted and deepened their own understandings in rich unexpected ways.
We do not know where this Community Hui will lead, if anywhere. There is talk of this kind of open community processes becoming a regular feature, perhaps before each AGM. What I do know is that by creating, holding and guarding a trustworthy space like this, it becomes evident how resourceful this community is.
Many thanks to the 3 who initiated this process.