by Michelle Hunt, Right Relations Committee
Our UU principles are a straightforward articulation of our shared values. In turn, our eight principles inspire our covenants, which guide how we will live and relate to all existence. Covenants focus specifically on promises we make to each other. In our humanness, sometimes we fall short of our commitments. When we fall short, it can be minor, or deeply disheartening. Restoring covenantal relationships is fundamental to our vision of creating a Beloved Community, our congregation being healthy, and feeling connected.
Restorative justice is an ideology that focuses on healing and understanding, rather than identifying right or wrong. Rev. Jan Christian writes, “Rather than treating it (being out of covenant) as a problem, seeing something wrong, or wanting to fix or punish anyone, we can see this as an opportunity to return to our shared values with compassion.”
A Restorative Justice Process uses a facilitated circle that is safe, structured, inclusive, and transparent. Participants participate because they choose to do so. The hope is that respectful dialogue, empathy, and accountability will surface in this setting.
Some churches and other organizations call this a Deep Listening Circle or a Healing Circle. These gatherings put our theology into practice. (If you have participated in a Chalice Circle or Wellspring, the previous sentence will sound familiar.)
While there may be discomfort at first, richness and growth can come from addressing misunderstandings or conflict in a respectful setting. The participants listen attentively to others and respond to questions designed to promote understanding and resolve disagreements.
As part of our revised covenant, the Right Relations Committee is planning to learn more about communication and conflict resolution skills that we will practice and share with the congregation. Despite our cultural and theological differences, we need each other.
Anyone can request a Restorative Circle. When there is a covenantal issue, consider contacting Clare Doyle or Bud Johnson, co-chairs of the Right Relations Committee, at email@example.com to to share any concerns in confidence or consider requesting a Restorative Circle.