Version 2: Two 2-hour workshops – facilitators

All notes for the facilitator appear in italics. These instructions do not appear in the participant version of the guide and should not be read aloud to the group.

LISTENING TOGETHER
VERSION 2: TWO 2-HOUR WORKSHOPS

FIRST DAY OF DISCUSSION

Facilitator: Begin together as a large group by opening in prayer, making introductions, and establishing ground rules. Then, if you are a large group, break into smaller groups of no more than eight people.

PART ONE: WHAT IS COVENANT?

Facilitator: Estimate 75 minutes for this section.

Opening prayer (5 minutes)
Ask God to open our hearts, Christ to be our head, and the Spirit to be our guide. Pray for an environment of authentic and honest discussion, for vision, wisdom and discernment, and a blessing on our time together.

Introductions (5 minutes)
Ask participants to share their name, where they’re from, and how they got connected to the RCA.

Ground rules (5 minutes)
With the whole room, establish ground rules for your time together. Ask participants to modify, add, and/or take away from the following list of rules and agree upon these guidelines for their discussion. Start with the following list and let the group add or change the language—whatever feels appropriate.

1. Listen to understand
2. Assume no ill intent
3. Request a time-out when needed
4. Use clarifying questions
5. Invite alternate opinions
6. Others?

Scripture reading: What is covenant? (5 minutes)
Break the participants into small groups of up to eight people. Instruct the groups to pick two or more of the following passages and read through them, noticing the ways covenant intersects with images of people on a journey with God.  

• Genesis 12:1-3 (God’s covenant with Abraham)
• Jeremiah 31:31-34 (new covenant: I will be their God)
• Luke 22:14-23 *see also Hebrews 8:1-13 (Jesus establishes a new covenant)
• Luke 24:13-35 (Emmaus Road)

Reflection (15 minutes)

1. Take time to reflect personally on the journeys described in these passages (whether internal or external). Which most resembles where you are on your journey today?
2. Around your table, begin the preparation process by asking the following questions: What do you understand Covenant to mean? What is God’s covenant with us, and how has it been made new through Christ? How does God’s covenant intersect with (or impact) your current journey?

Sacraments and standards reading: Covenant community (5 minutes)
Instruct the groups to pick two or more of the following readings from our sacraments and standards, and read through them, noticing the ways “covenant community” is described. Texts can be found in the appendix.

• Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 21
• Excerpt from Sacrament of Baptism
• Excerpt from Sacrament of Communion
• Excerpt from Membership Liturgy

Reflection (15 minutes)

1. Take time to reflect personally on how covenant community has impacted you and what it has meant to you.
2. Around your table, discuss the following questions: How has covenant community impacted you? What is the purpose of covenant community? What is the difference between our covenant with God and our covenant with one another? How are these two covenants connected? What are the benefits and challenges of covenant community?

Scripture reading: Covenant in conflict (5 minutes)
Instruct the groups to pick two or more of the following readings from scripture and read through them, noticing the ways God’s people have navigated conflict in covenant community.

• 1 Corinthians 1: 10-17 (“I belong to Paul, I belong to…”)
• 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (lawsuits among believers)
• Matthew 18:15-22 (confronting one another, and forgiveness)
• Acts 6:1-7 (complaints about neglected widows)
• Acts 11:1-18 (circumcised believers criticize Peter re: Gentiles)
• See also: James 4:1-12, Philippians 3:15 (Acts 15 will be used later in the process)

Reflection (15 minutes)

1. Take time to reflect personally on a time that you have experienced conflict in covenant community. Many of us have seen relationships or communities divide over conflict. When have you seen this (division) done in a healthy way? When have you seen people stay together and work it out?
2. Around your table, discuss the following questions: What are we to do when covenant communities experience significant differences and disagreements? Be creative! With your group, list as many responses to conflict as possible.

PART TWO: BIBLICAL UNITY

Facilitator: Estimate 40 minutes for this section.

Note: In the next few sections, participants will be asked to answer questions in an online survey at the conclusion of the section. Please provide the following link to the survey at the appropriate time:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/listening-together.  A fillable pdf of the survey can be downloaded here: http://discussion.rca.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ListeningTogetherSurvey.pdf. You should instruct them to keep the tab open but minimized on their device until they are instructed to answer the next set of questions, so that they are not distracted or do not work ahead. You may also distribute paper copies of the survey but only as a last resort, since paper surveys will require you to manually input their answers into the online survey forms.

As you begin this next section, use question #1 from R 17-18 as a way to inform the conversation around the discussion questions. Return to the small groups of eight or fewer for this next section.

In this section we will be considering question #1: How do we understand the biblical calling to live together in a unity of fellowship and love for one another?
Read two of the following:

• Philippians 2:1-18
• John 17
• Declaration for Ministers of Word and Sacrament
• Excerpt from the Order for Installation of Elders and Deacons

Before participants begin to answer the following questions, remind them of the ground rules established at the beginning of the time together. Also remind participants that we may all feel tempted to ask questions as a way to criticize another person’s viewpoint rather than to clarify. Be intentional with one another. Ask questions only for the purpose of helping understand what a person has said.

Respond (15 minutes)

1. Where in these readings do you see points of our biblical call to unity?
2. What is your understanding of biblical unity? How would you define it? What is it, and what is it not?
3. What is the impact of biblical unity on you, on the church, and on the world?
4. What should biblical unity look like (or not look like) in the RCA? How do we do that?

Survey
Instruct participants to open the survey and record their responses to the questions for this section. Allow 5-10 minutes (use your best judgment).


LISTENING TOGETHER
VERSION 2: TWO 2-HOUR WORKSHOPS

SECOND DAY OF DISCUSSION

PART THREE: DIVISION AND RESTORATION

Facilitators: This section uses question #2 as a way to inform the following questions. Return to the groups of eight or fewer for this discussion. You may estimate 40 minutes for this section.

In this section we will consider question #2: Are we willing to see the Reformed Church in America embark on a serious division, and what is our part in bringing reconciliation and restoration?

Read and respond (25 minutes)

1. Read Acts 15.
2. Exercise: What is the impact of division?
Have each group draft a list of all of the parties (individuals, groups, ministries, beneficiaries, etc.) impacted by any decisions the denomination may make about division. Then, discuss: What might the future look like for those on your list?
3. Historical reflection on Dennis Voskuil’s paper
a. What did you learn from the paper?
b. How does this relate to us, and to our current situation?
c. What matters to you about this?

Survey (10 minutes)
Instruct participants to open the survey and record their responses to the questions for this section. Allow 5-10 minutes (use your best judgment).

PART FOUR: GOD’S INTENDED FUTURE FOR THE RCA

Facilitators: This next section uses question #3 as a way to inform the following questions. Remain in the small groups for this work. You may estimate 55 minutes for this section.

In this section we will consider question #3: What do we believe is God’s intended future for the Reformed Church in America?

Read (10 minutes)
Ask the group to choose two passages from the list for you to read aloud:

• Philippians 1:3-11 (the one who began a good work among you)
• Ephesians 1:15-23 (Paul’s prayer for believers: wisdom and revelation)
• Ephesians 3:14-21 (Paul’s prayer: now to him who by the power at work…)
• Revelation 7:9-17 (Salvation belongs to our God)

Individual reflection (10 minutes)
Each participant should take ten minutes of silent solitude, thinking about their responses to these questions:

1. How do these texts describe God’s intended future for the church?
2. How might these texts speak to God’s intended future for the Reformed Church in America?
3. Prayerfully imagine the future of the RCA. What do you believe God desires?

Group reflection (15 minutes)
In small groups, share together:

1. Your individual reflections
2. What might God be asking you to do to participate with God’s intended future for the RCA? Get personal: what am I willing to do to partner with God’s purposes?

Large group sharing (5 minutes)
Share one word that describes what you’re thinking or feeling

What might God be asking you to do to participate with God’s intended future for the RCA? Get personal: what am I willing to do to partner with God’s purposes?

Survey
Instruct participants to open the survey and record their responses to the questions for this section. Allow 5-10 minutes (use your best judgment).

Pray together in small groups
After prayer, read Philippians 1:3-11 again for the large group.

NEXT STEPS and CLOSING

Facilitators: Estimate 25 minutes for this section.

Thank the group for their courageous work and encourage them to repeat the process in other groups where it may be appropriate (personal small groups, Bible studies, etc.) if they feel led.

Explain the next steps using some form of this script:
The survey responses that were collected during your conversations will be given directly to the interim general secretary, Don Poest. He will compile the responses and present them to the General Synod Council at its spring meeting. Together they will decide if there are next steps moving forward, and if so, what those should be. A full report of both the process and the results will be shared at General Synod 2018. We also highly encourage you to consider hosting a Listening Together Workshop with a group of churches or a group of classes. The success of this will require your continued engagement, and your encouragement of others to engage. The more people who deeply consider these questions together, and the more voices that are heard, the more feedback we will have to offer to General Synod 2018. Please speak with me after the closing if you are interested in hosting an event or in having someone else host an event in your area.

Survey
Ask the participants to finish their online survey. Allow 10 minutes for the completion.

Scripture
Choose one of these passages to read aloud to the group.
Ephesians 1:15-23 or Ephesians 3:14-21

Prayer
This is a time to pray for the future of the denomination. Provide time in the middle for participants to offer one word of prayer into the space.

If it feels appropriate, conclude by singing the Doxology.