PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish

___________________________________________                                                                        December, 2020

Coming Out Of The Fog

                There will be a moment when the pandemic is left behind.  Once this happens, parishioners who have spent months watching live-streamed liturgies, remaining at a distance from parish life, may need some encouragement to rejoin the community.  It will be up to the leadership to invite and encourage full in-person involvement once again.    


Listen, Really Listen

            Underneath the Masses, socials and celebrations, beyond the gatherings, large and small, will be the need to provide occasions – many of them – where people are free to tell their stories.  They need to know that the pastor, staff and leaders are listening intently to what they have to share.  These include accounts of what people have gone through, remembrances of those who have died, why they have chosen to rejoin the parish community in person and what ideas they have about how to move forward as a parish.  In other words, begin the post-covid era with “Listening Sessions” in safe environments small enough where all can speak freely and know they are being heard.

How To Have Better Conversations

            David Brooks, of the New York Times, wrote about conversations in his November 20, 2020 article.

  • Approach the person with awe:  Begin by expecting to be delighted.  Every human being is a miracle and has something to teach us.
  • Ask elevating questions:  Examples include, “What was a positive moment during Covid?”  “Whom do you feel most grateful for in your life?”  “What problem did you used to have but now have licked?”  “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” 
  • Use open-ended questions:  The best questions start with, “What was it like . . . “ or “Tell me about a time . . . “  or  “How did you manage to cope when your [wedding, reunion, birthday party, etc.] was postponed for a year or even canceled?”
  • Make the person an author, not just a witness:  Brooks writes, “So many of the best conversations are not just a recitation of events.  They involve going over and over an event, seeing it from wider perspectives, coating it with new layers of emotion, transforming it.” 
  • Treat attention as all or nothing:  Brooks suggests, “In conversation it’s best to act as if attention had an on/off switch with no dimmer.  Keep it on with total focus; the effect is magnetic.”
  • Don’t fear the pause:  It is hard to stay attentive right to end when someone is speaking.  We often are ready with a comment as soon as the person has stopped talking, or even before.  Better to wait for a second before responding.  This is better than replying immediately, or worse, interrupting the person.
  • Keep the gem statement front and center:  In the midst of many difficult conversations, there is the comment that keeps the relationship together.  People may come with hurt and pain, but somewhere in the midst of this there might be, “I never doubted your efforts.”  “You wanted the best for me.”  Grab it.
  • Find the disagreement under the disagreement:  When a conflict appears, there may be another hidden issue that caused it.  By inviting people to go deeper and being curious about where the disagreement came from is more important than winning or being right.
  • Use the midwife model:  This means helping others bring their thoughts to birth.  As Brooks writes, “Spend a lot of time patiently listening to the other person . . . bringing forth unthought thoughts, sitting with an issue as it slowly changes under the pressure of joint attention. . .”


Before inviting people back with programs and activities, give them the freedom to speak to you first.