Prayerfully read Matthew 17:1-9, and pp. 15-26 of Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice.
Set up the room in circles of 5 chairs, leaving enough room to walk around each group of chairs. Have music playing in the room. Set up a table near the door with the self-adhesive name badges of the following gift groups:
Creating Space (1-2 hours prior to the session)
The rise of social movements such as the Movement for Black Lives, #MeToo, and #NeverAgain remind us that young people are ready to confront the culture of fear that underlies social injustice. Youth will learn to fear+less, to journey into the unknown, to invite a stranger to become a neighbor, and to take incremental steps towards fostering sustainable change—all key conditions for experiencing joy in self and in community.
In this session, youth will discuss the fears that inhibit hard and heartfelt conversation, meaningful connection, and inhibit communal joy and flourishing. Youth will learn tools to engage the stranger and the unknown, to retrain their eyes and ears.
Read: Gregory C. Ellison, II, Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2017), pp 1-34.
Watch: Gregory Ellison, II and Georgette Ledgister, “Creating Space in Youth Ministry,” Yale Youth Ministry Institute, 13 July 2017, https://youtu.be/zQuCqPo3HOo.
Like a piece of discarded gum that we inadvertently step on and that resists all of our attempts at removal, fear clings to our senses coating them with a stickiness that just won’t quit. The stickiness is a repeated statement of our helplessness and powerlessness. I can’t. I’m stuck. Fear makes us hyper-aware of our captive senses and exaggerates our inabilities and vulnerabilities. What was just an inconvenient sticky residue becomes a determining factor of how we will move in a moment, a day, and—in its most extreme expression—in our lives. At its core, fear is about power. It heightens the sense of powerlessness of the one experiencing fear, isolating one from others who are perceived as more powerful. Ellison writes,
An antidote to fear, “lessness” is a posture of humility, perceptiveness, and intention not to lord power over others. This posture resists the temptation of possessing all the answers, and yields to the mysterious journey of raising questions.
In response to the fears that beset young people as they seek to find themselves and God in the beauty and brokenness of the world, Fearless Dialogues offers an approach that invites young people to engage fear, and to create meaningful connections with self, other and God, to overcome those fears.
Fearless Dialogues invites participants into unknown encounters with strangers and the strange world around us. It is in such encounters, that participants might discover the joy that accompanies overcoming fears. In the transfiguration story in Matthew 17:1-9, Peter, James, and John climb a mountain with Jesus to pray. At the summit, the disciples are invited to embrace an unexplainable experience that is fear-inducing, to forego their need to define and explain, and to invite the learning that comes from “unknowing.” In the process of engaging their fear of strangers and the unknown, young people are beckoned into relationships that are characterized by less fear. In circumstances when youth fear+less, connections with others are forged, discovery unfolds, and experience of joy abounds.
Gather (5 minutes)
Engage (20 minutes)
Welcome to the Museum Vox Ocular! For the next 10 minutes, in groups of 2 or 3, you will take a self-guided tour of striking images displayed throughout the room. These images are strategically placed in unexpected places, so we invite you to look carefully and to see intentionally. The name of this experiment draws attention to the two senses that you will engage during the Museum Vox Ocular. Vox, which is Latin for voice points to the musical voices that set the tone for the experiment. The second sense that you will engage during the activity is sight—hence the term, ocular. Look into the eyes that are pictured in the images and see beyond who or what you would expect to see. In your groups of 2 or 3, look at these images and answer the following questions (please carry some paper and a pen to note your responses):
Look deeply into the eyes of the person or persons pictured in the image. Who do you see? Do you see a loved one? A parent? A classmate? Yourself?
The saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is a familiar one to many. Each image communicates a world of stories, if one engages closely enough to hear those stories. However, this question is a counterintuitive one, as it asks you to attend to the stories that the image does not tell, and to note the voices behind those stories that might be silent.
Hope is the engine that drives the work of Fearless Dialogues. A number of the images you will see will depict difficult and painful situations. If you can see a glimmer of hope in the bleakest of contexts, then you can begin building the momentum necessary to work towards incremental change.
We ask this final question in two ways. In the first, we seek to discover the sources of care, the people who offer care, in the scenarios that you will encounter in these images. The second way we ask this question is quite pessimistic—who cares? The fact is, too many persons and too many communities have been marginalized for far too long, and naming this exclusion important in combatting a culture of fear.
Reflect (20 minutes)
Difficult situations and injustice make it difficult for people to connect with one another in a meaningful way. When there is a power imbalance, people often respond with fear. Fearless Dialogues has identified five types of fear that stifle conversation and meaningful connection. These are:
In groups of two or three, answer the following questions:
Send Forth (15 minutes)
The injustices that our society faces, and the challenges that you as young people have chosen to confront in yourselves, your homes, your churches, your schools, and in public places are immense. Sometimes, the oppressive nature of these injustices and challenges seem overwhelming for one young person to tackle. These injustices cause great fear and make us feel helpless and powerless. However, remember that the antidote to fear is “lessness” or humility. The Fearless Dialogues approach does not require you, alone, to be responsible for changing the world. Fearless Dialogues is an invitation for you take responsibility for the three feet around you. Imagine if all of us in this room were to take responsibility for the three feet around us? How much change could we create in our communities and our churches?
You have gone through activities today that have helped you to see and to hear more deeply. Here is your challenge as you leave today: for the next three days, take the time to see three people that cross into your three feet, and to hear their stories. Write their names on this measuring tape and keep this measuring tape as a visual reminder to see the unseen and to hear the unheard.
This resource includes supplementary materials:
Introduction for Leaders