09: KOINONIA GROUP EXPERIENCE
Welcome to the 9th post in our Journey in Dialog.
In a pastorate, we formed koinonia groups of members. Koinonia means fellowship and communion. The groups offered lay pastoral support and dialog about issues of members’ mutual concerns. A lay couple facilitated each group. The groups set the times and frequency of their meetings.
Once a month, my wife and I met with the facilitators of these groups to listen to their experiences and to help them where we could. Supporting these leaders was a challenge. The facilitators brought heavy issues from their groups to our meetings.
As a result of openness in the groups, spiritual issues, pain, and often despair surfaced. The facilitators looked to me for answers and support, and as it turned out, neither my academic degrees, nor my experience cut the mustard. As my facilitators were expected to be, I also had to be authentic, or that program would be history. It was dialog do or die.
Thus our relationships changed. We were more honest with each other. We cared more deeply for each other. We got to know ourselves better. Finally, all of this paved the way for us to explore heavy questions – questions that did not have simple answers.
In fact, sometimes there were no answers at all, but rather just more clarity about the questions. Regardless, there was a serious exchange of meaning among us, and quite a few decades since then, I continue to be in touch with those koinonia group facilitators who are still living.
What did I learn about dialog from that experience?
- It enabled us to be what the church is supposed to be for its members.
- It led to a humility based on a lack of satisfying answers to heavy issues.
- We had to open about stuff often hidden in such environments.
- We experienced a level of empathy that called for trust, deep caring, and faith.
- We found resources that we didn’t know were available.
- We found a bonding and sense of belonging that weathered tough times.
- We discovered the benefits of transformational dialog listed in Post 01.
If you have had an experience such as this, you might be smiling with an understanding of what I described. Transformational dialog matures you, and it leaves its mark on you for life. This experience happened to me many decades ago, yet I remember it now with more clarity and gratitude than I remember many other milestones in my life.
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