Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thoughts on Morning Coffee

Our small church here in Winnipeg, Hope Mennonite, kind of dissipates a little during the wonderful hot, sunny summer months. So in June a list goes around asking for people to sign up to lead our time together on Sunday mornings. With some persuasion (and co-ercion and nice smiles) I convinced Vic to sign up with me for this Sunday, 19 August.

However, then we had to think about some interesting theme to present. Normal sermons etc usually do not happen on these summer Sundays.

The topic came to me as we were watching a play three weeks ago. Winnipeg has North America's second largest Fringe Festival. This is 10 days of around 150 plays (mostly an hour or less in length). We saw  15 plays during those days. One of our earlier plays was one called "Morning Coffee". We decided to see it because there were some Mennonite actors in it and we do like to support Vic's cultural comrades!!

 The two actors portrayed a young couple who had been together for 5 years. Obviously things have been going downhill for awhile but during the hour of the play things start off bad and get progressively worse. We are voyeurs into their fight which uses every bad trick that communication manuals tell you absolutely not to do.  It begins with her entering the bathroom that he has just left and running out holding her nose and telling him just how rotten he smells and how he has always smelt that bad. The blame and miscommunication escalated until I cringed at the dirt they brought up on each other. But just as I thought that this might end in violence they took a minute to pause. In the last line of the play they showed a tiny bit of vulnerability and one said,” I am afraid”  and the other replied ,”I am afraid too”. At that moment their true feeling was expressed and you are left with the idea that maybe they would be able to really talk to each other.
It reminded me of the Nonviolent Communication that I had learned while doing the month long CPT training in 2010. Surely this would be a good topic to bring up in a church service. Surely there are some verses in the Bible that might lead to thinking about how we communicate. Sure enough, there are and one example is Proverbs 12:18-" Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings forth healing".  Vic and I used the book,  Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.) as a resource and it was sure good to go through it again. This way of speaking is hard work and takes a lot of practise. It sure is so much easier in the heat of the moment and in frustration to say,"You are a bunch of slobs.  Why don't you ever clean up after yourselves"!!! But those kind of accusations just seem to rouse up anger and do not really accomplish much.
Interestingly enough we had to use this kind of communication on our way to church. We don't argue very often but one point of problem for us is that Vic was trained by his bus driver Dad to talk loudly at other drivers, traffic lights and other things during the whole drive. I am a person who takes what the road throws at me as part of the experience of being in a car. So, I was talking about some point of the presentation we were going to make when he had to exclaim about something a traffic light had just done (turned red). I got mad!! But, it did help to slow down to think about how to speak together about this in a non judging way. We did discover that we seem to have conflicting needs that will have to be figured out. He needs to exclaim at the drivers and lights in order to make the ride more exciting and to ease some of the tension of driving. I need to have a calm ride without loud exclamation!!. It sure was a lot easier when we lived in London, UK without a car.!!!
For those of you who do not know much about nonviolent communication,  there is a formula to help you learn how to speak and communicate differently. Then, hopefully, with practise, it will become an easy thing to remember.
So, the formula is "When I (see, hear, smell).... I feel..... because I need...... . Would you be willing to......
This provides an opportunity to work on ways to meet both person's needs, not a way of forcing the other person to change.
So, our time together as a church this morning was fun. Many people came up to us and thanked us for what we had done. And, the process of preparing it had reminded me that I need to think about this way of communicating a whole lot more.

“Compassion is not religious business, it is
human business, it is not luxury, it is essential
for our own peace and mental stability,
it is essential for human survival.”
- The Dalai Lama -

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