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Source: (consider it) Thread: AS: EFM
Evensnog
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quote:
Originally posted by The Prophetess:
I'm starting the first year of EFM tomorrow evening. I've really been wrestling lately with the question of what I'm called to do with my life, and I'm hoping this will help. Prayers please!

How exciting, I hope it's a fruitful and wonderful experience for you, and I look forward to hearing your experience with EFM. [Smile]

Quick update: 2-3 group members objected to the idea of splitting into smaller groups for discussion & our mentor didn't seem thrilled with the idea, so that plan is a no-go, at least at this point in time. A handful of us (the ones who most wanted to split into smaller discussion groups) are thinking about meeting weekly for Sunday lunch, so we will have a chance to cover everything and discuss the material to our hearts' content.

I feel kind of strange about it, like we're going behind our mentor's back, but our needs aren't being met (we need more than 15 minutes!), and this seems to be the most simple solution. (And, of course, if we split into smaller groups for discussion, it would make other group members equally unhappy.)

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Amazing Grace

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GGG-

That sounds like a workable solution, as long as people's feelings wouldn't get hurt by being "excluded".

We had a revolt mid-year last year because check-in was taking a long time and almost all of us were way more interested in lesson than TR. It also felt a bit unfair because we actually did prep work for most of our lessons. So after processing, we agreed to split the time after check-in and meet up at an agreed-upon time.

The group that did not bring snack had to troop up to the sixth-grade Sunday school room, although I got told that at St. Spike's we might have had to meet in something not even that comfortable. The group that brought snack stayed in the comfortably appointed library, with the food [Big Grin] .

Charlotte

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WTFWED? "Remember to always be yourself, unless you suck" - the Gator
Memory Eternal! Sheep 3, Phil the Wise Guy, and Jesus' Evil Twin in the SoF Nativity Play

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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by The Prophetess:
I'm starting the first year of EFM tomorrow evening. I've really been wrestling lately with the question of what I'm called to do with my life, and I'm hoping this will help. Prayers please!

Congratulations and blessings on your new journey, Anna!

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by GloriaGloriaGloria:
Back to TRs for a second. Would those of you who have had positive TR-related experiences mind giving the rest of us some examples of different topics that worked well for you? I'd find that very helpful, as I suspect some of the topics my group used last year were ill-suited.

Here are some things that have worked well in my experience. (And apologies in advance to anyone who's new to EFM reading this; I'll be tossing around a lot of EFM jargon.) The examples below are all variations on the "Microscope method." (Jargon already! [Biased] )

First, if you're starting out with the "Action" source, i.e., someone's experience, it's very important that the experience they are relating is something that's over and done with. If it's an unresolved issue, it's easy for the group to veer off into problem-solving. Another important point for the "Action" source is that the story be told in first person. The experience has to have happened to the person telling it, because it's the emotional shifts of the story, not the event itself, that give us the window we are going to work in.
It can be fun to use something from "Culture" as the source. My former mentor would bring in interesting stuff -- a kaliedoscope, an old bird's nest that had fallen in her yard -- from which we would then brainstorm a metaphor. I remember on the kaliedoscope one we used a verse from my favorite hymn (#657, Hyfrodol) -- "Changed from glory into glory" -- when we moved into the tradition source. Also, cartoons and news items work well as a source from the "Culture" side. We had a great one based on an old "Far Side" cartoon: it showed a bunch of animals, two-by-two, storming the gates at NASA, with the guard on the PA system saying, "I dunno, Captain, but *something's* about to go down!" News items -- articles or photographs -- can be a great source. They also work well if you're going to do an "Issues method" reflection. Finally, using Scripture as a source works very well, especially if you vary the format a little and talk about the story from each character's point of view, then ask where each person sees themselves in the story.

The trick for the mentor, when using these different source materials, is remembering which of the four source areas (Action, Tradition, Culture, or Position) you started in so that you can be sure to bring in the three other areas during the discussion.

I hope this helps and that it is not too cryptic!

[ 26. September 2006, 22:30: Message edited by: Mamacita ]

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Autenrieth Road

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Well, I'm in after all for this year. The local EFM group was delayed getting organized this year (hunting for numbers and mentor), had an "are you interested" dinner last night, and, what can I say, I am. I've been too isolated this past year not doing it.

We'll be starting up for real in November, and then meet for nine months but taking June/July/August off. It looks like we'll be mostly third years, with probably one each of the other years. It promises to be quite a one-room schoolhouse experience this year.

[ 02. October 2006, 14:40: Message edited by: Autenrieth Road ]

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Truth

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Mamacita

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So glad to see that you've landed into a group for this year, AR. I know how dicey it is getting the requisite numbers into place. I've inherited two new people from a church that had two viable groups and then the program collapsed. There are always ups and downs.
My group is almost all Year 3's, too (including the two new members). They've made it through the first four weeks (which are not well-edited IMO, but it gets better). We're doing something new for the "Stepping Stones" Spiritual Autobiography format. Each week, each person relates one stepping stone. It's been really interesting comparing where we all were at various points. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. It's clearly less emotionally exhausting -- at least it is so far.
I hope everyone else's group is off to a good start.

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Melisande
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I've gone back to EFM at my old church. I'd finished years 1 & 2, then took last year off with a newborn, and am now back in the group.

This year, we have a huge group -- 14, including mentors, one of whom is a year 4 student -- and the new approach to the lessons is that each of us presents for discussion the one point from our lesson that jumped out at us, whether it resonated, made us angry, confused us, etc. It's been working better than I'd thought it would -- it's almost eliminated the endless "and then this guy said this, and then this other guy called him a heretic" recitations we used to get, and it keeps a relative lid on the talky folks. It does mean that I have much less idea than I used to of what the other lessons are actually about, but I think it's worth it.

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The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.
-- Adrienne Rich

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Autenrieth Road

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Mamacita, now that we're into the Stepping Stones autobiography, I understand what you're saying [Biased] .

How big is your group this year? Do you have any problems with the weekly Stepping Stones from everyone taking up too much time?

Our group is working on shortening our check-in which had grown simply enormous. We did it in about 20 minutes last night; whereas 45 minutes or more had not been unusual.

What kinds of things do people say in the check-in? What's the balance between a five second "I'm here and feeling <insert adjective of choice>" vs. a 5 minute travelogue of the past week? What's the purpose of check-in?

We're 10 in all now: 1 4th year; 4 3rd years; 1 2nd year (me); 3 1st years; and 1 mentor. I'm glad there are several 1st years because I think it could be harder to be both just starting EFM and figuring out how it works, and the only person in your year.

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Truth

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Mamacita

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Thanks AR. I have 9 in my group: two Year 2s, 6 Year 3s, 1 Year 4. We're still doing Stepping Stones, in part because of some absences, and in part because I have a few really talky people. It's a struggle for me, because I want the time to be distributed more evenly between people and because we're all reaching a "let's get on with it" point. However, they have each been through some horrible stuff and want to tell their stories; they've also become more articulate every year on voicing how they've seen God in action during some really bad times. So I want to honor their giving, as well. Still, last week one of the more reticent members griped to me (in private) about how "It's past Thanksgiving and we've only done one TR." Well, she's right, and I'm going to set aside an hour for TR each week, and let the stepping stones fall as they may. One thing we're doing with the "stepping stones" theme is building an altar -- I bought some stones at a craft store and each person puts a stone on the "altar" (a wood tray with a big candle) when they're finished. We'll use our altar all year, and it will bear witness to our collective stories. (I have a feeling I already mentioned this... if so, apologies for being redundant.)
As to check-in time, I have some music playing as people come in the room, and we gab for 5 minutes or so at the beginning. I very seldom do a standard go-around-the-table thing. If I do a planned on-board exercise, it's more of a thought piece, like giving them an open-ended question they can answer in one line. The questions tend to be around ministry, or around one of the four themes of Creation/Sin/Repentence/Resurrection. Sometimes I'll give them a silly question, e.g., "what would be the weather report for the week you've just had?" All these allow some reflection and keep the answers short. (Which, with the three "talkers" in my group, is a blessing.) The example given in a previous post -- about stating one idea from your readings -- is another good way to do this. I hope that helps. I love hearing about other peoples' EFM groups!

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Mamacita

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Sorry, missed the edit window. I'm not sure I answered AR's question directly about the PURPOSE of check-in time, but I think it's a fair, and necessary, question. I've seen a lot of posts on this (and an earlier EFM thread) complaining about check-ins that drag on and on. I think the purpose of a check-in would be to help people transition from their everyday lives into the sacred space of EFM. I don't think that's necessarily well-served by doing a standard go-around-the-table. As I mentioned, I have some music playing as people come in the room, and we just have informal conversation as people are coming in. If there's a serious issue going on with people, like a family illness or a work situation, of course we'll ask for an update. People have been good about not abusing the time. For doing a go-around-the-table, I'd rather spend that time having folks answer a question related to our readings or that somehow contributes to their understanding and development.

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Mamacita

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Apologies for the triple-post [Hot and Hormonal] (well, I waited a decent interval....) but I wondered if anyone else's group is doing something for Christmas. We're having a potluck at my house (I'm the most centrally-located; my group comes from several different suburbs). What else are folks doing? Any special liturgies, that sort of thing?

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Autenrieth Road

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I don't think we're doing anything special. We've had two potlucks already this fall, so I don't think there will be a strongly felt need for a particularly different gathering. Someone may bring surprise cookies and cider or something. (Hmmm, maybe that someone could be me [Biased] .) (We don't have a regular refreshment rota.) We meet Monday nights, and will take off Christmas and New Year's Day.

Thanks for the info about the stepping stones. We've been doing the bios about 3 per night, with the plan to do them all and then start the material. We just give each person 20-30 minutes (varies a bit depending on how many are there), and give them a 10- and a 5- minute warning.

We're finishing up bios next week and starting our first chapter. (Recall that we only got going in November.)

In my group, the people who have been in longer seem to have more of a feeling of "I've told this at least 2x already, what's to add?"

For me, doing it this time around, a lot of the trauma that I recall expressing the last time I did my bio (Snapshots), is no longer there; and overarching themes covering broad spans of getting my formative religious grounding in church, drifting away, seeking solace, and coming back have emerged.

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Truth

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Autenrieth Road

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Heh heh, have begun to read. Am reminded of what I overwhelmed myself with in my first year of EFM: all the Additional Sources. Which I paralyzed myself by thinking I had to acquire and read all of them. (The "acquiring" is plausible given that I work for a college and can get almost anything via Interlibrary Loan... the "reading" much less so!)

What does anyone else do with all the additional sources available to be read? Ignore completely? Delve into occasionally? Skim all?

This year I want to be less book-reading obsessed and more experiential and journal-focussed.

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Truth

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Autenrieth Road

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It looks very quiet. Anyone here? I'm reaching all the way back to the first page for this, but it speaks to what's on my EFM mind right now:
quote:
Originally posted by Mamacita:
quote:
Originally posted by Paige:
I find that TRs are the glue that holds multi-year groups together, and that they were the missing ingredient to my own EFM experience. Any thoughts on that?

It always boggles my mind when I find out about EFM groups that don't do TRs. Without the TRs, you basically have a Bible Study class. You don't have to slavishly do them week after week, but doing them often is critical. (Critical for two reasons: One, because doing TRs is a learned skill, for both the mentor and the participants, and the more you do, the better you get at it. Two, because the insights that come from TRs are, IMNSHO, where the personal growth occurs in EFM.)
Actually, I'm so mad right now I could spit. My EFM group is perhaps revolting against TR's. We started late this year so we've only had 2 with our new mentor who's much more sympathetic to them and understanding of them than the previous 2 mentors were! So people might think, "ah takes time to learn, let's persist." But noooooo, everyone thinks "TRs are complicated and contrived and confusing and worthless" instead of thinking "aaaah, maybe if we practice we'll learn to understand this and how to do it and what the point is."

I'm afraid we're going to degenerate into our prior pattern of a gabfest of mushiness. It's easy to sit around and shoot the breeze about stuff, but I think the structured method of TRs EFM gives, confusing as it seems at first, must be worth it in terms of training one to pay attention to certain things specifically. Also you really need an hour to get to the point of working things through and really complete it in terms of getting to "what difference does this make?" and creating the final collect and praying it, which makes a huge difference also.

I don't know how to get inside people's minds and persuade them of the value of them. It's like the method is too complicated for people to see what the goal of it is, and people don't have the heart to grapple with something complicated and apparently pointless for the sake of seeing if eventually they learn it.

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Truth

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Mamacita

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AR, it's great that your new mentor supports doing TRs. Have you called him/her to say how much you appreciate doing them (or taken a couple of seconds after the meeting to comment on it)? My group has a lot of outspoken folks (and I encourage that, for better or worse [Cool] ), and they don't hesitate to let me know if they liked or didn't like a particular activity. And I love that and think it helps. Some of them have been annoyed that we took soooooo long with Spiritual Autobiographies this year that we barely started TRs before Christmas.

I can really picture the people in your group griping about not getting the point of TRs. It really does take time to "get it." (Also, there are a few individuals who are so decidedly left-brained that they can't go with a process that's so non-linear; but I think that's the minority of folk.) Sometimes the mentor has to vary the TR method. (There are a bunch of different methods outlined in Section Two of your Common Lessons book. Also, there are a couple of new methods circulating out there -- one is a method for using a film or TV show, another one is called the "Provocative Word" method.) If your group is using the Microscope Method, it can be helpful to try using different sources: instead of starting out with a story ("Action"), you can start out with a passage from scripture or a hymn or even a classical religious painting ("Tradition"), or with a cartoon, newspaper article, or even a quotation from Ship of Fools! ("Culture"). I tell my group that varying the sources is like "Going in through a different window."

Finally -- and I mean this sincerely -- have you ever thought about going for mentor training yourself? There are a lot of trained mentors out there who don't run groups. They just help out their group's mentor by leading or co-leading TRs from time to time. You can check the Sewanee website for the training schedule.

Sorry to be so long-winded and opinionated, but I'm passionate about this program!

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Mamacita

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Sorry, missed the Edit Window. You don't have to have completed the 4 years in order to go to mentor training. I've run into people there who are in their 3rd or 4th year... and 2nd isn't unheard-of.)

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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RainbowKate
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AR, just wanted to send support along. I finished EFM in '05 and loved it.

We didn't do formal TR's too often, maybe 2-3 times a year, but my group also tended to do them spontaneously too, which I think in general is unusual. Maybe there needs to be some honest discussion about why some people don't want to do them. I tended to feel that you had to risk yourself a bit doing TR's. Maybe the trust isin't there just yet?

My second year was the worst becuase of some troubling group dynamics and TR's were difficult to do because of that. People didn't want to share too much or step out on a limb, which did lead to a contrived feeling. It was also a year in which "check-in" seemed to dominate the group. Our mentor really had to put her foot down about keeping things short. The troubling dynamic left the next year, and things got back to normal.

Anyway, don't know if that helps at all, but will keep you in prayers.

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RainbowKate
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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:

What does anyone else do with all the additional sources available to be read? Ignore completely? Delve into occasionally? Skim all?


I almost never read the additional sources. Working full time meant that I could manage the text readings and that was about it. I seemed to do fine despite that. And now that I'm done a few of us who graduated together have started a book group to read some of those additional sources, etc. It's been fun.
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Autenrieth Road

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Thanks, Mamacita and Rainbow Kate.

Mamacita, funny you should mention mentor training -- I've been thinking this fall that I would like to be an EFM mentor after I finish. I've been trying not to be Miss Know-It-All Junior Mentor (Untrained) this fall [Hot and Hormonal] (like a Junior Host, but twice as irritating). One thing I have to work on in any group (EFM or not!) is humility, to realize that I don't have all the answers and need to learn by listening to others. Not to mention charitably letting other people get a word in edgewise [Hot and Hormonal] .

Rainbow Kate, I guess you could say our group is used (over the past 2 years) to doing informal TRs. That is, discussing some topic, usually that emerges from the checkin, with reference to God and our Christian understandings/obligations during the second half of the meeting time.

The next-to-last mentor along with the group I think had never clicked with TR. Our last mentor, for the past 2 years, said the method was really just a way to get a theological conversation going, so if we were having a theological conversation by some other means, that was fine.

What I see as a risk of us casting aside the TR method too quickly without trying to learn it, is that I think the point is to train us in some specific ways of thinking -- to think systematically compare/contrast Tradition, Culture, Personal, Action (have I got those 4 right?), and to systematicalliy think about Sin/Redemption in a variety of situations (they've got 4 for those also, but I can't remember the other 2 -- see, that's part of what I want to learn). And by doing those things consistently across a wide variety of incidents, to come to a lot more unexpected learnings than if we just do whatever feels natural to us in our usual way of talking about things.

Our new current mentor also queried the using of something from checkin, since that causes the incident discussed to usually be an unfinished one, with the risks of devolving into problem solving that carries.

Interesting that Mamacita cites the EFM TR methods as left-brain. I'm that odd animal, someone who is simultaneously iconoclastic and ritualist, structured and free-flowing -- so I like the structure that using a method offers, and am simultaneously happy to engage in non-linear and even non-literal thinking -- e.g. around the "metaphor" steps -- which I think at the moment is the part MOST mystifying to the group.

[capital M]

[ 15. January 2007, 19:23: Message edited by: Autenrieth Road ]

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Truth

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Autenrieth Road

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quote:
Originaly said by me:
Interesting that Mamacita cites the EFM TR methods as left-brain.

Ooops, I mean Mamacita cites the methods as non-left-brain. (Paraphrasing Mamacita here, fairly I hope.)

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Truth

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RuthW

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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:
Actually, I'm so mad right now I could spit. My EFM group is perhaps revolting against TR's. We started late this year so we've only had 2 with our new mentor who's much more sympathetic to them and understanding of them than the previous 2 mentors were! So people might think, "ah takes time to learn, let's persist." But noooooo, everyone thinks "TRs are complicated and contrived and confusing and worthless" instead of thinking "aaaah, maybe if we practice we'll learn to understand this and how to do it and what the point is."

"Complicated and contrived and confusing and worthless" are exactly what I think TRs are. Maybe if I hadn't thought every single time that I would have gotten more out of staying home and watching TV I'd feel differently, but I have yet to get a damn thing out of a TR. The microscope method seems particularly stupid; analyzing a contrived metaphor for something seems like a complete waste of time to me. TRs seem to me like ways of teaching critical thinking and analysis to people to whom those things are foreign, but they're like second nature to me. TRs bore the everliving shit out of me every single time we do them. Don't know about the people in your group, but I'm not interested in persisting in something when I can't see any point in it at all. Our mentors are third-year students in their second year of mentoring, and they can't come up with a point other than "it teaches you to think theologically"; I've learned more about how to think theologically from my spiritual director, from independent reading and from the Ship than I imagine I'll ever learn from TRs.
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Autenrieth Road

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RuthW, thanks for a bracingly different view on them. You're in your 2nd year of EFM too, IIRC? Do you think it would be possible to have a theologically-based discussion in your EFM group similar to the kinds of things you do learn from e.g. the Ship etc., that would be worthwhile to you?

Our group discussed them and we're returning overall to a more free-flowing way of working the discussion. This includes TR in the way we've done them the past two years, rather than following the specific methods.

There's a general feeling of most in the group that the TR methods of the EFM materials prioritize process over content.

Those (like me) who continue to think there's some value to some of the points about focus, sources (what I would call aspects), the sin/judgement/repentance/resurrection tetrad, and the types of conclusions as reflected in the collect, will keep thinking about those and bringing them in to the discussion where it makes sense.

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Truth

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:
RuthW, thanks for a bracingly different view on them.

You're very kind! Either that or "bracingly different" is code for "pissy." [Biased]

quote:
You're in your 2nd year of EFM too, IIRC? Do you think it would be possible to have a theologically-based discussion in your EFM group similar to the kinds of things you do learn from e.g. the Ship etc., that would be worthwhile to you?
We have great discussions quite regularly -- I wouldn't have come back for year 2 if we didn't. But mostly they don't happen when we're doing TRs.

quote:
Our group discussed them and we're returning overall to a more free-flowing way of working the discussion. This includes TR in the way we've done them the past two years, rather than following the specific methods.

There's a general feeling of most in the group that the TR methods of the EFM materials prioritize process over content.

I agree! And the process bores me stiff. Not that there's no value in using what you call the tetrad, but it seems incredibly artificial.

However, I've just come home from a good discussion of our group dynamic in which we agreed to do more TRs (in a largely free-form format) because we need to have more content we have in common to discuss. And I'm feeling pretty okay about that -- in part thanks to hearing your perspective, Autenrieth Road -- thanks!

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Autenrieth Road

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quote:
Originally posted by RuthW:
quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:
RuthW, thanks for a bracingly different view on them.

You're very kind! Either that or "bracingly different" is code for "pissy." [Biased]
Uh-oh, rumbled! [Biased]

Will be interested to hear how the changes in your group go. Are we turning into each other?!?!? I just came across this in the Sunday School for the Unchurched thread:
quote:
Originally posted by Francesca Shelbellini:
going within the story, wondering what part applies to their life, wondering about where God is in the story: really, it engages children in thinking theologically.

It hit me right between the eyes. Is theological reflection really that simple at base?

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Truth

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Laura
General nuisance
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Can't believe I missed this thread all this time. I graduated last year from EFM, and I'm an enormous fan of TR. It is, as properly done, the heart of EFM. I'm really sorry to hear (Ruth) that you find it contrived and useless. That makes me think it isn't being properly mentored.

The way to think about it is that it is like a German theological practice called "Sitz im Leben", which means "place in life". That is, we are looking at a pivotal point/moving text/challenging word or concept/conflict of some sort and asking where is God and where is scripture and where is tradition and where am I?

That said, we had an extraordinary group. I can remember several times in the first two years especially when the Spirit blew through us like a wind. It was incredibly moving. I now know that that is by no means the norm. Also, our group had a number of departures in its third year and so we joined with another group, a mixed one, for the fourth year and that was a completely different experience. Not a bad experience, mind you, but not the transformative one we had had before.

Criticism: the Sewannee materials are in desperate need of updating and editing. I was actively embarassed by some of the mistakes in the third and fourth year and, as someone who'd already read a lot of history, churchly and otherwise, the historical errors and conclusive style of writing was very annoying.

I'm thinking of mentoring a group next year. I felt like I needed` a year off for study on my own and discernment as to where I should go next theologically.

[eta: I really hope that mentor training contains some work on how to deal with difficult personalities. I think a couple of bad ones can really wreck a group. I've heard real horror stories.

[ 18. January 2007, 15:42: Message edited by: Laura ]

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Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. - Erich Fromm

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Laura
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quote:
Originally posted by Laura:
That said, we had an extraordinary group. I can remember several times in the first two years especially when the Spirit blew through us like a wind.

Just the fact that this overthinky Episcopalian doubter I once was could even write the above is a sign of the effect EFM had on me. [Big Grin] Old me would have crinkled in embarrassment to write such a thing. [Big Grin]

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Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. - Erich Fromm

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Francesca Shelbellini
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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:

I just came across this in the Sunday School for the Unchurched thread:
quote:
Originally posted by Francesca Shelbellini:
going within the story, wondering what part applies to their life, wondering about where God is in the story: really, it engages children in thinking theologically.

It hit me right between the eyes. Is theological reflection really that simple at base?
Hi AR,

that was me. I actually am coming to believe that is what theological reflection really is. To go back to Godly Play, there are four standard "wondering" questions that are posed to the children:

I wonder what your favourite part of the story is?
I wonder what you think the most important part of the story is?
I wonder what part of the story is about you?
I wonder if there's a part of the story we could leave out, and still have the whole story?

I often add another question: I wonder what God is doing in the story? or I wonder where God is in the story?

It leads to truly amazing reflection by the children. By posing the questions as "I wonder" there are no right or wrong answers; you can't tell someone their favourite part is "wrong" or what they think of is most important is "right" and someone else's is wrong.

I have actually used exactly the same style, including using figures, memorizing the story, and using the wonder questions, with adults, to really deep and profound effect.

After doing it for a while, I realized it is almost like a group "lectio divina" where you listen in prayer for what part of a Scripture passage resonates with you, what God is saying to you, what God is calling you to, etc.

I guess I think theology is ultimately about considering those questions: Where is God? Where is God doing in the world? What is God doing in my life? What is God like?

Tangenting off, I lead a Disciple Bible Study group weekly, that also begins with check-in. Now that we've been meeting for four months, we begin each session with a time of silence for them to ponder a word or phrase that describes their state (how they come), and then to ponder how God has been acting in their life in the last week. They know that if the answer to the second is, "I have no idea" or "Frankly I dont' think God was acting in my life through this experience...", then that's okay too. Having a more focussed question seems to address the long rambling, "and then on Saturday I did such and such..." and cut to the chase, so to speak.

francesca

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Mamacita

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[Long post alert!] I've been wrestling with finding a way to respond to RuthW's questions and comments about TRs. In fact, I've been mulling this over, Ruth, since you first commented on it some months ago. I hope I provide some help here, without writing a dissertation. My point is not to try to defend the whole EFM program, let alone the TR process; but I have to say, I feel so disappointed and helpless when I read about groups with inept mentors. Let me give this a try, taking a few snippets from some previous posts.
quote:
Our mentors are third-year students in their second year of mentoring, and they can't come up with a point other than "it teaches you to think theologically"
As an aside, if your mentors only had 2 years of EFM under their belts when they became mentors [that's allowed, but it isn't the norm], then I would say they didn't have enough personal experience participating in TRs before learning how to lead them. Anyway, as to the "point" of TRs: it's a bit of a tautology to say that doing a TR "teaches" you to think theologically. Theological Reflection IS thinking theologically, or should I say it's one approach to thinking theologically. It would be more accurate to say "we're practicing thinking theologically." It's a learned skill, and you get better with practice.

So what? The point of doing TRs is, first, to create insights that help us connect our faith with the rest of our lives, to bridge the gap between the teachings of Christianity and what we actually experience in our daily lives. These insights should come out of that part of the process when we compare and contrast the "tetrads" (as AR put it so well) from the various sources. As my old mentor put it, "On the one hand, we are saying, "This is what my faith says life is like," and on the other hand, "This is how I experience life." Out of that contrast, some "Aha!s" can pop out that show gaps, or linkages, between the two. The second purpose, following the creation of insights, is the development of "implications," or the "what am I going to do with this information." As Ed de Bary [former EFM director] puts it in his book on TR, "The discovery of faith is not an end in itself. Christian action is the effective application of what we learn." (p. 5)

My own experience with TRs has helped me see God acting in my life (and believe me, I'm not one of those "God as Micro-Manager" types). I think this is reflected in Laura's post (above) as well.
quote:
The microscope method seems particularly stupid; analyzing a contrived metaphor for something seems like a complete waste of time to me.
My first year of EFM I had a mentor that walked us, slavishly, through a Microscope method TR every week. I was restless, too, with it, and it took me a long time to start getting my own insights from the process. This is why I keep harping on the importance of varying the starting point between the sources and also varying the TR method. (There are several in your Common Lessons book.) But I digress. I wanted to mention why we do a metaphor. The point of the metaphor is to take us away from the experience (Action) that's just been described to us, and move us into a more universal realm, to really get the participants all tapping into memories of the same feeling before going further into the analysis. That's different from listening to someone's story and saying, "Yeah, something like that happened to me once..." Again quoting from deBary (and this is pretty heady): "Thinking theologically means looking at the richness of the human experience to discover its meaning by recognizing the transcendent factors that connect us to one another and to the divine milieu." (p. 6)
Also, I apologize for my earlier flippant comment about "left-brained" people. I did not intend to insult folks who are skilled at thinking analytically, but I just may have done so. At the time I wrote it, I was thinking about some of my fellow participants who just couldn't let go of the original story and move into the realm of the metaphor, or into what deBary calls the "transcendent," and instead wanted to go back and problem-solve. I do think that to do a productive TR, a person has to be open to his/her own intuition, in order to hear those "Ahas" if they pop up. But I did not intend to create an analytical vs. intuitive dichotomy in saying that.

Apologies for long post. And again, it breaks my heart to see someone having a lousy experience with this.

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Laura
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Mamacita:

I just had a meeting recently with an EFM coordinator, who I spoke with about the TR seeming pointless and artificial issue, and she basically said it's the mentor's fault -- TR is like sex -- if you hate it and think it's pointless, you're not doing it right.

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Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. - Erich Fromm

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Mamacita

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An excellent point, Laura. (And I hope you were talking to the coordinator about mentor training -- you would be superb.)

A note of hope to some of you. Sewanee requires us to go back for mentor training every 18 months. There's "basic training" which is largely about how to do TR, and then there are other courses we can do *after* we pass Basic Training twice. They've just amended the policy so that we have to go back to Basic Training every few years, too. So I think that's exercising some quality control over the mentors and our skills at leading TRs.

eta: Welcome to the conversation francesca! I really liked the Godly Play questions and will use them with my group. As is obvious, I like to mix things up a little.

[ 20. January 2007, 19:07: Message edited by: Mamacita ]

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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RuthW

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Sounds like the problem is our mentors' inexperience, then. They just did their second round of basic training. It's interesting to hear the way people on this thread have described how their mentors have worked; ours seem to regard themselves more as coordinators of the group than mentors. I know they're not supposed to be teaching it, but it seems to me that a certain amount of direction and leading is necessary, and they aren't doing that. Our group has in general decided that we don't much like TRs, and the mentors don't seem to feel like they're in a position to insist on their importance.

I appreciate the effort you put into explaining how TRs are supposed to go, what they're supposed to be, Mamacita. It sounds great. But in our group, what you describe is not happening. And given other problems our group is having, it's dismaying to hear that our mentors' training has been devoted mostly to doing TRs -- I wish instruction in group dynamics was a bigger part of basic training.

I'm piling up complaint after complaint about EFM: our mentors are too inexperienced, our group dynamic has serious issues, TRs suck, the reading load in the first year is insane, and the reading load in the second is by contrast too light and too lightweight (one freakin' paragraph on the phrase "the Son of Man"?!?), the materials are badly edited and sometimes skewed in weird directions -- and this last bit still really pisses me off, when I think of how many good books I could have bought for the $680 I've paid for two years of EFM. If the staff is so tiny, where is the money going? When I thought it was going for things like training mentors, I was slightly less ticked, but now I've learned that they have to pay for the training. $680 is a lot of money for me, and if things don't get a lot better over the next five months, I won't be shelling out more in September.

Anyway, right now either the whole thing is either circling the drain for me or it's hit bottom and it'll get better soon. I just don't know which metaphor is the right one.

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Amazing Grace

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Ruth, where are you in Year 2? We started in October, so we're doing Lesson 16 this coming week.

We have inexperienced mentors - none of them have finished EFM and one is a second year student like me. We have done a lot of processing about TRs - at the end of last year, us ickle firsties basically all said "we don't get the point and we feel that our Bible study is getting shortchanged", and we're working on that.

This year we are paying more attention to the common lessons, and occasionally take time to:

* discuss what we're reading in our year-X lessons and what's popped out for us
* all get a copy of the sole year 4 student's lesson and have a discussion about it

It's our group! We can do what we want.

On the upside, we have a very good group dynamic, which helps us bother.

I will have to say that our year 4 student has been an unofficial mentor, and a good one, for the lessons, as he has chosen to sit with us (6 year one students, all came back for year two, one person came into the class) and help us figure some things out from the "been there, done that" perspective. All of the mentors last year were in the other class so we were very self-directed. I am going to suggest that he consider offishul training.

I still agree with you about the materials. I kvetch about them a lot. My copy of Brown's "An Introduction to the New Testament" and the class discussion help me out considerably.

(For what it's worth, the year three people say that theirs are better.)

Charlotte

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WTFWED? "Remember to always be yourself, unless you suck" - the Gator
Memory Eternal! Sheep 3, Phil the Wise Guy, and Jesus' Evil Twin in the SoF Nativity Play

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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quote:
Originally posted by Amazing Grace:
Ruth, where are you in Year 2? We started in October, so we're doing Lesson 16 this coming week.

We did Lesson 17 Monday.

quote:
I still agree with you about the materials. I kvetch about them a lot. My copy of Brown's "An Introduction to the New Testament" and the class discussion help me out considerably.
I'll have to see if I can find a used copy of this -- thanks for the recommendation.
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Autenrieth Road

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Ho ho, O frabjous day, calloo, callay -- it's here in the library across the street from me.

Last week during our free-form/conversational TR I slipped in, "how does our culture see <Topic W>?" Good results.

And we closed by doing the Collect -- do you all do that? Fill in a collect with the results of our reflecting (structured or otherwise)... something like "we learned that God is X, we pray for Y, we intend to do Z." (I'll have to look up the exact wording, that's a bit rough. Mamacita, do you know it?)

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Truth

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Mamacita

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I sometimes end a TR with a collect, but not always. I think that "always" is a bad word when it comes to TRs -- keep 'em fresh, is my motto. Honestly, I'll often use it when the insights haven't been that great, when it seems that people are having trouble tying the reflection together. The collect helps.
The formula I was taught is: (1) In light of this particular reflection, what 3 words can we use to describe God; (2) In light of this reflection, what do we pray for? (3) What do we want to accomplish through this prayer?

I've been using the "provocative word" TR method a lot lately -- picking up on a theme that seems to arise out of our chapter discussions and using that as the starting point for TR. So, a couple weeks ago, everyone was saying that they found their readings "unsettling." I started the TR out with "unsettled," which got us to the metaphor "in a free fall." Here's the collect we ended with:
Beloved God, who connects all things,
We ask for the faith to know that you are working in our lives,
And for the courage to reach out
So that we accept the care of those you send to us.
This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the beauty and depth of what they come up with.

quote:
When I thought it [the tuition] was going for things like training mentors, I was slightly less ticked, but now I've learned that they have to pay for the training.
Just a point of information about mentor training. It isn't very expensive -- I think I paid maybe $120 each time -- particularly when you compare that with other professional training conferences that cost in the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. Most of that no doubt goes to whatever retreat center or conference center is hosting the session, plus meals, and the trainer's travel expenses.

[ 24. January 2007, 20:13: Message edited by: Mamacita ]

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Autenrieth Road

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What comes with doing EFM?

(I know they say this on their website, but I want to start from how it seems to me off the top of my head, and then see where the misfits are.)

(This is a lead-in to pondering, what does one gain by doing it with EFM? What does one give up? How would one do these things if not through EFM?)

  • Study of OT, NT, church history, theology, in a four year period.
  • Worship together.
  • Theological reflection at least broadly defined.
  • Trained mentor.
  • Use of Sewanee's materials (*)

A characteristic available in mixed-year groups is group discussions that can reflect and enrich off each other being at different years (one room schoolhouse).

And perhaps most obviously, that, whatever the content, this is done in a group rather than alone. Or more correctly, an interplay between alone stuff (reading, preparing, pondering) and together stuff (during the meeting).

(*) Yearly materials include: 34 chapters on the year's subject, suggested questions to ponder, suggestions of additional sources.

Common Lesson Materials include material on spiritual autobiographies, thinking theologically, life in Christ, theological frameworks, looking to the future, and a few other topics but I haven't got my book with me.

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Truth

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Izzybee
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Wow - EFM sounds absolutely fascinating! I went to their website and read the material for the first class, and found myself really interested. It's a shame I don't regularly attend Church and would be too scared to join a group even if it was offered to me.

*sigh* I'm going to start looking for books that cover the same material though [Smile]

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Hate filled bitch musings...

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Mamacita

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Izzybee - One of the members of my group is a believer but not a church-goer. Don't let that hold you back!

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Lyda*Rose

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We just had our first session last night. (When we got the program going at our church six years ago, we started late and it just continued that way.)

I've gotten into (co-)mentoring again and this time I think I really get TR rather than just knowing how to go through the steps. We are finding it really helps if we explain why we are doing what we are doing.It also helps to let the conversation flow within each step and quietly point out when we've touched on action/culture/position/tradition as we go along. That way we don't flog a point to death and can pull in areas missed without going through the whole list.

Does anyone else have trouble with fuzziness between "Repentance" and "Redemption"? in TR? Sometimes it seems that once the Aha! Of Repentance has been discovered, just getting the Aha! is the Redemptive key.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Choirboy
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Silly question - how does one go about finding an EfM group?
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Autenrieth Road

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The EFM Coordinator for your Diocese, listed at EFM's website might be able to point you towards one.

(I don't know why they call them "Judicatory Coordinators" on the webpage -- that sounds awfully scary compared to what the description says they actually do!)

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Truth

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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
Does anyone else have trouble with fuzziness between "Repentance" and "Redemption"? in TR? Sometimes it seems that once the Aha! Of Repentance has been discovered, just getting the Aha! is the Redemptive key.

I think the bigger confusion is between Judgment and Repentence, and TBH, I don't split hairs on them. I think that Judgment is the "AHA," the recognition that things are amiss or not as they seem; Repentence would be something that indicates a turning around (the "metanoia") or intent to take action in a new direction; the standard question I ask on Redemption is "What here is cause for joy, celebration?" I'm glad your group is up and running again, Lyda*Rose. Don't be concerned about the start date. There are lots of groups that don't operate on the academic-year cycle.

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Choirboy
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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:
The EFM Coordinator for your Diocese, listed at EFM's website might be able to point you towards one.

Hah! I even know him. I'm seeing him tonight for another meeting.

Thanks very much!

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Evensnog
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Ruth, you've no idea how much less alone I feel, after reading your comments. I've been having a really toxic EFM experience this year - I now despise TRs; the dynamics of my group couldn't be more hostile; and I'm wishing I had all those hundreds of dollars back - I should have put them towards my vacation fund instead.

Last week, someone in my group described the TR process (as experienced in our group) as feeling like a "non-consensual pop-spiritual circle-jerk." Sadly, that description feels pretty accurate. [Waterworks]

Posts: 507 | From: Silicon Valley | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

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It does help to know you're not alone, doesn't it?!

It appears that our group may have hit bottom and be getting better. Thank goodness.

Posts: 24368 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mamacita

Lakefront liberal
# 3659

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quote:
Originally posted by Evensnog:
non-consensual pop-spiritual circle-jerk

OMG, that is perfect. I'm going to remember that. In fact, I'm going to print it out and tape it to the inside of my mentor notebook. It will be my voice of conscience.

You all make me want to be a better mentor. You keep me vigilant. I wish you guys were having a better experience.

[edited to eliminate utter incoherence, I hope]

[ 02. February 2007, 16:22: Message edited by: Mamacita ]

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Autenrieth Road

Shipmate
# 10509

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Evensnog & RuthW, are your groups single- or mixed-year? What kinds of bad/hostile group dynamics do they have? (Curious to understand more about how groups work. Or don't work [Frown] .)

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Truth

Posts: 9559 | From: starlight | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
Amazing Grace

High Church Protestant
# 95

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quote:
Originally posted by Evensnog:
Ruth, you've no idea how much less alone I feel, after reading your comments. I've been having a really toxic EFM experience this year - I now despise TRs; the dynamics of my group couldn't be more hostile; and I'm wishing I had all those hundreds of dollars back - I should have put them towards my vacation fund instead.

Last week, someone in my group described the TR process (as experienced in our group) as feeling like a "non-consensual pop-spiritual circle-jerk." Sadly, that description feels pretty accurate. [Waterworks]

Ouch!!

(Ok, so I did have to laugh my ass off at the circle-jerk thing. Bad Charlotte, no snack.)

Charlotte

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WTFWED? "Remember to always be yourself, unless you suck" - the Gator
Memory Eternal! Sheep 3, Phil the Wise Guy, and Jesus' Evil Twin in the SoF Nativity Play

Posts: 6593 | From: Sittin' by the dock of the [SF] bay | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged
Evensnog
Shipmate
# 8017

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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:
Evensnog & RuthW, are your groups single- or mixed-year? What kinds of bad/hostile group dynamics do they have? (Curious to understand more about how groups work. Or don't work [Frown] .)

I'll do my best to try and answer this, without giving out anything too specific.

Mixed year, and we're also an oversized group. I know it's designed to be multi year, but I just haven't been impressed with that aspect yet.

As far as the hostile group dynamics- The major problem seems to be that too many group members have very different ideas about what EFM and our group is supposed to be, and are trying to manipulate things accordingly.

Everyone in the group either transferred from another group, or joined EFM on the recommendation of a friend/relative's distinct EFM experience, and thus their expectations of what the program is, and how the class should run, are colored accordingly. And naturally, we all think 'our way' is the best. (I'm guilty of this, too.)

Some group members want to use the TRs as group therapy and are pushing for that. Others are only willing to use certain TR methods, or only do occasional TRs. Still others are unwilling to do any more TRs, after some pretty bad stuff has happened during them. Some think we should be focusing on the chapter lessons. Others think we don't need to discuss the chapter lessons at all. There's one member who wants to do lots of guided imagery type exercises and do past-life regression work to figure out who we were during biblical times.

It's reaching the point where the folks who don't want to do TRs, or who don't want to use whatever method we're using that day, are getting either really passive aggressive (one lady gives herself a manicure!) or doing whatever they can to sidetrack or sabotage things. The same thing is happening with the bible study portion.

Group members are getting really hostile towards each other - rude remarks, snide looks, that sort of thing. Some really unkind things have been said. It's getting to the point where some group members won't even speak to others. It's heartbreaking. (I'm sitting here, crying from frustration, as I type this. I cannot imagine how our mentor must be feeling)

Does this give you a better picture of what I meant by bad group dynamics?

Posts: 507 | From: Silicon Valley | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

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quote:
Originally posted by Autenrieth Road:
Evensnog & RuthW, are your groups single- or mixed-year? What kinds of bad/hostile group dynamics do they have? (Curious to understand more about how groups work. Or don't work [Frown] .)

Mixed-year, but that hasn't been a source of our problems. As I'm not all that anonymous here, I don't want to go into detail about the group dynamics.
Posts: 24368 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged



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