Available in Fall 2020

NOTE: The in-person version of Beloved Conversations will not be offered during the 2020/2021 programming year, as the new version represents updated materials that respond to the racial and health challenges we currently face. During this season of a global pandemic, our primary concern is for the health and well-being of learners. While we expect that in-person meetings will take place again in the future, we do not expect to offer support for such a format until the 2021 programming year.

Beloved Conversations: Virtual

As an educational laboratory, the Fahs Collaborative is testing ways to meet urgent learning needs around faith formation. In that spirit, we are excited to announce Beloved Conversations: Virtual, which will be launched for the Fall 2020 church year!

Since our initial pilot of March 2011, Beloved Conversations curriculum developers have responded to the needs to learn how race and ethnicity shape our personal and collective lives and practices. Data from the experiences of over 150 congregations engaged in our program suggests that good learning was happening, as they reported they became:

  • more courageous when engaging in cross-cultural dialogue
  • more comfortable taking risks to communicate deeply held assumptions about race and ethnicity
  • better equipped to sit with cultural differences
  • more adaptable at dealing with different standards for worship, music, education
  • more fluid translating personal communication styles and theological commitments to other preferences and traditions
  • better able to link personal power to systematic oppressions
  • more resilient when confronting the status quo
  • more curious about personal, narrowly held assumptions
  • better able to set aside issues of perfectionism and judgment when encountering different standards

Yet, even with these encouraging outcomes, we know that the long-term transformation of mono-cultural ways of thinking, feeling, and acting requires significant long-term support. In planning for a new Beloved Conversations: Virtual curriculum, we noticed some elements that are required to be added or focused on:

  1. More time: the interconnectedness of how race shapes a life requires more than eight, two-hour sessions to better understand its complexity.
  2. Making more room for the impact of racial socialization: how one's social location informs how one thinks, feels, and relates to others differs significantly based on the racial/ethnic group to which one belongs.
  3. Access: smaller congregations find the costs of the curriculum too great an obstacle for consistent participation.
  4. Centering the needs of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC): While the impact of racism is experienced by everyone, BIPOC pay a pernicious emotional, spiritual, and communal price to be part of a multi-racial community.
  5. Embodiment: noticing the sociological patterns of racial experience is important to understand, yet new ways to access the emotional legacy of racism in one's head and body is needed.
  6. Grace: Releasing issues around imperfection—including peer pressure, shame, and guilt for past conflicts—plays a significant role in becoming a better race-conscious person/community.
  7. Unlearning minimization: even when conscious that racial frames are shaping one's life, a great many participants work actively to minimize the importance of cultural differences in their lives, making interpersonal and community conversations about change especially daunting for those who are racially oppressed.
  8. Multigenerational aspects: conversations about race are family conversations, especially with children as young as 2-3 years old privileging white cultural ways of thinking and acting.
  9. Faith formation: strategies for the complexities of theology, emotional literacy, consciousness of identity development need to be more central to the curriculum.
  10. Set the bar high: we can articulate and expect a high level of learning, commitment, and rigor from our people and they will rise to the challenge.

Beloved Conversations: Virtual is being designed and offered for the 2020-2021 church year with these findings in mind. The new curriculum is organized in three "phases” that resonate with earlier versions but have vastly new features, mainly:

  • A digital format that allows users to participate as individuals, while preparing themselves to do congregational and community-level systemic work
  • Teaching and learning strategies and small group structures organized by racial/ethnic affiliation (often called "caucuses"), allowing differentiated learning for BIPOC as well as for white people
  • Explicit resources developed to meet the intellectual, historical, and spiritual needs of people of color living in a world (and a religious community) that privileges white cultural norms
  • Teaching and learning materials designed for ministers/seminarians, religious educators, musicians, and church administrators

About the Program 

Beloved Conversations: Virtual will be rolling out over the next several church years, beginning in September 2020. This new version of our program will be released in three phases:  

  • Within (the individual, personal work we each need to do);  
  • Among (the institutional, systemic change needed in our congregations); and  
  • Beyond (the work outside our congregations, with our local communities). 

The first phase (Within) will open for registration in September 2020, and focuses on the internal work that each of us needs to do as we engage racial justice. This work is different for White folks and for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color and will be done entirely in race-based caucuses.   

Within work will include individual study of videos and readings, accompanied by reflection prompts and suggested conversations with “critical friends” chosen by the participants; bi-weekly small group conversations in a “learning pod”; and larger, monthly, facilitated meaning-making sessions.   

There will be two separate terms of the Within program—Fall and Spring—which will contain different content. Participants can sign up for one or both, and may begin in Spring or in Fall.    

Tentative Fall 2020 Scheduling

  • September 1 – 20: Registration for individuals and congregations for participation in the Fall Term 
  • Beginning of October: Welcome/Orientation 
  • Mid-October: Meaning Making Session 1 
  • Mid-November: Meaning Making Session 2 
  • Mid-December: Meaning Making Session 3 and Fall Term Wrap-Up 
  • Ongoing: Online Individual Lessons, released every two weeks 
  • Ongoing: Small Group "Pod" Meetings, every two weeks   

Tentative Spring 2021 Scheduling

  • February 1 – 20: Registration for individuals and congregations for participation in the Spring Term 
  • Beginning of March: Welcome/Orientation
  • Mid-March: Meaning Making Session 1 
  • Mid-April: Meaning Making Session 2 
  • Mid-May: Meaning Making Session 3 and Spring Term Wrap-Up 
  • Ongoing: Online Individual Lessons, released every two weeks 
  • Ongoing: Small Group "Pod" Meetings, every two weeks   

BC Virtual Fall 2020 Pricing Guide* 

Prices are per term—Fall Term and Spring Term will have different content. You may register for one or both.    

Individual Pricing (ages 18+): 

$150 per person   

Reparations Note: White participants are encouraged to consider paying an additional $50 (for a total of $200 per person), in recognition of the historic legacy of racist economic policies and the ways in which generational wealth and greater access to economic opportunity have privileged white people as a group for hundreds of years. We will use these extra funds to provide scholarships to those who need it to participate in this program.  

Equity Note: Regardless of your racial identity, sliding scale pricing and full scholarships are available to those who need them. Please contact us for more details. 

Interdependence Note: Regardless of your racial identity, if your class privilege allows you to pay more so that others may pay less, please consider adding an additional contribution to your total.    

Congregational Discounts for Multiple Individuals: 

Group discounts are available for congregations with more than 10 participants. More information on how to register as a group will be available soon.

  • 10-19 people signing up together: 10% discount on the total  
  • 20 or more people signing up together: 20% discount on the total    

Religious Professionals Pricing: 

$250 per person   

Reparations Note: White participants are encouraged to consider paying an additional $50 (for a total of $300 per person), in recognition of the historic legacy of racist economic policies and the ways in which generational wealth and greater access to economic opportunity have privileged white people as a group for hundreds of years. We will use these extra funds to provide scholarships to those who need it to participate in this program.  

Equity Note: Regardless of your racial identity, sliding scale pricing/scholarships are available to those who need them, especially those who do not have professional expenses or whose funds are limited. Please contact us for more information. 

Interdependence Note: Regardless of your racial identity, if your class privilege/professional expense budget allows you to pay more so that others may pay less, please consider adding an additional contribution to your total.   

*As we learn more about the actual costs of delivering this program, prices may be subject to change for Spring 2021. 

Questions? Contact Rev. Kierstin Homblette Allen at BelovedConversations@meadville.edu.

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