The EmBodied Project is an invitation, encouragement, and challenge to Highland to help build an antiracist culture and beyond, while sharing and incorporating our core beliefs about Baptism. The physical expression of Baptism not only changes each of us spiritually, it also changes how we interact with one another as the body of Christ. What is shared by one is experienced by all. (Galatians 3:26-28)
Healthy conversations are the result of healthy environments. As your group considers walking through these conversations, here are a couple of guiding principles we would recommend everyone committing to and embodying alongside the EmBodied Project.
1. Respect Each Voice’s Experience: The Embodied Project contains extremely vulnerable stories. One of the ways we can respect and value every voice who shares their story is to not exhaust them by reaching out with further questions or comments about their story. If a story moves you or someone in your group, harness that energy to seek and learn more from books, podcasts, or organizations who are devoted to racial reconciliation.
2. Process In A Posture Of Humility: In order for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us all who are participating in this project must take priority in emptying ourselves in what we think we know in order to learn, understand, and become aware of what we do not know.
3. Examine Your Story While Hearing Others Stories: Everyone has work to do in regards to seeing greater justice, reconciliation, and understanding. This process requires self-examination. We all grow up with stories we were told and that we tell ourselves that internally shape us. Encourage your group to take this as an opportunity to examine ourselves and our local community for the ways we can value every human being as one made in the Image of God.
4. Reject The Desire To Rebuttal: Seek to listen and understand the experiences shared within the EmBodied Project. Resist equating your suffering or challenges to someone else’s of color. These moments of difficulty or oppression need to be lifted up opposed to being shared through the same lens. Steer clear of “not all..” language because it distracts with exceptions instead of discussing the main common problems of racism. This is an institutional, systemic, and ideological problem just as much as an individual one as well.
5. Connect, Disconnect, & Reconnect: Processing these stories is difficult and transformative work. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Encourage your group to listen together, process together and separately, and revisit ways you as an individual and community recognize the reconciliation work of God happening in this time and place.
Restore Highland Groups exist around this truth: we were made to be in community. We believe that there is power in doing life together and that God works through intentional relationships. Doing life together through community is part of our nature, but finding those relationships isn’t always easy. That's why Restore Highland Groups exist — to make meaningful relationships engaging and accessible to you.
Below are our suggestions for groups who want to begin the conversation about meeting together. In the paragraphs below, you will find our recommendations, best practices, and strategies for opening up the conversation with your group.
We recognize there is a diversity of perspectives and levels of precaution, so we want to give you permission to continue to not regather in person if that’s what is best for your group at this time. In the coming weeks, there may be changes depending on the future health condition of Abilene and we will keep you updated if and when anything changes.
If your group decides to begin meeting in person again, we recommend these best practices:
Creativity: We highly recommend avoiding living rooms or enclosed spaces. Consider hosting your group at a local park or a member’s front or back yard to keep distance and air circulation.
Timing: We highly recommend shortening your group time in order to decrease the time of shared air as well as building stamina again for reintroducing social interactions.
Caution with Food: We highly recommend avoiding gathering where food is shared and communal serving utensils are utilized. If your group is insistent on eating, perhaps suggesting everyone brings their own individual meal and drinks to avoid the spread of germs.
We know approaching a conversation about regathering may come with some awkwardness. In an effort to best support your group for a successful conversation, we've drafted a few ways you can allow each person to have space to share their thoughts and feelings as your group makes a decision.
Prepare People for the Conversation: Ask if your group would mind hosting a quick zoom call or at the end of your next meeting asking if everyone would bring their thoughts towards the idea of regathering in person. A simple question such as, “Can we check-in at the end of our zoom call next week to discuss everyone’s thoughts about the possibility of creatively meeting in person?”, might suffice for the beginning of the conversation.
Have One Member Take Inventory of Everyone’s Opinions: Select one member of your group to collect everyone’s feedback and present an overall consensus to the group.
Suggest Alternating Formats: If your group is split in thought about regathering in person, ask everyone how they would feel about alternating between meeting in person and meeting online.
A Restore Highland Group term begins in September and goes through the month of May. We invite groups to take a break during the winter holidays and also in the summer. Although we recognize many groups will re-up (re-commit) the next year, we also want to give individuals an opportunity to reevaluate their commitments and decide if this group is the right fit for them in their particular season of life.
Every Restore Highland Group needs 1-4 RHG Leaders and 1-2 Care Contacts. An RHG Leader is a designated person who is willing to implement the rhythm of a Restore Highland Group and initiate the gatherings. In no way does the RHG leader have to be the facilitator of the discussion every week. An RHG Care Contact is simply an individual who assesses the needs of the group and serves as a bridge in connecting them to the appropriate care through a Congregational Care team, ministry leader, or minister.
We believe our restoration vision is possible for all ages. We leave the involvement of children in a Restore Highland Group up to the discernment of the group as a whole. The design of a Restore Highland Group is meant for intimacy and discussing the ways in which we are seeking restoration in our lives. In order to share the rawest parts of life, you may want to explore a balance between inviting children once a month to participate and providing an alternative activity or childcare for the rest of the gatherings.
The Restore Highland Group model highly recommends groups do not share a meal during their discussion time. We’ve found a meal tends to distract from the focus of the gathering in people seeking transformation together. We are also sensitive to make sure we don’t put a bigger commitment on the shoulders of our host home. For those groups who love to eat, we highly recommend using one of the weeks in your month to gather together to simply share a meal for your group time.
The model is designed to last 1 to 1 1/2 hours in total. Groups who find themselves taking longer may want to evaluate if they are either spending a little too much time in one portion of the rhythm or need to break into smaller groups during the discussion portion of the evening.
Our team suggest 8-12 people in a Restore Highland Group to guarantee the maximum use of time and attention everyone needs to fully engage the RHG rhythm. For groups beyond this size, we highly recommend using creativity to keep your time under 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Consider breaking into smaller group for portions of the night and then gathering back together as a larger group.