From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference
“Conversation with others across difference is not just a nice thing to do. It is a spiritual practice of love in action.”
- Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
“From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference” is a campaign inviting Episcopalians and our neighbors to engage in one-to-one listening and sharing across the many differences that separate us. The conversations center on four questions: What do you love? What have you lost? Where does it hurt? What do you dream?
Echoing the Latin phrase on the U.S. seal – E Pluribus (“from many”) Unum (“one”) – and following in the footsteps of Jesus, we trust that the spiritual practice of conversation across difference can help to knit us all into a diverse, more perfect union.
Explore these pages to find information on how to engage with From Many, One: Conversations Across Difference. You can find explanations for each of the questions, suggestions on going deeper, and additional resources to keep your conversations going.
Don’t forget to sign up for updates on From Many, One. Watch the videos. Invite a partner. Have the conversation. Pray. Join in deeper conversation, learning and action. Help to form God's beloved community.
How Do I Engage?
As you commit to having conversations across difference, use this framework to help you and your partners through the process.
- Explore the guide.
- Reflect personally on The Four Questions.
- Watch videos of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other leaders modeling brief, one-to-one conversations using The Four Questions (starting January 18 and rolling out every other week).
- Explore the Resources to learn about conversation as a spiritual practice, set up your own conversations, and reflect well afterward.
- Sign up and set a conversations goal.
- Have the conversation.
- Pray for your partner after the conversation.
- Repeat with new partners.
- Contribute to the “From Many, One” story space with a poem, prayer, reflection, or image inspired by your conversation(s), or with video/audio highlights or reflections (with your partner’s permission).
- Participate in related efforts to take the learning, listening, and action further (see options under Keep the Conversation Going). And celebrate the campaign during Easter 2021 in a churchwide virtual gathering.
The Four Questions
What do you love? What do you value? What will you struggle to protect?
So much of human action and thinking is driven not by hate or anger but by the urge to protect what we love. By asking and sharing our answers to “what do you love,” each of us has a chance to name and to hear what matters most to us and why. It’s harder to argue when we start from what we love.
What have you lost? What keeps you up at night? What has been lost in your community? What do you miss?
People across the spectrum understand the experience of loss: the loss of money, jobs, status, national identity, cultural identity, a sense of security, a sense that they matter, etc. By asking and sharing our answers to “what have you lost,” we become curious about what each of us has lost, what we’re grieving, and perhaps what we’re trying hard to get back.
Where does it hurt? Where have you been wounded by life? What makes you angry? How or where do you feel that pain and anger?
Regardless of our race, gender, age, ballot choice, earnings, or location, we all know what it is to hurt. By asking and sharing our answers to “where does it hurt,” we become curious about how each of us has been wounded by life, by others, and by social forces, instead of assuming “others” are fine and only I or my group is hurting. We offer up our experiences and learn to offer one another compassion.
What do you dream? What do you hope for the future – for yourself, your family, your community, and your nation?
We all dream of a better world, as we imagine it from our own personal perspective, but we don’t get to hear or share that vision very often. Instead, people often assume that their own ideal picture of life, community, and society is shared by everyone or that certain others can’t possibly want the same kind of future they do. By asking “what do you dream,” we become open to hear and share each other’s dreams for our families, communities, society, and ourselves.
What's the Point?
As individuals, we may find conversations like these help us with “engaging others, knowing ourselves.” Through sharing across difference around simple questions, we can…
- Acknowledge the differences and divisions in our families, communities, and nation.
- Be open to understanding and collaborating without insisting we’re the same.
- Practice disagreeing without dishonoring.
- Live the Way of Love as we BLESS by listening, sharing, and honoring God’s presence in one another and as we GO across borders of race, class, ideology, region, age, and experience.
- Find language to name what is hopeful, challenging, and loving in our everyday lives.
- Learn to create hospitable, respectful, generous space for others to share their stories.
- Notice God showing up in the spaces between us.
As a Church, we can offer a faithful perspective and tested practice for knitting deeply divided communities into a diverse, more perfect union. Together, we can…
- Counter the current culture of retribution, punishment, and “othering,” and instead honor difference, curiosity, and relationship.
- Reknit the fabric of families, communities, and a nation fractured by pandemic, racial reckoning, and politics.
- Practice the ministry of reconciliation, that is, the spiritual practice of seeking loving, liberating, and life-giving relationship with God and one another across the many borders that separate us, and striving to heal and transform injustice and brokenness in ourselves, communities, institutions, and society.
- Teach intentional listening and “StorySharing” as part of living the Way of Love.
- Forge the Beloved Community, where all people may experience dignity and abundant life and see themselves and others as beloved children of God, and where the flourishing of every person (and all creation) is the hope of each person.
- Point individuals and groups toward ongoing efforts that support learning and engagement across difference (such as Braver Angels, Civil Discourse, Love God-Love Neighbor, the Difference Course, Sacred Ground, PrayOnMLK, and the People’s Inauguration).
- Be true to our core Anglican values. Our tradition was born in the fires of conflict between religious and ideological factions. Anglicans have a unique calling to adapt, listen, hold tension, and bridge fierce convictions.
Keep the Conversation Going
After you’ve had your conversations and shared your story, keep going! There are many ways to keep the conversations going – with your conversation partner, your small group, and even your congregation.
Level 1: Simple Conversations
- Conversations Across Difference: Keep having these conversations within and beyond your circles
- Braver Angels: With Malice Toward None: Simple small group conversations designed to connect “red and blue” Americans around mostly secular topics
Level 2: Conversations and Learning Across Difference
- Civil Discourse: Make Me an Instrument of Peace: Five-session curriculum from the Office of Government Relations and Department of Faith Formation for bridging partisan divides, learning from others, and enlarging the sacred space for debate
- The Difference Course: Five-session course on following Jesus in the face of conflict and seeing transformation through everyday encounters, produced by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reconciliation Programme
- Love God-Love Neighbor: Episcopal Migration Ministries’ training in welcoming work through community organizing, awareness, advocacy, and relationship with refugees and immigrants
Level 3: Deeper Reckoning Around Difference and Racial Identity
- Sacred Ground: 10-session film-based dialogue series for small groups to learn and reckon with U.S. racial history and their own racial identity, and to share stories on sacred ground – especially useful for engaging White communities and crossing barriers of class and ideology
Level 4: Related Campaigns for Healing, Prayer and Action
- Pray on MLK: Nationwide evangelical-led campaign organizing groups dedicated to racial healing to take specific actions on January 18, including sharing conversations and meals, forming a “wall of prayer,” and hosting “hope rallies”
- The People’s Inauguration: The day after the presidential inauguration, groups and individuals recommit to healing and building a nation with liberty and justice for all. Features “The People’s Inauguration: Becoming America” digital event, as well as teach-ins, artist offerings, concerts, vigils, and home rituals – organized by Revolutionary Love Project and Valarie Kaur
Additional Conversation and Dialogue Resources
- Beloved Community StorySharing Guide: A simple guide with models for sharing stories and practicing reconciliation that can be used in congregations, one-on-ones, adult education, retreats, etc.
- Tenets for Civil Discourse: Brief summary of practical conversation guidelines
- Civil Discourse Curriculum: Standalone resource for bridging partisan divides and learning from others
- Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: Lutheran guide to daily encounters with diversity
- Five Ways to Have Better Conversations Across Difference (berkeley.edu)
- Called to Transformation: Episcopal learning for individuals and groups in communication about personal gifts and community needs
- “Where Does It Hurt?”: Krista Tippett’s interview with Ruby Sales from the On Being podcast
- “The Revolutionary Art of Listening”: Stephanie Spellers’ TEDx Talk
- National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD): Engaging Differences Key Principles and Best Practices (arizona.edu)
- Conflict Transformation: Essay by John Paul Lederach on peacebuilding skills and turning conflict into conversation
- America Inside Out Series 1 - White Anxiety with Katie Couric: An episode of the series in which Katie Couric examines how anxiety in the white working class has impacted divides in America