Creating a Culture of Encounter
Pope Francis tells us, “For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.”
As members of the Body of Christ, we are each created in the image of and loved by God, we are called to form relationships with one another, and we are called to “create a culture of encounter.”
How can we “encounter” one another?
How can we “encounter” one another? One tool that is used by many faith communities and community groups is the one-to-one relational meeting.
One-to-one relational meetings can be helpful in:
Building the Body Christ by forming relationships among members of your faith community, or with members of a wider community.
Listening to and understanding the “joys and hopes, sorrows and anxieties” of the community. In other words, getting to know the dreams—and also the fundamental problems and issues—that keep people up at night.
"For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others. . . with our faith we must create a "culture of encounter,” a culture of friendship, a culture in which we find brothers and sisters, in which we can also speak with those who think differently, as well as those who hold other beliefs, who do not have the same faith. They all have something in common with us: they are images of God, they are children of God."
- POPE FRANCIS, 5/18/13
Discovering the God-given gifts and skills possessed by community members, including leadership ability or potential.
One-to-one relational meetings can be done within a faith community. They can also be done as a faith community seeks to reach out to the wider community—in a neighborhood surrounding a parish, for example.
How one-to-one relational meetings work
Here’s how one-to-one relational meetings work.
1) Either by phone or in person, connect with the family or person you want to visit.
2) Introduce yourself. For example, “My name is Maria. I’m part of the leadership team for this faith community. We’re trying to strengthen our community by doing visits with members of our community to learn who you are and listen to concerns and dreams for the community.”
3) Request a meeting. “Would you be willing to meet with me for a half hour?”
4) At the meeting:
- Re-introduce yourself and re-state the purpose of the visit.
- Get to know the person and his or her dreams and concerns. For example:
- How long have you been part of this community?
- What does this community mean to you?
- What are the changes you have seen during that time?
- What are some of the concerns you have about the community?
- Why is that important to you?
- What do you see as some of the most pressing needs of the community?
- Why do you think these problems exist?
- What do you think it’s going to take to improve our community?
- Invitation. If someone is very passionate, enthusiastic or interested, invite him or her to get involved in a more concrete way—for example, ask if he or she would be willing to take part in a larger meeting with other people also concerned about these same issues.
5) After the meeting:
- Make some notes for yourself so you can remember later who you met with, what his or her dreams and concerns were, and any follow-up you discussed.
- Reflect on how the meeting went. Were you clear about why the meeting was taking place? What questions were you glad you asked? Were there any follow up questions you wished you should have asked but didn’t? What did you learn?
Why is this a tool that works? Because in Luke 10:1-11, Jesus doesn’t send the disciples out alone. He sends them “two by two” to heal the sick and preach the Good News. In the same way, we have to encounter one another, form relationships, and learn who else in the community also feels called to address the problems and issues that affect us. Then we can build up the Body of Christ and work together to do God’s work.
This resource is excerpted and adapted with permission from Enriching Our Diversity: A Parish Outreach, Education and Organizing Manual in Support of the Justice for Immigrants Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, p. 40-51.