Hello, fellow Hyde Park members and all of our local community members.


My name is Michelle Schumacher, and I am one of the co-facilitators of The Civil Conversations Project at The Portico Tampa. Please consider this an open invitation to join us at our conversation this Thursday, Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m. at The Portico Cafe.


Our CCP group offers a monthly opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with others—sometimes with markedly different perspectives and life experiences—on topics and issues that impact our lives.


Our conversations are open to anyone who wishes to participate, walk-ins welcome. The project is inspired by the Civil Conversations Project (www.civilconversationsproject.org) launched by the NPR radio program and podcast On Being. Each month’s discussion focuses on one podcast interview from the project.


We CCP’ers do not seek to change anyone’s values or beliefs. Rather, we seek to broaden each of our perspectives by discussing topics that are emotionally charged with dignity, grace, and mutual respect. Building on what Pastor Candace Lewis said this past Sunday, we seek to move away from the black and white perspectives each of us might have regarding any given issue and to instead find the colors in between black and white that emerge when we intentionally sit in communion together at the conversation table to hear and learn from one another.


What does a CCP conversation look like? Listening respectfully, even when we disagree. Keeping our voices at conversational tones rather than raised levels. Talking one at a time rather than over each other. Speaking from and honoring each of our own experiences, rather than telling anyone that their experiences are wrong…or that they, themselves, are wrong.


Although he’s never been to one of our meetings, I think UMC Bishop Ken Carter captured our intent well in his statement two Sundays ago when he said, “Conversation is the currency of change. When we speak with someone, when we listen to them, when they listen to us, we often find that our perspectives change.”


That doesn’t mean we believe or vote differently. It might mean, though, that we start to learn to yell a little less, to listen and to empathize a little more, and maybe even to find our way forward in compromise by focusing on the points we do agree on.


For example, this Thurs., Oct. 5, our podcast topic of https://onbeing.org/programs/jim-daly-gabe-lyons-the-next-christians/ includes examples of folks from different backgrounds and beliefs who become willing to listen to each other and, from there, to move forward together by focusing on what they agree on. Coincidentally, this month’s podcast specifically speaks to the question posed by Magrey in his Midweek Message last week of “How do we achieve full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church, while still honoring our covenantal bonds with each other?”


So please consider this an open invitation to join us 6:30-8 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 5. For those who might not yet have had dinner, or who could use a caffeine pick-me-up, the Portico Cafe will be open until 7 p.m.


Thanks very much for your time and consideration, and we look forward to seeing you Thursday evening.



Michelle Schumacher


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