Dining together feeds new understanding and next steps

People were fully engaged and looking for more

Feast for the Common Good and Calgary-based Refugia Retreats partnered to create a two-day opportunity for personal and collective action.

“We believe Calgarians deserve space and community in which to have the tough conversations of our time,” the event description stated. “We advocate for honest, respectful, open conversations as we delve deeply into issues of importance for our future.”

On Friday Feb. 3, Feast for the Common Good hosted a three-course vegetarian dinner for about 40 participants, and Refugia Retreats hosted a Work That Reconnects workshop the following day that drew 20 people.

Bill Phipps and Ted Reeve, Faith and the Common Good co-founders, created Feast for the Common Good as an experiment to see if pairing a locally-sourced meal with information and questions would open people up to having deeper conversations. The dialogue topics included climate change, income inequity and right relations.

EthniCity Catering, a social enterprise of the Centre for Newcomers, cooked the Friday meal. Hillhurst United Church supported the events — which reached registration capacity — and provided the location.

Two Feast for the Common Good events that took place last fall in Ontario were well-received, with participants appreciating taking pause through a slow meal with conversations that have purpose. Bill says the Calgary event followed that trend.

“People said afterwards they were surprised they could have deeper than normal conversations on these things without a facilitator (sitting at their table) and the usual paraphernalia of a workshop,” Bill says.

Jodi Lammiman and Amy Spark, Refugia Retreats co-creators, hosted the Feb. 4 Work That Reconnects workshop. Work That Reconnects has roots in the teachings and experiential methods of Joanna Macy — a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking and deep ecology.

Macy’s process moves participants from gratitude through griefs and things we are concerned about into more positive possibilities. Bill says using Macy’s approach is different than a “normal workshop,” as it brings in people’s heart as well as head.

“It engages people personally and it seems to open people up,” Bill tells NewScoop YYC. “This was a collection of people . . . not an already established group, so I was quite impressed at the way people connected quickly and how people respected (each other’s) space.”

Amy notes participants, who ranged in age, expressed Macy’s framework helped with understanding or coping with difficult issues. “I hope we fostered some confidence-building for our participants to take these ideas into wider circles and their own networks,” she says.

Participants left the workshop with a personal action plan — either an individual goal to work towards or a plan to connect with a group. The actions varied, such as refinishing a grandmother’s chest to getting more involved in Hillhurst United Church’s climate group.

“There was no question people were fully engaged and looking for more,” Bill says, noting the organizers plan to meet soon to discuss what “more” might look like and what changes they could make to this type of event going forward.

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