Holiness in our Midst: Session 108

Holiness in our Midst


Story Circle Prompt: Share some words that were life-changing for you. Who spoke them? Where were you at the time? What happened because of them?

It was only a two-minute happening 14 or 15 years ago, yet it has had lifelong instructive value. The scene was a parking lot outside of a guest house in Daytona Beach, FL. I was attending a National Council of Churches event, a meeting of the Education and Leadership Ministries Commission. My role was to represent mission educators among leaders of other interest areas. Gathered with a group that was going out to eat, I was catching up with an ecumenical colleague and continuing the conversation as we got into a car. The person driving, who was representing community churches, asked me a question: “Janis, do you mind reframing your conversation so that all of us can participate?” I was quietly called out for conducting a side conversation in a group setting. All during the meeting, participants were asked to be conscious of others when we were around tables. We were encouraged to sit with people we did not know well and were given thoughtful questions that everyone could participate fully in.  (Perhaps, this column was born in those hours.) New friendships all around were formed during that weekend. 

The parking lot encounter in Florida also awakened me to the toxicity of exclusion, no matter how commonplace, innocently conducted or socially acceptable the practice of engaging in private conversations in public. (Spaces for closed conversations can be easily arranged.) Especially now, when the pandemic carries with it inherent isolation, I find myself thinking about including others at work, community gatherings and even in grocery lines. On one hand, the consequences of unchecked deliberate exclusion can be devastating, ranging from hurt feelings to covert bullying if there in a power differential between the persons. On the other, the results of intentional inclusion can be awakening, enlightening and life changing.


  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the following: Share the story behind words that changed your life. 

      1.   Read aloud Session CVIII.

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

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