Engaging a radical faith

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The annual Engaging Faith conference offered by Furman’s Office of the Chaplain and NEXUS Center brings two speakers from diverse backgrounds together to challenge conference-goers to address the deep issues of faith.
This year’s speakers, Brene Brown and Yvette Flunder, encouraged their audience to get in touch with the issues of vulnerability and radical inclusion. Dr. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has spent the last decade studying vulnerability, worthiness, courage and shame. Bishop Yvette Flunder is the founder of City of Refuge UCC, a thriving inner-city congregation in San Francisco that serves many marginalized people in the Bay Area.

The Birthplace of Creativity
Brown said, “The myths of vulnerability are that (1) it is weakness; (2) I can opt out; (3) it is letting it all hang out, or over-sharing; and (4) I can go it alone. In reality, vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. It is the heart of all emotions; it isn’t optional. Without vulnerability, there is no intimacy. Vulnerability is about trust, intimacy and connection.” She said vulnerability is “not about winning and losing, it is about being willing to show up and be seen.” Sometimes just showing up (as in being the first to apologize or to say “I love you”) takes a great deal of courage.

I Am Enough
In her research, Brown found that about 20 percent of the people she interviewed believe “I am worthy of love and belonging” no matter what their situation. These people faced the same struggles as the other 80 percent interviewed, but regardless of their addiction, divorce, financial woes or other loss, they still believed they were worthy of love and belonging. The “wholehearted” people, as Dr. Brown calls them, also “cultivate rest and play. They have given up achievement and exhaustion as status symbols.”

A Practice, Not an Attitude
Brown shared that “every single person I interviewed who had the capacity for joy actively practiced gratitude. They kept a gratitude journal or noted each day what they were grateful for. People who had experienced great tragedy, such as losing a child, encourage others to be grateful for the simple things and moments you have.” Brown said that people who have lost someone miss the ordinary moments. “We squander these moments in search of extraordinary moments.”

Remembering Your Purpose
Flunder said, “Real proactive leadership is the interruption of stability. Interruption honors the existing institution, but shakes it up enough to change.” She also said, “It’s not a matter of finding out what your purpose is; it is remembering. It (your purpose in life) has been with you since you were born, before people began saying, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t be that.'”
Brown said, “We need leaders willing to lead from their brokenness and vulnerability, because if failure is not an option, then neither is innovation.”

Be the Adult
Bishop Flunder said, “We can’t give our kids what we don’t have. We have to be the adults we want our children to be.” She encouraged parents not to move their children away from what they are drawn to (such as a boy who wants a pink ball), but to allow children to make choices that may seem counter-cultural (Yvette wanted a briefcase as a young girl, not dolls). That way children grow up knowing “power, peace and self assurance.”
Brown said, “There is a huge difference between being privileged and being entitled. My job is to make sure my daughter understands her privilege, and is grateful for it.”

By Susan Stall,
executive director,
NEXUS Center

NEXUS Center hosts a website dedicated to cultivating spiritual awareness by publicizing speakers, conferences and workshops within a two-hour drive from Greenville. In addition to the Engaging Faith conference, ?each fall NEXUS presents a workshop at First Baptist Church Greenville that explores the spiritual psyche through a study of dreams.

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