Neighbor to Neighbor
East Bay - California

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Interfaith Women’s Circles Organization
and Guidelines   

May, 2017

Interfaith Women’s Circles Organization and Guidelines

The explanation below (in blue) summarizes in narrative form (rather than the original bullet points for each item) the original and guiding framework for the N2N Interfaith Women's Circles and the accompanying Vision and Communication Guidelines that were vetted by a cross-section of the Interfaith Women over the past several years for rollout in the formation of additional Interfaith Women’s Circles.

Leadership of Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N), where the Interfaith Women's Circles started, has been helping to provide support and guidance on a variety of issues as each group forms and grows. This has included answers to frequent questions of size, organization, balance of faiths, communications and basically what works and what doesn't. You are being given this information because we understand that you are interested in joining a Circle. The original thinking (back more than six years ago) on what works and what doesn't resulted in considerations that are still the guiding framework for the Interfaith small groups today: Have a limited number (12 or so) in each Circle since meetings are in homes and space is a concern; equal balance of members among the faiths works best; share the leadership and hostessing; since we'd like as many as possible to be in Circles, choose one Circle (rather than trying to be a member of several) and that will make more room in the other Circles; meeting with the same women regularly will also serve to create stronger relationships, lead to deeper conversations, allow you to build on prior discussions, and develop trust and better insure confidentiality on matters intended to be kept confidential. On the shared leadership and hostessing issues, it works best to reach a consensus on rotating homes and hostesses, to have the hostess pick an appropriate topic, perhaps with a volunteer compiling a list of topics of interest suggested by the group from which the hostess can choose if needed, a volunteer serving as the email contact/reminder person, the hostess (or, if she wants, the person who suggested the selected topic) facilitating the discussion, and then letting the conversation flow from there. This approach in shared leadership results in a closer Circle where everyone feels involved and contributing. It may take a few meetings to work through and adopt the group’s version of the original guiding framework outlined above. The related, and perhaps overarching consideration, is to reach an understanding on communication guidelines that will strongly support your relationships together. Several years ago, members of the N2N Planning Committee and women representing several Circles gathered resources from relevant organizations and shared thoughts and drafts on the core principles of Interfaith dialogue. After several drafts were vetted, the accompanying Vision and Communication Guidelines were adopted to supply the principles for what would really help any group stay focused and grow in the caring and sharing reasons that brought you together. You are encouraged as a Circle to consider and adopt these Communication Guidelines as both a reminder of why you wanted to join an Interfaith Women's Circle and a help when the inevitable question arises as to how to handle a difficult issue. It further serves as a good summary for talking with group members, new and old, on what the Circle is all about. The leadership of N2N also wants you to know that N2N is there for you as a resource, for support and assistance, to keep connections with the other Circles, and to do whatever we can to help when it's needed. Thanks for your desire to participate in the Interfaith caring, sharing, learning and growing represented by our Women’s Circles. Compiled and updated April 25, 2017 by Terry Clark, Co-Founder of Neighbor to Neighbor  

Neighbor to Neigbor
Mission Statement
Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) is an East Bay partnership among members from Christian, Jewish and Islamic congregations that grows understanding, respect, caring and support of, and appreciation for, the religions of the world with particular emphasis on the followers of the three "Abrahamic" faiths. N2N promotes education, discourse, community engagement and social opportunities for inter-relationships through programs, events and activities to foster solidarity, tolerance, open-mindedness and collegiality among and for individuals of all ages, generations, cultures and faith beliefs.

N2N Vision for Interfaith Women’s Circles
Neighbor to Neighbor Interfaith Women’s Circles welcome open -hearted individuals of primarily the Abrahamic faiths who seek friendship, learning, and spiritual growth in a diverse group of women. We meet to learn about each other’s faith traditions, explore the similarities and differences in our religious practices, and deepen our spiritual understanding and personal connections. Honoring all spiritual paths, we support each other’s spiritual journeys and engage in group activities to express gratitude, increase human dignity, spread love and build peace in our community and world. We are part of the umbrella organization, Neighbor to Neighbor, which fosters numerous interfaith activities with the goal of increasing interfaith understanding, advocacy, direct service and friendship in Contra Costa County. We strive to be faithful to the Communication Guidelines explained below.

Communication Guidelines
The purpose of these guidelines is to enable us to speak with honor, truthfulness and sincerity in all our conversations. 1. I will speak for myself, not as a representative of a group. I will not ask others to represent, defend or explain an entire group. I will make “I” statements rather than “we” or “you” statements. 2. I will avoid making broad generalizations and grand pronouncements. Instead, I will connect what I know and believe to my experiences and particular relevant and reliable sources of information. 3. I will listen with resilience when I hear something that is hard to hear. I will express my different viewpoints in a thoughtful manner and without an insulting spirit. I will keep in mind my goals of learning and reflection. I may respectfully
disagree with others, but I will resist the urge to persuade them to “my side”. I will take personal time if I find I am no longer able to listen with a clear mind and an open heart. 4. I will share “air time” and refrain from interrupting others, except to indicate that I cannot hear a speaker. I will participate within the time frames suggested by the facilitators. 5. I will “pass” or “pass for now” if I am not ready or willing to respond to a question – no explanation required. 6. All small group-conversations and deep personal sharing are confidential. Outside those, if asked to keep something confidential, I will honor the request. In conversations outside of the group, I will not share confidential information without permission. 7. During question and answer time periods, I will avoid making lengthy statements. I will not argue with speakers or other participants. Instead, I will ask questions that represent my genuine curiosity 8. Members of the group share leadership of meetings, retreats and other gatherings following procedures established by the group.

Compiled and updated April 25, 2017 by Terry Clark, Co-Founder of Neighbor to Neighbor, established in 2010.