During a pilot, FaithCARE worked with a dozen churches in four denominations, including Lutheran, Christian Reformed, United Church of Canada and Presbyterian, as well as nondenominational community churches. (The organization’s work to date has been with Christian denominations, but they intend to expand to Muslim, Jewish and other faith communities.) The goal was to implement circle processes for decision making and discover what it would look like to apply to congregations the full continuum of restorative practices, from formal restorative conferences to more impromptu and less formal restorative interactions.

....Mark Vander Vennen, director of Shalem, said, “We learned a number of crucial things from our pilot.” FaithCARE practitioners always work in pairs, one male and one female, for gender balance. One practitioner is typically a member of the church’s denomination, and the other is not, so the person belonging to the denomination knows the unspoken rules and the way things work, while the other provides an outside perspective.

The third crucial thing, which Vander Vennen said David Brubaker, of Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, taught them at the initial retreat, is that each church forms a reference committee or reference group of four to six people with whom FaithCARE can consult. Ideally, these people represent different sides of a dispute or different points of view within the congregation, but they are also chosen for their ability to see beyond their own points of view to the larger good and for their credibility within the congregation. During consultation, the reference committee, using circle processes, decides how to proceed and chooses which circles and practices would make the most sense, given the situation. 

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