29 June 2015

Welcome, Waiata & Weaving Conversation

On Friday 12 July Laidlaw College hosted the second Sturt Lecture series. The Sturt Lectures are inspired by John and Agnes Sturt, who were influential in the early development of holistic counselling in Aotearoa New Zealand. Their interest and support in conversations around the integration of faith and counselling practice has led to the establishment of this bi-annual day of conversation.

This year the day was titled Voices Against Family Violence: Weaving Therapeutic and Theological Conversations. The focus on family violence was in recognition of the epidemic of violence being experienced among families in our local communities. The day was attended by counsellors, social workers, nurses, church workers and pastors.

We were privileged to have Charles Waldegrave as our keynote speaker. Charles is from the Family Centre in Wellington. His team have been hugely influential in the counselling and social service sector, developing ‘Just Therapy’ an internationally recognised approach to addressing cultural, gender and socioeconomic contexts in therapy. Charles started the day by painting a grim picture with statistics on violence in New Zealand families. He invited us to engage with a metaphor of convenant, and how this might be representative of family relationships, and community relationships.

Daphne Marsden from Project Esther, in Christchurch, shared the findings of her Masters research around pastoral care practices and the use of scripture for women who have experienced domestic violence. This provided a moving challenge to all those present to reflect on the ways in which some theological understandings of marriage, and gender roles, can be harmful to women experiencing violence in their relationships.

Daryl Gregory, also from Christchurch, shared from his decades of experience working with Maori men. He stepped into the storytelling role as he read a brief story which provides a metaphor for men to engage with as they work to move away from violence towards supporting, and building up, their families.

Cabrini Makasiale, from Catholic Social Services in Otara, moved us to laughter and tears with her dynamic storytelling about the impact of certain traditional beliefs in Pasifika cultures on women and children. She challenged us to think about how we might engage with these different understandings and work with people to engage with culture as an evolving set of practices.

To end the presentations, Lisa Spriggens from Laidlaw College’s Counselling programme, reminded us of the importance of engaging in practices which are sustaining as we work in areas which often expose us to stories of trauma. Through noticing of the broader theme of justice present in this work, she invited us to pay attention to what our responses to our work says about what we value and hope for in our world.

Such a variety of presentations meant for rich conversation at the end of the day when a forum conversation was held where everyone was invited to contribute and ask further questions of the speakers.

After a full day the room was humming with renewed inspiration, and a recognition of the challenge to Christian communities to be reaching out to those whose voices are silenced in the face of family violence.