Civility Café

img_5601One Iowa launched the Civility Café project as an effort to heal divides between communities of faith and the LGBTQ community. Inspired by the relationship between One Iowa’s Donna Red Wing and The FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Vander Plaats, the Civility Café provides space for conversation and meaningful relationships between communities the “culture wars” have pitted against one another. Many faith communities are in periods of discernment, causing splits in congregations. Many in the LGBTQ community struggle to reconcile their identities with religious teachings. The Civility Café strives to bring people together across these issues and help find common ground and mutual respect.

The goal of the Civility Café has shifted post-election. The project changed to encompass discussions about issues outside of just faith and LGBTQ communities—the discussions needed to address the hurtful rhetoric and stereotypes dividing the entire Iowa community.

img_5607A small group gathered in the Holy Grounds coffee shop at Simpson College for the first Civility Café last
Wednesday. Various faith traditions, ages, orientations, beliefs, and values were represented, but the need for civil dialogue and communication was the same across the board. Participants discussed their own stereotypes of different groups and what kinds of influence those stereotypes have. Everyone was encouraged to find common ground with one another and share what they learned. All of these conversations took place under a contract of civility to ensure that all perspectives were heard, respected, and valued—a
contract hopefully many find helpful over the upcoming holidays.

At future Civility Cafés, the hope is to engage more and more community members with differing opinions. Teaching people to listen to one another, to hear one another, speak civilly, and work together to better the community is an invaluable opportunity. Tensions are high, and it was clear at the Café that families and friends are bracing themselves for Thanksgiving dinner conversation. The need for civility is greater now than ever. One Iowa hopes to help the Iowa community unite over common ground and care for one another in spite of differences.

The goal is not to change minds, persuade, or proselytize—it is to listen, learn, and be civil.

The goal is to meet people where they are.

—Virginia Atwell, One Iowa Faith Communities Intern