In Couple Enrichment workshops we often experience a palpable sense of love as we physically gather together to share and witness our dialogues. But often, those with whom we bond during an event live far away — so how can we stay connected?
Friends Couple Enrichment (FCE) has been stepping into the world of online dialoguing over the past few years and we are excited by the possibilities.
Recently, we offered an opportunity for an online follow-up to a weekend retreat.
Dave, a participant from Pennsylvania, and a self-proclaimed non-user of virtual media, was surprised by the power of the video gathering. He had worried that the technology would not draw folks past the barrier of being in physically separate spaces. “But there was, as we listened deeply to each other, the intermittent loss of that barrier for me, much like in Meeting when the veil almost disappears,” he says. “The virtual gathering renewed that sense of accountability to what I had committed to with Bonnie during the weekend [in March].”
We have one pair of leader couples who have been sharing dialogues via Skype for almost a decade, with one couple in Australia and another in Canada. But as an organization, we stepped more slowly into the use of video conferencing. We began by replacing phone conference calls for business and committee work with video calls. Friends quickly discovered that having visual cues made doing business much easier than trying to listen to up to 30 people by phone. In 2017, we started holding optional video meetings 6 to 8 times a year for the Leader Couples to have witnessed dialogues, which we recognize as the core discipline of FCE.
During each 60-90 minute dialogue call, every couple has a brief chance to check in with the group. The remaining time is given over to couples who want to have a witnessed dialogue. Just as in an FCE workshop, the dialoguing couple face each other (with the computer nearby for audio) and those not dialoguing remain silent, while holding a loving and safe space for the dialoguing couple. The only interruption is the timekeeper noting when the allotted time is up. Just as in a workshop, if anyone comments on the dialogue, it is in gratitude for how the couple used the structured dialogue process, not on the content of the dialogue.
We have found the process to be delightfully enriching.
“When we can see each other, it brings a real feeling of being together, even though we are logging in from all over North America and sometimes from overseas,” says Kathy Richman, from California. “As a result, it no longer feels like such a long time between our annual Leader Couples Retreat each January, because we have grown closer over the course of the year.”
The experiment among Leader Couples inspired Marsha and Mike Green, from North Carolina, to offer the experiment of extending a weekend workshop with optional witnessed dialogues via video. They queried participating couples at the Pendle Hill FCE workshop in March 2019 about whether to meet again, via video. Many participants said yes, and one person took responsibility for finding a date and time that worked for the majority of participants. Mike and Marsha provided the video conference link (using FCE’s paid ZOOM subscription.)
Five couples joined together for the call in May.
Like Dave (quoted above), Shari, from North Carolina, had the concern that the closeness of the weekend might not be present via video, but discovered that the connections made in person were still there.
“I was glad to be able to support my fellow group members, and we liked it so much that my husband and I are signed up for the next online session of the group!,” she says.
Looking forward, FCE is now planning to use virtual gatherings as part of the training for new Leader Couples — folks who are willing to further our ministry by offering FCE events in their own community or in other communities. Stay tuned for more details in the fall!
Have you experienced sharing dialogues via video? Tell us your story in the comment section below.