Session 1: group practice

Forming a group to work together

NOTE: the readings referred to throughout this study are from John Steward’s book “From Genocide to Generosity.” It’s available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon



Read the Prologue (pages xiii – xviii) in From Genocide to Generosity. 

Step 1

Most of us have had experiences of hurt and violation because of what others have unthinkingly or carelessly said and done to us, or said about us. To have a good discussion in a group we must first feel safe and free to open our hearts.

Discuss: What kind of behavior do I need so I will feel safe in this group? (You’ll make a list when you get to Step 4)


Step 2

In the Bearing witness to healing section on page xv of the Prologue,  Drusilla was helped by a small group to gain insight from her painful loss.

What do we learn from this about how we assist a person to tell their story? 

What happens to the sharing when the listeners receive what is being said without evaluating, correcting or interrogating the speaker? 

What is the value of the listeners sensitively asking clarifying questions?


Step 3

In chapter 1, Coping with Chaos, on page 31 I ask Professor Simon about what frees people to talk about sensitive matters in a small group. He stresses the need for ‘Agreed Rules’, which act as boundaries that keep us safe, such as:-

• what is said stays in the group (confidentiality),

• we look at people when they speak (focus),

• we share our stories to offer people something deep from within ourselves (trust),

• we share freely, because the group is listening and no one is evaluating or correcting us (discipline and acceptance).


Step 4

Our group needs to operate as a free and safe space, as people who welcome all contributions unconditionally, where we can ask the speaker to clarify or amplify without needing to correct, contradict or change what they say.

Make a list of what our group agrees we need to function well and be a safe space. Commit to remind ourselves of this list each time we begin.


Step 5

Form pairs.

Person A speaks for about four minutes on ‘what I like about being in this group’.

Person B practices listening, receiving and accepting what the other says.

After clarifying questions the Person B may respond with a simple, brief comment of ‘What touches me about what you said is that…’

Reverse the roles and repeat, so Person B speaks while Person A listens.


Step 6

Before we close this session each group member is encouraged to create a personal safety net to care for themselves by arranging for someone to be available after each group session. This person will support and mentor them as they reflect after the sessions and read to prepare for the next.

Choose a friend or wise person (possibly someone who is not in the group) who you will ask to companion and support you in person or by phone after each session. Some of the stories from Rwanda may remind us of difficult things from our own experience. We will cope best if we can bring our reaction out into the open and discuss it with a caring person. Ask this person to be available for when you call on them.

Note: If any of the stories in the book are too hard for you to engage with, just leave them.

PS: you talk about your own comments and experience, not that of others in the group.


Step 7

Confirm the date and time for the next group session.

The preparation for the next session is to read another section in From Genocide to Generosity: pages 20-26 of Chapter 1, Coping with Chaos.


Step 8

Close with each person saying a word or phrase that sums up what they are feeling about this journey right now. Anyone may choose to say, “I pass”.