The formation of A Place in the Conversation is a natural progression in Nancy Nicewonger’s journey dealing with the issue of conflict resolution and Reverend Dan Nicewonger’s focus on Spiritual Direction. A Place in the Conversation is the perfect convergence of those two paths as the focus of restored and transformed relationships is essential to both.
Nancy’s interest in conflict resolution was birthed in her time spent with elementary age children and her belief that it was possible to teach them how to deal with the conflict that arises in a way which values the individual and respects the community (classroom). She designed a unique approach to addressing conflict in the classroom which empowered children to relate with each other in a healthy manner and deal with the issues themselves rather than “run crying to the teacher”. She found that after a few short weeks of conflict resolution training she no longer had to serve as mediator of conflicts but could function in the role she loved, teacher and educator. The process empowered the children and herself to “live life to the full” and get the most out of their educational endeavors. This experience sparked an interest in the field and led to her pursuing and receiving a Master’s degree in conflict resolution from UNC Greensboro.
Dan’s journey away from the institutional programs and plans of church life towards a focus on spiritual formation began during his time at Memorial Baptist Church in Cortland, NY. He came to understand the invitation to live as a follower of Jesus and experience “life to the full” had less to do with planning and programs and more to do with “being” and relationships. He began to focus on ideas such as Listening Prayer, Discernment, and seeking to find where God is at work and joining Him there rather than struggling to create something new. Ultimately this led to helping pastors and congregations move away from a program, business model of ministry and towards discerning the leading, guiding and directing of the Spirit for their lives, both individually and corporately. Embracing this lifestyle of seeking and following God’s leading resulted in Dan stepping away from full-time pastoral ministry for a season, starting in February 2008. During this season he learned more about himself, pastoring and leadership as he held secular employment and experienced what it means to “sit in the pew” rather than stand before a congregation and lead.
In late 2013 Dan and Nancy began talking about the breadth of experiences and the passions for ministry that united them. Out of these conversations the vision for A Place in the Conversation was birthed. A Place in the Conversation is one organization with a threefold focus on helping facilitate restoration of relationship that leads to transformation.
“Beyond Classroom Conflict“ is the component that carries on Nancy’s original vision of helping teachers learn to train students to address conflict in a healthy manner. The goal is to train children to resolve conflict in a way that restores relationship and transforms the classroom into an environment focused on learning and educational growth. If students are empowered to resolve these issues teachers are empowered to do what we all need them to do, focus on teaching and education. Nancy will provide leadership and direction for this piece of A Place in the Conversation.
“Aim for Resolution“ is the component of A Place in the Conversation which addresses conflicted relationships in all other areas of life. The goal is to come alongside people and journey with them towards resolution, restoration and transformation of relationship. Having been part of congregational fellowships our entire lives, it is natural for there to be a focus on helping congregations in conflict. Our hearts desire is to also come alongside congregations in seasons of peace and harmony and help them prepare plans for dealing with conflict in a healthy manner so when the rough times come there is a plan to guide them through. Aim for Resolution will also have conflict resolution resources for families, businesses, and others who find themselves in the midst of relationship turmoil. It is in the work of Aim for Resolution that we will see a real partnership between the gifts and passions Dan and Nancy share as they seek to journey with people towards transformation.
“Noverim te, noverim me” is the Spiritual Formation component of A Place in the Conversation that brings a focus on Dan’s experience and training. In his role as Spiritual Formation Catalyst Dan’s focus will be on spiritual direction, both personal and corporate. He will work with individuals and congregations as they seek to restore, deepen and transform their relationship with the Heavenly Father. Deepening this vertical relationship will lead to clarity of life and purpose and transformation of the individual, community and world.
In the gospels Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, have it to the full.” To experience the“life to the full” that Jesus talks about requires relational transformation. Our relationship with God, and our relationship with ourselves; will be transformed through an ongoing, deepening spiritual formation. Our relationship with others will be transformed as we learn to live openly and honestly in community. Our prayer is that as relationships are transformed we may see a small piece of “life to the full” this side of heaven.