Tue09022014

Spiritual Life

The elephant in the room: Pastors aim to diffuse schools’ conflict

Pastors David Moore of Union Presbyterian Church, Malcolm Young of Christ Episcopal Church and I have been hearing from a number of people in our congregations about the growing hostility between the differing sides in the ongoing Bullis Charter School/Los Altos School District conflict.

It would appear that the anonymity and immediacy of Internet social networks has allowed frustration, anger and insult to take on new dimensions.

We have heard about neighbors no longer speaking to each other, church members no longer willing to sit next to each other and all sorts of vile Internet postings and web videos escalating the conflict in the past 18 months.

As leaders in our faith communities, we are as concerned about how we treat each other in times of conflict as we are about the actual issues that divide us, a concern we are certain our colleagues in other faith communities share.

We have contacted Rev. Warren Dale, founder of the Peninsula Conflict Mediation Center in Redwood City, to explore ways we might offer an opportunity to defuse the level of acrimony in our community about this conflict for those who are willing.

Dale is scheduled to lead a mediation listening event at the Creekside Center of Los Altos United Methodist Church 7-9:30 p.m. Sept. 20. The purpose of the event is not to resolve or debate the conflict, but, in an open dialogue of respect, to lower the level of hostility as we speak our concerns and hear one another.

We are aware that such an open invitation will be self-selecting. Those invested in demonizing those on the opposite side of a conflict aren’t likely to invest the time to defuse it. But for those who are, we feel that such an event is well worth the opportunity.

Although organized by leaders in the Christian faith, this is not a religious event – all are welcome regardless of religious orientation. Child care is available on request; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in advance to reserve child care.

The Rev. Mark S. Bollwinkel is senior pastor of Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave. For more information, visit www.laumc.org.

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