Hot Potato, Anyone?

Every congregation has issues about which people disagree. In some congregations, these issues are discussed and worked through. In others, however, the congregation hasn’t yet developed the skills to tackle these issues, and so the issues sit there unresolved, or, worse, grow larger and spread like mildew on your shower curtain.

Several years ago, a congregation in our district created a way to work on these prickly issues. The congregation is All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City, MO. You can read their story by going to and doing a search on Breakthrough Congregations 2007. What All Souls did was to announce in their newsletter that they were sponsoring a series of “Hot Potato Conversations” on difficult topics. There were rules — we will have a facilitator; there will be time limits for speakers; everyone agrees to listen respectfully; we’re not making any decisions today – we’re hearing peoples’ various opinions; and so on. And they served baked potatoes with all the trimmings for lunch!

Now another congregation in our district is starting the process. Their newsletter announcement is so clever that I thought I’d share it with you. But please know this — the reason I’m proud of them isn’t for the cleverness of their announcement but because of their commitment to working through their concerns — and listening to each other with respect and kindness.

Here’s the announcement: “Calling all UUs for the first ‘Hot Potato’ luncheon and discussion on Sunday [date] at 11:30 a.m. Baked potatoes will be served. Bring a topping to share. We will have a conversation on an issues on which there is disagreement. [Name of respected church leader] will be the ‘Common Tater.’

“Look for Mrs. Potato Head in the coffee hour and place a topic suggestion in the Easy Bake Oven. Please make a reservation by calling [church president]. It’s a very a-peeling idea. Don’t let this spudder out.”  

Good for this congregation for seeking out new, healthy ways to work through the difficult conversations! Moving from a habit of ignoring or fighting about issues to exploring a new method for discussing them is to be celebrated.


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