Wednesday, 11 February 2015 16:18

Salvation Army hosts a talking circle in Swift Current

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The Swift Current Salvation Army hosted a talking circle in the city on Feb. 4 as a means to provide support to people in the community.

According to Capt. Michael Ramsay, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Swift Current, the circle was attended by about a dozen people.
“It was a good size circle to go around for the initial one,” he said.
He believes a talking circle can be a valuable process to have in the community.
“It was a very beneficial process for me, not only the opportunity to share but I think the opportunity to listen and the opportunity to be encouraged to listen was quite significant,” he said.
The circle was facilitated by Métis elder Cecile Blanke. It started with an opening prayer in English and in Michif, the Métis language. Ramsay did a scripture reading from the Bible and the circle ended with a prayer.
“We were very blessed to have Cecile Blanke facilitate the first ever circle here in Swift Current,” he said. “She was among the first women recipients ever of the Order of the Métis Nation, which is the most significant award that you have in that community. So to be able to have someone of her calibre, her respect, her status, to facilitate something like this is really quite something.”
A talking circle provides participants with an opportunity to share but it also encourages people to listen. One of the key elements of the circle is that only the person holding the talking object can speak.
“So it really encourages us all to listen and offer non-verbal support to the person in need,” he said. “Sometimes we have the temptation to jump in with our solutions or even with our verbal comfort when really what we should be doing is listening. … So it really encourages us to listen empathetically and to help people out as they’re going through their different challenges.”
Confidentiality is an important aspect of a talking circle to make it possible for people to share their feelings in a situation of trust and safety.
“People need to have that comfort,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is marginalize or take advantage of anybody’s vulnerability. It needs to be a safe place, a healing place, a wholeness place where balance could be restored and the only way you can heal in that way is when confidentiality is respected.”
According to Ramsay the Salvation Army identified the need for a talking circle in the community to provide support to people from various cultural backgrounds.
“In our conversations with a number of different people that we work with here on a daily basis and that we walk alongside at the Salvation Army, one of the things that they’ve been missing is the circle process in this community and some of the other cultural ties that can be associated with that,” he said.
He emphasized the circle process will take place within the Salvation Army’s longstanding Christian tradition as an opportunity for healing in a safe setting.
“We’re able to provide this cultural support that was missing in this community in such a way that it’s safe and is comfortable,” he said. “We’re able to open up and share in such a way that we can all benefit in the circle process without being guarded.”
The intention is to host a talking circle on a regular basis if there is sufficient interest in the community.
“It is something we would like to see on a regular basis as a service to the community, provided that interest is there,” he said. “If people are interested it is a service that I think the Salvation Army in this community is uniquely positioned to be able to address, because we’re already a safe spot for many people and we’re able to provide it within the parameters that I think would put a lot of people’s minds and hearts at ease.”

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Matthew Liebenberg