Conflict is endemic to congregational life. Because congregations exist to help us find meaning and purpose, we find it difficult to realize that not everyone shares our understanding or approach. Many of us have cultural backgrounds that teach us that conflict is bad or to be avoided. Conflict Transformation, on the other hand, treats conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow, both individually, and institutionally. Exploring new understandings of how our bodies and minds respond to conflict, Cooley offers concrete strategies for personal growth and healthy congregational functioning. Anticipating new conflicts that may arise from recent traumas of pandemic response and political division, Cooley offers a way to make painful conversations sources of healing. Drawing on over 30 years of experience as a parish minister and denominational official, Cooley weaves personal reflections with intellectual theory. Each chapter includes discussion questions that make it a valuable resource for group conversation and learning.
Terasa Cooley has over 30 years of experience as a parish minister and denominational official, and is a recognized trainer and speaker on many issues related to healthy congregational functioning. Ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister, Cooley received her BA at the University of Texas, her MDiv at Harvard Divinity School, and Doctor of Ministry at Hartford Seminary.
Effective ministry requires learning the art of handling conflict appropriately. Terasa Cooley brings experience to the literature to provide an accessible, informed, hopeful book. From "knowing yourself" to "a plan for action", Dr. Cooley holds the hands of anxious clergy leadership and help them find a way through. Read this book a long time before the conflict arises; and then you will have the skills to navigate the complex - an outstanding book, which needs to be in the hands of every clergy person.
Terasa Cooley has dreamed the impossible dream — and then cogently shown how it can become true, with no miracles needed. Since our identity as individuals is made up of our relationships to the people around us, she says, we must inevitably engage with differences between us and others. These differences, especially when profound, often lead to conflict, especially within congregations. But they can instead lead to profound growth and transformation. Eloquently written, persuasively presented, and buttressed by decades of experience and the latest research, this book gives us the tools to approach conflict as a source of healing and transformation.
While reading this book, I had an ever-deepening appreciation for how Cooley has woven together not just some of the foundational perspectives on congregational conflict but also just enough of current and relevant views that include trauma, attachment theory, adaptive leadership, polyvagal theory, somatic insights and the dynamics of racism. Given the exercises in each chapter, reading the book is like working with a seasoned informed coach. I will adopt this book for a seminary course that II teach and recommend it as a resourceful guide to the clergy that I coach. In the polarizing times in which we live, we need more voices like this to give us perspectives and tools to transform not just how we respond but how we understand conflict as an opportunity for growth.
This is an excellent resource for those wanting to look at the power and potential of conflict in their congregational lives. It’s an even better resource for those who insist they have no conflict or are simply avoiding the conversation. Rev. Cooley’s book will give readers new reflections, insights, and tools for dealing with the inevitability of conflict. It should be required reading for all faith leaders!
Transforming conflict is not about escaping it…. It is about…seeking how we can be with one another in a healthy and life-giving way. Here, Terasa offers steps down that better path.