The Surprise of Showing Up

The Surprise of Showing Up: A Reflection on the First Artisans of Peace In-Person Gathering
A Reflection on the In-Person Artisans of Peace Gathering in Montreat, North Carolina

In May of 2023, unRival Network hosted the first in-person gathering of our first Artisans of Peace cohort in Montreat, North Carolina.

Up until this point the program had been conducted completely online, with participants spanning across time zones and continents.

Below, Jason Ferenczi (unRival’s Program Director) reflects on the shared experiences and discoveries we made as we worked and collaborated with these leaders in peacebuilding face-to-face.

Leading the Artisans of Peace program this past nine months has been surprising on many levels. We launched the program as a co-creative process and invited people we knew would shape and stretch us. 

In early May, the cohort of 17 came from four continents to gather in Montreat, North Carolina. It was a surprising time in both expected and unexpected ways.

1. The Artisans of Peace program is about space.

We’ve referred to this as both nonrivalrous space and human space. The key has been to create an atmosphere where no one feels they need to perform or prove their worthiness to be there. We’ve been learning to do this since our earliest gatherings in 2021. Yet it still surprises us when it works, and people show up with such presence and humanity. 

The longing for a nonrivalrous space for connection, for healing, and sharing dreams and desires was strong. Powerful things happened when we met face to face. I’m still awed by how deeply we experienced nonrivalrous space together and how the cohort members tell us this still affects them and their work. 

2. The Artisans of Peace program is about creativity.

We’ve been drawn toward peacebuilders who engage their work creatively, intuiting that lasting peace involves engaging the whole person. We lived that out and felt that in North Carolina. 

Each morning, my colleague, Billy Price, led us through a new phase of a four-day collaborative art project each morning. While the Artisans of Peace cohort is a creative group, the appearance of paintbrushes and other art supplies was intimidating for many in the group (myself included). It surprised me how rich this experience was and what powerful insights that emerged. 

There is power to stepping outside usual engagement modes and using new tools. For most of us, visual tools proved powerful in articulating our desires and dreams in new ways.

The joy we experienced was rooted in the simplicity of showing up with and for one another.

3. The Artisans of Peace program is about community.

We knew from the beginning that the key problem we wanted to address was the sense of isolation among peacebuilders. Throughout the program, we have seen how powerful even virtual interaction can be when it happens in a nonrivalrous space. 

We were surprised anew in Montreat by how powerful it can be to share desires and disappointments with others. We were reminded that everyone struggles with a sense of insufficiency in the face of the work. Everyone feels imposter syndrome. Everyone doubts they are quite good enough. In the face of these feelings, honest community support is powerful and healing.

Montreat, NC Artisans of Peace Retreat

It felt like a return to a simpler and slower space with room for honest struggling, deep laughter, and a few tears. The joy we experienced was rooted in the simplicity of showing up with and for one another. As we continue to walk with the artisans who form this cohort, we are deeply grateful for the rich and surprising lessons we continue to learn.  

Want to learn more about how unRival Network and the Artisans of Peace program are disrupting rivalry and advancing the cause of justice and peace? Click here to access our free resource, Peace is Possible.

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When we resist rivalry together, there is hope for peace.

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