Marlow Newman-Valentine, IAM Regional Coordinator

IAM’s work includes accompanying faith and community partners both locally and regionally so that LGBTIQ+ persons of faith can move from being excluded, by opening minds and hearts to see and accept the humanity of God’s creation. A central part of this work includes facilitating conversations around contextual Biblical texts, breaking down harmful stereotypes and prejudices of gender and sexual minority groups. 

To increase the impact that IAM can have, we train partners and leaders in the methodology of facilitation and dialogue to reach a broader spectrum of communities, denominations, and identified target audiences. The Training of Trainers (ToT) is an annual facilitated, in-person, residential training designed to convene regional and local faith conversational partners for an intensive four-day training.

At the end of 2021, IAM  was able to host and facilitate an amended ToT process in line with COVID-19 protocols. Rather than welcoming participants from across Africa as in previous years, the 12 participants included only partners living or studying in South Africa. 

Participants were trained in IAM’s methodology and Theory of Action. Specifically, we used IAM’s “Reading Together” process focused on the following three thematic areas, in line with IAM’s Theory of Action:

  • Diversity Awareness (Open Minds): We addressed “otherness” by unpacking the topic of diversity, including recognizing the body as a gift of diversity; the power of personal narratives.
  • Dialogue in Safe Spaces (Open Hearts): The group was introduced to the practice of facilitation, including creating safe spaces, understanding the facilitator’s role, and reflection as a tool for dialogue and facilitation. We practiced engaging with receiving different perspectives, exploring other voices, and evaluating embodied narratives. 
  • Empower people and identify change agents (Open Doors): The group repositioned their perspective by (re) committing to the journey of change, and committing to taking their learning forward into their own spaces.

As part of our methodology, IAM staff reflect carefully on each training we conduct and take note of lessons and learnings that we can apply to future work. From this TOT, we were reminded that:

  • Context is critical. In designing the training process, it is important that facilitators have insight into the context, challenges, and environment where participants are expected to be catalysts for social change. 
  • It is important to build rapport with participants before the training. Pre-ToT preparations are needed to ensure that participants understand the objectives and outcomes of the training process.
  • Post-training support and accompaniment must be intentional and consistent. This allows IAM to align practice with local denominations and faith communities to deepen work with similar denominations and faith communities in-country.
  • Silence, reflection and sitting with one’s own discomfort are important elements within the ToT process. This is important because the narrative Biblical texts may trigger emotions and memories that are painful and traumatic. This is a vital skill to have when participants are training in their contextual environments.