top of page

Linda Long's Blog

Getting to Yes (book by Fisher & Ury, 1981) changed my life. I grew up in an extended family of squabblers. Love was present, but one had to look for it in food and shelter, opportunities to learn and travel, challenges to each of us to be our best. Nurture by words was missing. Difficult conversations just didn’t happen without yelling, or issues were allowed to simmer without resolution. When I was a confirmand, questions were strongly discouraged and Luther’s Small Catechism was presumed to have all the answers one needed. When I first married, my beloved came from a family that never squabbled – which produced another whole set of missing skills for difficult conversations. Together we set out to live differently.



What has this to do with us as First Presbyterian Church today? 

  • We call ourselves a vibrant congregation, we are Beloved Children of God, we aim to be the Body of Christ in this place, a church family. 

  • “Vibrant” suggests motion, continuous, evolving change, lively opinions, varied tastes in music, seeing the ever-changing needs of the community around us, and more. 

  • At the same time, we are more than 200 individuals, each with family history, conversation skills, opinions, fears, joys, preferences in music and art, emotional expressions, sometimes profoundly different values on life, love, gender and sexuality, meaning of words, politics, traditions, and power dynamics.

  • We are a fluid community that is constantly evolving with people coming and going over time – we are not the same congregation we were five years ago – and we live in a changing world. 

  • Doesn’t this suggest there is inclination for conflict, confrontation and difficult conversations if we care enough to have them – or for folks to just walk away who don’t want to engage in conflict? 


  • Getting to Yes began my journey to learn more about dealing with differences. 

  • Focus on the problem, not opposing positions. 

  • Focus on the problem, not attacking the people. 

  • Listen for what people really want, their underlying interests, not only their specific demands. 

  • Generate multiple options while looking for the common ground, for interests shared. 

  • Articulate principles or values for evaluating what mutually works best, rather than staying in a power struggle or surrendering in silence, win or lose. 

  • And not in the book: we’re free to try and try again.


This week our congregation began deeper conversations about ways to be a more diverse, inclusive faith community where all feel authentically welcome. Commitment to our shared faith – to being the hands and feet of Jesus, to living as a Matthew 25 congregation that “cares for the least of these,” to living as those Beloved Children of God we were created to be ­– is what binds us together, our common ground, our shared interest as First Pres. 


This same week, the City of Valparaiso approved a resolution declaring June as Pride Month. Indeed, it was approved in the face of both principled opposition and principled support. Memorable phrases: “Tolerance is good but acceptance is better, love is best,” and ”Unity in Community.”


My prayer is that caring conversations about difficult issues will indeed happen among us. That each of us will personally engage closely with one another, listening intently for what binds us together, naming the common ground of what scripture teaches and what Jesus modeled for us and what we care about as community, thinking creatively about options for resolving specific situations that require a coming together or a change of heart or mind, offering grace shared for mistakes or misunderstandings or faulty words, allowing space for shared faith in action, and at the same time, knowing some personal opinions may never be reconciled but we can live with the differences, and respecting the gifts of discernment together that we claim through the Holy Spirit.


Indeed, to seek to live fully as the vibrant, Christ-centered, “Beacon of Light” community we are challenged to be – together. We need one another as we listen, learn and grow in understanding throughout our lives, both as individuals and together as “First Pres Valpo.”


–      Elder Linda Long


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page