Conciliation rather than conflict

Anne Jenny works to bring people closer and to build concensus

Anne Jenny works to bring people closer and to build concensus

January 19, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

Now that she is a commissioned minister of conflict transformation, Anne Jenny said she often finds herself trying to explain to people just what the role is all about.

"It's an approach to mediation where similarities are deemed more important than differences," Jenny said.

And that isn't always easy, no matter how much training and insight the conflict transformer brings to the situation, Jenny said. She has strived to develop a style of conciliation in which every side gets what it wants.

Jenny, 47, of Hagerstown, relishes the opportunity to use her skills, both learned and natural, to bring people closer in all kinds of arenas. She readily admits that conciliation rather than confrontation is more her personal style, too.


It is that devotion that drew Jenny to the local Interfaith Coalition for Washington County, where she has served as moderator and trainer for the group's forums and as moderator for community conflict resolution forums in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Frederick, Md., and Hancock.

She also serves on the Central Atlantic Conference Anti-Racism Task Force and was a member of the UCC/Witness for Peace delegation to Colombia in 2002.

Traveling there with the Rev. David Schlicher, her husband of 9 1/2 years, Jenny said the delegation's main goal was to help the residents learn the techniques necessary to build a civil society.

The people of Colombia seemed pleased that they were there and willing to listen to their views, she said.

Jenny formally was commissioned a minister of conflict transformation in November at a service at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Halfway. She is the first person so commissioned by the 40 churches in the Catoctin Association of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ.

A layperson, Jenny has met the professional and educational requirements to be a minister for service in the church and the wider community. She works in multiparty mediation, conflict resolution training and organizational development for churches, community groups and government bodies.

Jenny grew up in the small town of Doylesburg, Pa.

"I learned at an early age what I needed to get out and see the world," she said.

Jenny served in the U.S. Air Force from 1976-80, traveling extensively. She attended New Mexico State University on the G.I. Bill, earning a degree in economics.

She then went to work for the U.S. Treasury Department, where she mediated conflicts within the banking community.

"That's when I first got into consensus building as a way to get things done, rather than coming down with the regulatory hammer," Jenny said.

Now that Jenny is on her own, her work primarily is faith-based and done mostly with nonprofit groups. In addition to her practical work, Jenny is working on her master's degree in conflict transformation at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

"I like mediating those groups because they are so fervent about their work," Jenny said. "You look at what they do well and try to get them to do more of that rather than focusing on what they do wrong."

That logically led her to realize that internal solutions are much more effective than those imposed from outside.

"In interfaith mediations, the biggest goal is breaking down barriers and helping people see eye to eye," Jenny said. "They need to respect what other cultures have to offer."

Recalling her travels in many countries and among diverse cultures, Jenny said she always learned three phrases in the language of those countries.

"I learned 'please,' 'thank you' and 'excuse me' - those are the most important," Jenny said.

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