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“Shiloh goes into the unknown and…” A Vlog by Geo

 

Our very own Geoffrey Gill is a very talented videographer, so instead of a written blog post, he created a vlog sharing the story of one of our current learning partners, Shiloh Temple Brooklyn Park. We learn about their experience of accompaniment in Central Park. We hope you enjoy learning about their story and can watch a paradigm shift during their debrief discussion. 

 

Public Church Practices: Summer Neighborhood Prayer Walk

Outside. Sunshine. Gatherings in the backyard. Kids playing up and down the block. Time by the water. Schedules, full yet less scheduled. These describe summers in Minnesota to me. A time where more folks are out and engaging with each other while walking around the neighborhood. What could happen if we intentional went for a walk in our neighborhood paying attention to where joy was hanging out or where fear or anxiety was creeping in?

The Christensen Center for Vocation’s Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made local congregations who who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene the congregations and then invite them to practice the artforms of the Public Church Framework in their contexts.

Accompaniment is the first artform of the Public Church Framework. It is the movement out into the neighborhood to hear the neighbors’ stories. In this movement, we learn to engage and listen to the neighbor for the neighbor’s sake.

The practice of a neighborhood prayer walk is a spinoff of the  Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation (sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.) and moments of consolation (hope, life, courage, healing, joy, etc.).

We invite you this summer to join us in prayer walks around your own neighborhood. You can use this same framework as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is situated, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. The general outline of that activity is to practice this by walking through the neighborhood, paying particular attention to consolation and desolation. Then, together, with people in your faith community or neighborhood, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map. Continue reading “Public Church Practices: Summer Neighborhood Prayer Walk”

Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch

 

It’s sometimes strange to be a young adult that cares deeply about the church. I have so much hope for the possibility of a church that embodies God’s promises, and I lament the way in which the church has created, sustained, and participates in harm. 

So many of my peers who might consider themselves “Christian” have discerned that the institutional church isn’t something that they are willing to invest their energy or resources into any longer. We have often experienced church as a community that doesn’t live out the things it claims to believe in. When we’ve sought out a community of belonging that nourishes us and compels us to live our lives for the sake of the neighbor, we oftentimes found instead a place that intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates harm and exclusion, a place that continues to sustain white supremacy as the status quo, a community that prioritizes the privileged, and tokenizes people perceived as “other.”

Background of water flowing over rocks from a river with text over it "There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying... And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. ~Amanda Vetsch"There are definitely churches and communities that are practicing their beliefs, and are committed to dismantling the systems of oppression, and living into God’s promises. And yet there are so many more that so badly want people to join them, and haven’t quite figured out how to let go of a way of life that’s no longer serving them, and not in alignment with God’s vision. 

There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying. This narrative is one that comes out of a scarcity mindset, rather than abundance. And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. 

Realistically, we’re not going to save the church, quite frankly many of us don’t want to. There are parts of the church that I think should die, especially the parts that are interwoven with white supremacy, and perpetuating an oppressive, harmful status quo. 

For the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity work alongside faith communities that are chasing after what it could look like to be part of God’s redemptive work in our world, here and now, and wondering about and practicing a way of life together that brings flourishing and life to everyone. Continue reading “Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch”

The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé 

Jesus can regularly be heard saying “the kin-dom of heaven is like…” and then offering an image, a story, a metaphor to root this vision to a place or experience. It is like a mustard seed, a lost coin, wheat among the weeds, a treasure in clay jars, the leaven that makes bread rise. Kin-dom or reign of God are of course, in themselves a kind of metaphor that reflect the ancient context of their teacher.  These metaphors speak to the audience – an agricultural community of peoples around the turn of the century – as Jesus seeks to stir the people’s imagination for the kind of world God desires them to experience and participate in. 

Sts. Luke and James red front door with peace flags hung up on a string across the front yard.

The Riverside Innovation Hub and the congregational partners we’ve been blessed to learn alongside these past several years, have been about this kin-dom of God work too. I cannot remember ever using this language explicitly with our congregational learning communities. But what we have been talking about and working towards is cultivating more places and relationships that reflect the ways God intends for us to be and be together. We’ve been chasing after that call, one relationship at a time, one walk through our neighborhoods at a time, one story or surprise at a time. 

Kin-dom metaphors may not quite fit our current context, but the idea of a front porch has caught our imagination as a helpful metaphor to encourage the relationship building work we are trying to be about. Relationships that shape stories that shape neighborhoods that look and feel a little bit more like God’s good intentions for a whole, flourishing and connected creation – one neighborhood block at a time. 

On one of these neighborhood blocks – at the corner of Colfax and W 46th St. in south Minneapolis – sits Sts Luke & James Episcopal Church. Also on this corner block exists a front porch of sorts. It wasn’t always there, but a few years ago the folks from this congregation began seeking out places to listen to their neighbors and some hints of an invitation began to stir among them. Continue reading “The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé “

The Artform of Discernment

cycle of public church framework

In Discernment, the third artform of the Public Church Framework, we move into the space between our neighbors’ stories, God’s story, and our story. In this movement we learn how to listen for who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do in light of the present reality and God’s promises.

Why is it important? 

Discernment is important because our neighbors’ realities matter, our realities matter, and because we believe God has something to say about all of this. God is actively and continually trying to teach us how to live an abundant life together. 

The opportunities to practice discernment are abundant, ongoing, and mundane. Without intentionally, the moments of discernment might appear as simple decision making.  Many people desire to live their lives with more intentionality: to make informed decisions about how they show up in community, how they steward their resources, how they participate in their families, neighborhoods, and societies. etc. We believe God calls us into a thriving, abundant life together and we believe God has uniquely gifted us and called each of us to participate in bringing that abundance into a lived reality for our neighbors. Discernment teaches us to be attentive to and responsive to that call and that good work.

What is it?

Discernment is a communal process of listening to God’s spirit for the next most faithful step forward. 

It is a prayerful, communal practice of critically seeking to determine how to respond to opportunities God has placed before us. It is different from decision making. It involves an intentional process that includes listening to three threads: God’s Spirit, the neighbors’ reality, or demands, and your reality. These three threads have been the stories and themes that have emerged from practicing Accompaniment and Interpretation. Discernment is the movement where we take stock of what’s emerged and what we’re being called towards. Which must include a realistic assessment of our own realities. What gifts do we bring? What limitations do we have? Continue reading “The Artform of Discernment”

A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!

While summers can be hectic, they also can be a time to feel more grounded and to reconnect to our bodies and the earth. If we are quiet and listen, we can hear our bodies calling us to connect with the earth, which in turn is calling us back to each other. It can be a time to push back on the myth that we need to be always producing. Always checking the tasks of the list and making “progress”. 

With more people out and about rather than nestled inside, we are given the opportunity to meet those around us with our presence in new ways. This month we will be inviting you to reconnect in a variety of ways, with yourself, with your neighbor, with our initiatives, and even our CCV Staff! We have some recent changes with two of our staff members now in new roles and we would love for you to celebrate them with us! 

In case you haven’t met these two lovely individuals, it is a pleasure to introduce you to two amazing humans who are on our CCV staff. Amanda Vetsch and Geoffrey Gill. 

If you have the chance, please send them a congratulations via email or the next chance you see them!

Continue reading “A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!”

“Today” by Kristina Frugé

I was asked to write a blog post this week for the Riverside Innovation Hub that would introduce a series we are calling “Front Porch Stories.” This series will highlight stories from neighborhoods near and far where congregations are creating, cultivating or entering into front porch places where neighbors meet neighbors. Places where curiosity can be nurtured, stories can be shared, and simple connections can spark new relationships. Places where new life and new hope might have some room to take root.  

However, I’m struggling to have imagination for new life and hope today. Instead, death and hopelessness are crowding my heart and my mind, just as they are saturating our communities near and far – our schools, our corner grocery stores, our city blocks… 

A tree with a small number of leaves on the edge of a cliff by the water. The tree has branches like an L with one toward the sky and one branch out toward the water. In the background is a dark forest and fog.Today, as I write, marks the 2 year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, MN. His sacred life – like countless black and brown bodies before and after him – senselessly taken by uninhibited police violence.

Today, as I write, dozens of parents in the neighborhood of Uvalde, Texas have woken up to the first morning of the rest of their lives without their children. Young, beautiful, holy lives whose bodies and futures were destroyed with bullets and brutality.

Today, as I write, families and loved ones in Buffalo, New York prepare to bury their beloved elders, family members and friends. Ten cherished human beings who were targeted, terrorized and massacred by a young man embodying the violent evil lies of white supremacy ideology. 

 

Today, my heart fears that the front porches are too few and that their power to overcome the constant waves of violence and grief are insufficient. 

 

We talk about sowing seeds of love, connection, justice, mercy, and hope. Yet the seeds of violence, evil, hatred and fear have been nurtured far too well for far too long in our places. The two young 18 year old men and their evil ambitious destruction, reflect an ugly truth about the state of our humanity today. The systems tasked with stewarding our public safety reveal the deep roots of a harmful belief that some lives don’t matter. The seeds we have sown are breeding unimaginable violence and yet it’s completely imaginable because of how regularly it visits us. 

Continue reading ““Today” by Kristina Frugé”

RIH Cohort Reflection: Springtime is a Time of Being Slowly Led by the Spirit

Our Riverside Innovation Hub Lead Facilitator Geoffrey Gill reflects on the past month’s cohort meetings with congregations. Geoffrey shares wisdom and learnings from these important gatherings. 


The word spring comes from old English meaning to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow. It’s roots go back to Sanskrit sprhayati “desires eagerly,” and Greek spekhesthai “to hurry up”. (Etymonline)

Spring felt like it took its sweet time this year. It was like expecting a child to be born and then the child is not ready to come out yet. You can’t force these things, you take it one moment at a time and breath. As we breathe into the fullness of spring and our work becomes more and more rooted, it is clear that this work requires us to slow down, to be patient and to move at the pace of a growing flower. It may look slow and arduous at times, and this is the work of sowing seeds; we are like community gardeners for the public church and we are learning that this projectA red tulip in a garden bed. moves at the pace of building trustworthy relationships. You can’t force this to work, and you can’t just bypass any important part because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t understand it. What I’m finding inside of most congregations is this sense of needing things to speed up, there is this deep eagerness to spring forth and jump into action. And on the other hand God is calling us to slow down. Yes, move forward and take action, and don’t move so fast that you can’t smell the spring flowers. Don’t move so fast that you forget or bypass why you’re even doing this work. This time and space of work requires us to trust the flow of the process; to do all we can and then let the spirit do what it’s capable of doing.

So, In-between our large learning events RIH hosts smaller cohort meetings. These meetings focus on the art forms of the public church framework. All of the cohorts met this April. The intentions of these meetings were to build and deepen relational trust, reflect on the process of sharing learnings with the leadership in each congregation and expand more into the art form: interpretation. 

Continue reading “RIH Cohort Reflection: Springtime is a Time of Being Slowly Led by the Spirit”

The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge

While we wait for the Minnesota landscape to more fully thaw out this chilly spring, let me share a memory with you from a much warmer spring day several years ago…

My precocious three-year-old daughter and I were en route between errands, stopping for a quick cup of coffee and goodies, when Marie spotted a giant dragonfly on the sidewalk. We squatted down to investigate. I cautioned her to move slowly so we didn’t scare it away, but her sticky little fingers were already reaching out to touch the creature. It didn’t move. 

“Mommy, what’s wrong?”

“Oh honey, it looks like it’s dead. See the owie?” I said, pointing at its mis-shaped and slightly oozy side of head.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know sweetie. But look how beautiful it is. Look at its lacy wings, look at the bright colors on its body.”

“I like its wings.”  She paused….“What will it do now?”  a black and white dragonfly sitting on two fingers.

“Well, maybe a momma bird will pick it up and feed it to its baby birds so they can grow big and learn to fly.” I picked up the dragonfly and placed it in the grassy median nearby. I continued, “Or it will go back to nature in the grass here and make the dirt healthy so plants can grow.”

“Oh, so it will come back alive?”

I paused…. “Yes. It will. Just in a different way.”

 

Thanks to Marie’s discovery and observations of the dead dragonfly several years ago, I now find my senses awakened anytime I see a dragonfly. Spotting the black and white iridescent wings of the 12 spotted skimmer or the vibrant green stick body of the ebony jewel wing stirs a hint of exhilaration within me. These sightings have become small but holy moments. They point me back to the complexity and simplicity of Marie’s interpretation of the promise of life present in the dead, lifeless body of that dragonfly. 

While our chilly Minnesota winter hasn’t made room for any visits yet from these fascinating flighted creatures, they have been on mind this Easter. 

To be candid, Easter has always been uncomfortable for me. Back in my youth ministry days, that mostly had to do with the fact that I’d start my Easter Sunday at 6:00am in the church kitchen preparing food with sleepy students for our church’s Easter breakfast youth fundraiser. But over the last few years, I’ve simply struggled to connect with the joyful celebration of Easter worship. The Hallelujah chorus and triumphant shouts that “Christ has risen indeed!” have landed flat for me. Disingenuous seems too harsh of a label, but something has remained amiss for me with the Easter proclamation when life around me – or rather the devaluing of it – seems to reflect something far from the truth of this promise. 

Continue reading “The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge”

How to Be a Good Listener: Advice from RIH Mentors

screenshot of 15 person zoom conversation

One thing that is unique to our current Riverside Innovation Hub learning community is the opportunity to learn from people who have experienced this learning process before.  In March, we hosted a panel conversation where six leaders, who were previously involved in the Riverside Innovation Hub, shared their wisdom, stories, and experiences of practicing Accompaniment in their neighborhoods with our current learning community. The panelists included Sheila Foster, Claire Kaiser, Lacy Tooker-Kirkevold, John Pedersen, Kaylie Johnson and Pr. Jen Rome. This first blog, of a three-part series, recaps some of the wisdom and practical next steps they shared. 

If you’re a current member of our learning community, you can also find a recording of the entire conversation on our Google Site.  


Question and Answer:

The first question posed  to the panel was about listening; Do you have any great ideas on how to be a better listener? How do you stay in “listening mode” without jumping to “solution mode”?

Pastor Jen Rome kicked off the conversation by sharing that her team had a hard time getting started. Like many people, they felt unsure about striking up a conversation with a stranger in the neighborhood. They found they had an easier time having the conversations when they were scheduled in advance. They made a list of people or organizations they wanted to connect with in and around the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, and picked who would talk to each person or organization. Then each person reached out to schedule a one to one conversation. A few examples of people they talked with included people on the neighborhood council, the staff at the park next door, and owners of the local businesses. They held each other accountable by reflecting on what they heard from their one to ones at their next team meeting. She also said they kept practicing listening as a skill in other contexts. As they continued to listen in the neighborhood, they were also listening to each other more intentionally at their own meetings and in the other spaces they found themselves in. 

streeview of the exterior of pilgrim lutheran churchKaylie said that her congregation didn’t necessarily struggle with getting started, but they did find themselves wanting to jump toward solutions. After their team had done some listening in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, they met as a team to share what they heard. As they were sharing with each other, they found themselves wanting to jump towards coming up with solutions. They realized they needed to check each other on that, and say, “no we’re listening right now, no solution, no answers. It’s okay to sit in the discomfort of not knowing what’s going to happen.” It’s often difficult to hear someone’s bad news and receive it without suggesting solutions or coming up with ways to fix what we perceive as problems. Their team learned how to listen to the bad news without immediately jumping into action plans, or offering solutions that may have come from assumptions about the neighbor, rather than a deep knowing of the neighbor. Kaylie remarked that learning how to do that is “part of the process, and part of being a good listener.” 

Continue reading “How to Be a Good Listener: Advice from RIH Mentors”