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Accompaniment Event Reflection

Written by facilitators Brenna and Geoffrey

In late January we hosted our learning event focused on the Artform of Accompaniment. Brenna and Geoffrey reflect below on lessons and learnings from that event. 

Trust the Process: A Journey of Connection and Transformation

This past January, a gathering took place at Augsburg University, marking the beginning of an extraordinary journey for our congregations. We embarked on a path to explore and embody the art of accompaniment, a journey aimed at not just knowing about the neighbor, actually knowing the neighbor, and unraveling a new way of being church in the world.

The Essence of Accompaniment

Accompaniment, the first of four art forms we dive into, challenges us to not just know about our neighbors but to actually really know them—to see their essence. This deep understanding is fundamental, setting the stage for the upcoming art forms of interpretation, discernment, and proclamation. Our learning event was more than an educational endeavor; it was an invitation to transform how we interact and perceive the people around us. Continue reading “Accompaniment Event Reflection”

Accompaniment: The Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood

The Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made of local congregations who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene congregations over two years together, shaped by learning and practicing the artforms of the Public Church Framework in each congregation’s unique context.

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. We’ve simplified and categorized accompaniment into four different practices that help us hear our neighbors’ stories. This blog post dives into the second layer of accompaniment, a prayer walks in the neighborhood. 

You can also read more about the previous layer in our last blog post – Becoming familiar with the Demographics of your neighborhood

Accompaniment layer pyramid. The order from the top to the bottom are demographic data, prayer walk, listening posts and one to ones. Often congregations may begin at the top of the triangle and work down as a pathway to getting to know the neighbor. However, notice the proportions of each of the layers match the amount of time folks are encouraged to spend with each aspect. Demographic information begins to help us get to know things about our neighbors and may spark curiosity around things we want to learn more about, but to really get to know our neighbors, one to one conversations are at the heart of building real relationships.


The Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood

Written by Kristina Frugé 

The practice of a neighborhood prayer walk is inspired by the  Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation and moments of consolation.

Moments of desolation are times of sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.

Moments of consolation are times of hope, healing, courage, peace, etc.

You can use the lens of desolation and consolation as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is located, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. The general outline of this activity includes walking through the neighborhood, paying particular attention to what stands out as consolation and desolation. Then, together, with people in your faith community, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map. You will find some simple instructions at the end of this post to help you plan for a prayer walk. However, while this activity is fairly straightforward, there are some important aspects to be aware of as you begin.

In all of our efforts to become vital neighbors, we will find ourselves encountering people and places we don’t know or don’t know very well. We will encounter differences between ourselves and others – whether it be racially, religiously, socio-economically, generationally, or across so many other distinctions. We also expect to experience connection as we discover similarities – love of the same local business, or our pets, or our children, or perhaps share similar fears or longings for ourselves and our neighborhoods.  Continue reading “Accompaniment: The Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood”

Becoming Familiar with the Demographics of Your Neighborhood

The Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made of local congregations who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene congregations over two years together, shaped by learning and practicing the artforms of the Public Church Framework in each congregation’s unique context.

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. We’ve simplified and categorized accompaniment into four different practices that help us hear our neighbors’ stories. This blog post dives into the first layer of accompaniment, the Demographics of the Neighborhood. 


Introduction

Written by Jeremy Myers

Kristina's neighborhood street with snow in the evening as the sun is settingSummary and Learning Outcomes

This lesson is intended to help individuals and/ or teams gather the demographic data of their particular neighborhoods and begin reflecting on that data in order to gain more insight into those who live in that particular neighborhood. Completing this lesson should help you:

  1. be able to find and collect the demographic data of those who live within a particular neighborhood.
  2. know more about the people who live their lives within this particular neighborhood.
  3. develop a deeper sense of empathy for these neighbors and become curious about how you might get to know them better.

Preparation

  1. Use “Preparing to Lead the Lesson Plan” to help you complete these following steps in preparation for leading this lesson.
  2. Read “What is Accompaniment?” and “Why Demographics?”.
  3. Generate your Demographic Report and familiarize yourself with it.
  4. Gather the following materials below. 

Materials

Continue reading “Becoming Familiar with the Demographics of Your Neighborhood”

Neighbor, Beloved Child of God, You Matter

Written by Kristina Frugé 

Wrapping up a season of orientation 

As we wrap up the calendar year of 2023, our RIH learning community is concluding its first season of work – the season of orientation. These first few months of gathering, learning and connecting have been saturated with lots of new ideas, invitations and challenges. I may have heard one or two folks describe this season feeling as though we’ve been drinking from a fire hydrant – a fair way to describe it. However, our intention has been to zoom out in this season and look at the journey ahead from the 30,000 foot perspective. We have been aiming to offer an overview of a new map of sorts.  We believe this map will help our learning community of folks explore God’s call to them in this present moment of our changing world. 

Kristina staring out to the trees and land below from a mountain.For many of us in congregations, we’ve been working off of older tried and true maps to help us get our bearings and shape our ministries. Those maps may have been more reliable in previous times. However, the landscape of the world we live in and its challenges has shifted significantly in recent decades. These shifts have only intensified in recent years…the global health crisis of Covid 19, a racial uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, increased economic insecurities, a growing mental health crisis, increasing impacts of our global climate crisis, war and violence, just to name a few.  The list of hurts, heartaches and fears in the world and in our own lives is overwhelming. The church has been deeply impacted by this increasingly unpredictable landscape. But also,  we are a people rooted in a story that is rooted in love and whose fruits are intended to bring healing, nourishment and wholeness to God’s creation. This means that while the church attends to its own struggles, it is simultaneously holding a particular call to help respond to the bad news being generated daily in our communities and around the globe. 

We need new maps. And we need to cultivate different orienteering skills that help us show up in the world looking for and aligned with God’s vision for flourishing and mending in our places. Our season of orientation has attempted to offer some insights on these new maps to inform the journey we intend to pursue together, each in our unique corners of this map…on the ground, from within our congregations’ local neighborhoods.  Continue reading “Neighbor, Beloved Child of God, You Matter”

We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat

Amanda Vetsch, book project coordinator, shares an update on the young adult book project.

The group of writers outside in the sunshine posing for a group photo. The Young Adult Book Project has surpassed another mile marker in our project! Our author team gathered for a second Writers’ Retreat at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center last month. This gathering marks the completion of mile marker #5! We’re just over a year out from The Threshold Envisioning event, where about fifty young adults gathered to share our joys, heartaches, hopes and dreams for the church and the book chapter themes were distilled from those stories and experiences. Since then, we selected a young adult author and a thought leader author to co-write each chapter. We gathered those authors in March at the first Writers’ Retreat to create a shared vision for the book and start the co-writing process. Two authors have had to discern out of this project due to needing to prioritize their time and energy on health and recovery. As people come and go from this project – we give our deep gratitude for the contributions along the way. Their departures created space to invite two new authors in.  Each set of authors has navigated the highs and lows of the writing process, defined and redefined their expectations of each other, and wrestled with their busy schedules to write and revise first and second drafts of their chapters.

The purpose of this second Writers’ retreat was to move into the “Craft Phase” of the book.  Rick Rubin describes the creative process as four phases: Seed, Experimentation, Craft, and Editing & Completion. The “Craft Phase” moves from generating possibilities and ideas into refining material with a clearer sense of direction and structure. For this project that means both the individual chapters and the larger book are beginning to take clearer shape and more cohesive structure. We accomplished this at the retreat by developing a shared larger vision of the overall book, large group discussion and decision making for cohesiveness across chapters, and co-author work time.  Continue reading “We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat”

Meet the Newest Riverside Innovation Hub Congregational Learning Partners!

Written by Brenna Zeimet

Collage of photos of participants from launch event chatting with each other, at their tables, in conversation with each other.Our new Thriving Congregation Learning Community has launched for the 2023-2025 RIH Journey. We have 3 cohorts, two local groups made up of Twin Cities Metro churches and one distance cohort made up of churches from coast to coast. We have a great mix of large suburban churches, smaller outstate churches and everything in between, giving us a diversity of experience and perspectives that will make our learning communities deep wells for growth and change.

Geoffrey Gill has returned as a congregational facilitator. He is at the helm of our distance cohort and will also facilitate one of our local learning communities. His passion for connection and deep relationship allows him to bridge geographical and cultural differences to create a welcoming space where churches from Massachusetts, Oregon, and rural Minnesota can find commonality and bond over the love for their neighbors. This distance cohort combines passion for racial justice in Oregon, innovative ministry to unhoused folks in Massachusetts, and community building across the small towns and cornfields of Southern Minnesota.

Geoffrey’s local cohort includes churches from St Paul to Plymouth who are passionate about doing work in their neighborhoods – amongst immigrants and politicians, for affordable housing and environmental justice, with students and community partners. These churches are joined by a team of mentors from Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in Minneapolis who will share the wisdom they gained as participants in our last round of RIH learning communities.

Brenna Zeimet has joined as our new cohort facilitator and she will be leading the other local cohort as well as piloting a new program for our alumni churches that helps them continue this work and weave the love for the neighbor into the culture of their congregations.

Brenna’s local cohort spans the Twin Cities Metro area, from Roseville to Eagan and St Paul to Bloomington. The churches in this group come from different denominations and neighborhoods, some are historic churches with a long legacy in their communities while others are young congregations who are growing and innovating in their new spaces. They all share an excitement for this work and a desire to live into being vital neighbors who make a difference in the people around them.

This learning community has proved to be passionate and excited to jump into this work. They already have great ideas and partnerships and seem to enter the space with a heart that beats for the neighbor. The feeling as we launch into this two year journey is one of hopefulness and anticipation. These churches are going to be forces for good in their respective communities and they can’t wait to get that ball rolling. For the full list of congregations, check out our RIH website. 

The Journey Begins…

Written by Brenna Zeimet

Overhead view of the chapel space with 3 people on the stage for a panel and the audience at round tables. On September 16th church leaders from across the country gathered in person and via zoom to embark on a two year journey towards becoming vital neighbors in their communities. Riverside Innovation Hub launched three cohorts of churches, two of them composed of local congregations from the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area, and one distance cohort that will meet online with congregations from Oregon, Massachusetts, and rural Minnesota. We’re inspiring the flourishing of our neighbors from coast to coast!

Cohort participants got the opportunity to learn from our own Jeremy Myers about the Art of Becoming Public Church; diving deep into the cultural impacts of postmodernism, church outreach models, and what our neighbors want and need from us in our post-pandemic world. Jeremy helped our congregations think through what the public church framework is and why it is important to engage our neighbors in a different way than the Church has before.

Next our congregations explored their “why” with the help of our program director, Kristina Fruge. She walked through what it means to engage in “place based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good”, and then invited congregations to talk about their own places and the common good they long to work for in their particular public squares. Congregations also heard from each of our staff members about our own personal “why” that drives us to do this work of investing in our neighbors and building relationships for the flourishing of others. Over lunch, cohorts talked with each other about their personal “why” and began to build relationships with the co-laborers that will walk beside them on this journey. Continue reading “The Journey Begins…”

Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman

Amar HeadshotIf you have not heard yet, we are writing a book! The purpose of this book project is to amplify the voices of young adults as they articulate their hopes, dreams, concerns, and frustrations to the church. This is not a book about young adults. Nor is this a book about how to attract young adults back to church. Rather, it is a book that offers the wisdom of young adults to the church as it discerns its next most faithful steps in these emerging times. Check out our author team here.

We recently asked the young adult writers for the project to reflect on this experience. Below is the reflection from Amar D. Peterman.

Amar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.


Why did you say yes to this experience and what are your hopes for the project? 

Written by Amar Peterman

Writing is always shaped by the people around us and the places we are located in. The best writing embraces this, capturing every moment as an opportunity to tell a story or find meaning in the ordinary moments of our life. Writing that reflects these daily experiences and infuses such with sacred meaning holds the opportunity to change us—even convict us—and as we are called into a community beyond ourselves. 

I said yes to this experience because of this truth. Through this project, I am not only brought into conversation with other writers across the country, but into active participation towards a shared goal. As we gather to envision a hopeful future for the Christian church, we are diligently writing and marking out tangible steps to create equitable spaces of inclusion and belonging for young people in local congregations across the United States. Together, we represent a diversity of experiences, locations, denominations, and beliefs within Christianity. These differences, though, are not a hindrance to our cooperation; they are gifts that allow this project to speak to more people than any individual could do on their own.  Continue reading “Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman”

The Journey of Forming Learning Communities with New Congregations

Written by Geoffrey Gill

a seedling emerging from the soil with the sunshine shining in the background.This year has been a remarkable journey as I’ve engaged with new congregations, forming fresh learning communities. What makes it even more special is the contrast to the previous year when many of these structures were already in place. Now, I find myself in the unique position of shaping the very fabric of our community.

Meeting and getting to know these congregations has been a profound joy. Many resonate with the importance of being active neighbors and are receptive to reimagining their role within the broader church and community. This eagerness for transformation shines through, and it fills me with hope.

A recent podcast touched on grounding ourselves in the present to experience the fullness of God’s presence. In that sacred space, we tap into wisdom and the fruits of the spirit. This message resonated deeply with me, mirroring the longing I perceive in our congregations to evolve, build bridges, and courageously traverse them.

However, the journey isn’t without its challenges. The weighty topics of racial healing, restoration, and confronting prejudice can be difficult. These conversations can sometimes be met with resistance or unease. Yet, the silver lining is the willingness of many to delve into these issues, recognizing their gravity.

A central belief that guides me is that we are combating deep-seated evils that exist beyond mere human conflicts. This battle requires divine guidance and an inward transformation. The biblical message, “the truth shall make you free,” resonates here. True liberation comes from an internal shift, a spiritual renewal.

Much of our work is about showing up, being present, and immersing ourselves in the transformative power of the spirit. Through art forms, we have a medium to interpret the spirit’s movements, allowing for inward transformation. This is an ineffable process, one that’s difficult to articulate. But once clarity emerges, we are called to act, share, and continue the cycle of reflection and action.

In connecting with these congregations, I’ve been moved by their willingness to venture into the unknown, confront their perceptions, and reimagine their worldviews. Despite initial discomfort, there’s an evident zeal and anticipation for the journey ahead.

Abby’s Writing Process So Far: A Joyous and Challenging Journey

Written by Abby Grifno

Abby Grifno's in her natural writing habitat with a coffee mug, laptop and living room chair. Working with the Riverside Innovation Hub on this writing project was a task that I stumbled upon. I applied full-heartedly and with a certainty that I’d be adding a rejection to my slushpile. When I received news of the opposite, I was proud of myself, but then I was overwhelmed. Our writing project had “vulnerability” written all over it, something I knew from the very beginning. My topic, “Marginalization, Inclusion, and Liberation” is one I feel both passionate about and often ill-qualified to speak on. Thankfully, I’ll just be writing.

My co-author, Dr. Jimmy Hoke, has guided our discussions and the process with the utmost care, and it’s made a huge difference. But the writing process still has its challenges. We are dealing with problems that aren’t just our own, but also of the generations and the lives that came before us. Novels could and have been written on our topic and there’s no way my writing will be able to speak on everything I wish it could. All I can do is add my own perspective to the mix and hope it reaches the right people, resonates with someone, and contributes to an on-going discussion of what our beautiful church could be. 

The hardest part? Deciding what is allowed on the page and what is still only written in my heart. While I’ve always loved writing personal narratives, I’ve remained selective about who views them. A chapter. Out in the world. Scary. Writing my thoughts, even only in draft form, can feel like an admission I’m not quite ready to make. Even though I know that there is always a backspace and more importantly, a kind conversation available on any differing viewpoints Jimmy and I have. I’m still working on it though, and my current draft is an obvious reflection of my thoughts working themselves out.  Continue reading “Abby’s Writing Process So Far: A Joyous and Challenging Journey”