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The Confluence 2024 is in the books!

Written by Gretchen Roeck, Program Director for The Confluence

The Confluence 2024 is in the books!

Confluence group gathered in a group on a grassy area. Here are the stats: 

The Week

Group of confluence mentors taking a selfie on a street corner in MinneapolisThe week was guided by our understanding of vocation as the place where our Biblical story intersects with our world’s story and personal stories.  Continue reading “The Confluence 2024 is in the books!”

Faith in Action: Reflecting God’s Relational Essence

A round table of a team during our last learning community looking down at their prayer walk. "I have been trying to figure out this whole time what our project would be at the end of this, but I’m realizing…Relationships are The Project... Alice in our RIH Learning Community"In between our learning events, our facilitators Geoffrey and Brenna spend time with the congregations in cohorts. We asked Brenna and Geoffrey to reflect what they are hearing and experiencing with their learning cohorts.

Brenna’s Reflection

As we journey together through our season of accompaniment, our teams are learning a lot about their neighbors and what it means to be a public church. In our March cohort meeting we heard stories of engaging with schools, local police, members in our congregations, and local pastors from other churches. Our teams have begun to explore their neighborhoods on prayer walks and they’ve been meeting in local coffee shops and restaurants to listen and learn. They’ve engaged in public forums and local events and even attended Iftar dinners with their Muslim neighbors. Their curiosity and love for their neighbors is growing and it culminated in an exciting moment at our March cohort meeting where one of our team members interrupted the sharing time with an epiphany, “I have been trying to figure out this whole time what out project would be at the end of this, but I’m realizing…Relationships Are The Project”. They’re starting to catch it, knowing and loving your neighbor is the whole goal.

Geoffrey’s Reflection

Continue reading “Faith in Action: Reflecting God’s Relational Essence”

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. 

Whiteboard filled with handwritten notes in various colors, located indoors near a red-brick wall.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”

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”

RIH Fall Learning Event: Accompaniment

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, the new Riverside Innovation Hub learning community gathered on campus  and virtually for a morning of exploration on the artform of accompaniment. Accompaniment is the movement into the neighborhood in order to hear the neighbor’s story. In this artform, we learn to engage and listen to the neighbor’s story for the neighbor’s sake. It is the first movement within the Public Church Framework. It sets our focus outward, towards our neighbors and God’s presence in the neighborhood. 

people checking in for an event       People sitting outside at tables eating

At this event we had two main purposes together.

Continue reading “RIH Fall Learning Event: Accompaniment”

Accompaniment — Being The Church Beyond The Walls

By Jeremy Myers, PhD

 

The Public Church Framework begins in accompaniment. This sounds and looks great on paper, but we have found many leaders and congregations struggle with this artform. They struggle with putting it into practice. They even struggle with the word. So, it is important to explain what accompaniment is, what it is not, why it is important, and how it might be practiced.

What is it?

icon_three arrows going outwardAccompaniment is the word we use to describe the first artform, or movement, of the Public Church Framework. It is used to describe a faith community’s movement out into its neighborhood or context. It assumes a desire to know the neighbor, and their story, in their own words. It assumes our neighbor is not just “everyone in God’s creation”, but is also those who live right next-door — people, institutions, systems, watersheds, grove of trees, herds of cattle, and other creatures around us.

Accompaniment takes seriously the location in which our faith communities are planted and challenges us to do the intentional work of getting to know these places and those who call these places home. We do this become we believe God is already at work bringing about redemption in these places. Accompaniment is a way for us to uncover the work God is already doing in our neighborhoods. Accompaniment happens as our faith communities engage their neighborhoods and neighbors in order to (1) hear how they are already experiencing wholeness, healing, redemption, reconciliation and (2) how the faith community might come alongside their neighbors as they seek these things. If our faith communities want to proclaim good news into people’s’ lives, then we first have to do the hard work of listening to our neighbors’ stories.

What is it NOT?

Accompaniment is often misunderstood in some particular ways. Therefore, it is helpful to be explicit about what accompaniment is not.

  1. Accompaniment is NOT searching for a problem to solve. It is not a way in which we look for something to fix.
  2. Accompaniment is NOT market research. We are not conducting a survey in order to discover what type of church our neighbors wish to join.
  3. Accompaniment is NOT agenda-driven. It is not a process of listening to others in order to find ways they might fit into the work you are planning. Accompaniment prioritizes the neighbor and their story.

Why is it important?

The artform of accompaniment is important for several reasons. Some theological and some practical.

It is important theologically because we confess faith in a God who accompanies creation. The God of scripture creates a world of accompaniment where humans, other creatures, vegetation, climate, etc. accompany and provide for one another — for better or worse. God’s creative word that brings about this creation becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ who is God’s word accompanying (dwelling with) us. God’s spirit continues to free us and empower us to be in accompaniment with one another. Therefore, accompaniment becomes the way in which we live out God’s mission in our world and specifically in our neighborhoods.

Accompaniment is also important for practical reasons. The reality is that fewer people are seeking to be involved in faith communities. If we wish to play a meaningful role in people’s’ lives, then we will need to seek them out and engage them in the places where they live their lives rather than expecting them to show up in our places. Lastly, if faith communities want their members to learn to live into God’s mission in their daily lives, then faith communities will need to practice this together. Our faith, and Christ’s love, compels us to accompany our neighbors.

How is it practiced?

There are endless ways to practice accompaniment and the Public Church Framework resists prescribing best practices. It is the work of God’s people to learn how to put accompaniment into practice in ways that match their context, their neighbors’ needs, and their own assets. That said, here are a few ways to get started.

  • Neighborhood Prayer Walk Learn to practice 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. Then use this same method 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. Practice this with other members of your faith community and your neighborhood. Together, map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation.
  • One-to-Ones — Learn to practice one-to-ones. These are intentional listening meetings between two people with the sole purpose of getting to know the other person, their desires, passions, interests, and heartaches. Here is a helpful tool from the Episcopal Church that explains the one-to-one relational meeting and offers some great questions. Their questions to be used “with neighbors and people not in your church” are particularly rich questions for accompaniment. 
  • Listening Posts — Identify places in your faith community’s neighborhood where people gather. Places where you need to be present to meet these neighbors and hear their stories. Find ways to be in the places more often. These are great places to meet people for one-to-ones.
  • Neighborhood Storytellers — Identify the storytellers in the neighborhood. These are the people with long institutional memory about the history, events, and dynamics of the neighborhood. Take time to meet them. Schedule a one-to-one with them. Learn from them. Remember to actively seek out the storytellers in your neighborhoods who are marginalized — people of color, the poor, immigrants, etc. These folks are storytellers as well and have important perspectives of life lived in the neighborhood.
  • Show Up — Find out when important gathers are happening in your faith community’s neighborhood and show up at those gatherings. These might be festivals, neighborhood association meetings, school board meetings, election debates, etc. Show up and listen.
  • Visit — Pick some of the questions for neighbors and people not in your church from the one-to-one guide and then boldly start knocking on doors in the neighborhood around your faith community. Kindly ask if them might have a few minutes to answer a couple questions – no strings attached. If they participate, then make the most of that opportunity as a segue into a relationship with that neighbor.
  • Gather Find reasons and ways to gather people from the surrounding community either in your faith community’s space or in other spaces in the neighborhood. For example, host a debate for local candidates during election season. If there is a tragedy, gather the community together in a public space to lament and mourn. Learn more about Friendraising then partner with a local non-profit and see if they might let your faith community host a Friendraiser for their non-profit.
  • Environmental Audit Learn what the environmental issues might be in your neighborhood. What watershed is your faith community located in? What does it mean to be in an accompaniment relationship with creation in your neighborhood?

 

icon_ a starBest questions?

Again, we resist prescribing best practices for accompaniment or any of the artforms in the Public Church Framework.

Although the ones listed above are a pretty good place to start, it is vital that your faith community discovers how it can do this work in a way that matches the assets and needs present in your context. We are willing to share what we consider to be the best questions of accompaniment. What are the practices your faith community will develop in order to be able to chase after and answer these questions? These questions can also be found in an earlier blog on Best Questions in the Public Church Framework.

 

  • What is our neighborhood or parish (geographical location)?
  • Where are our listening posts?
  • What are the places and spaces in our context we are in relationship with and have a history with?
  • What are the places and spaces in our neighborhood we are curious to learn more about?
  • Who are the neighborhood historians — people who know the history of this place?
  • Who is our neighbor? What are the demographics of our neighborhood (race, socioeconomic, single family/rental units, age)? How do these compare to the demographics of our faith community?
  • How are our neighbors experiencing hope & joy?
  • How are our neighbors experiencing anxiety, fear and heartache?
  • What are our neighbors’ hopes, dreams and desires for our shared neighborhood?
  • Who cares about the things and people our faith community cares about?

 

icon_happy faceCommit to Action

  1. The most important thing is to get out there and start doing this work!
  2. You do not need to perfect it before you start doing it! 
  3. Move out into the neighborhood, ask good questions, and listen!