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by Jessica

Story Night Tour // What Is Love?

October 14, 2019 in Featured Posts, Uncategorized

You just never know what might emerge as everyday, ordinary people begin to reimagine what it means to be the church. Last fall, a group of practitioners gathered in Hamilton, Ontario for the very first Canadian Parish Collective conference, aptly titled Reimagine. This was a space curated to wrestle through what it is to be the church in, with, and for the neighbourhood.

According to chief instigator and parish leader, Dave Harder, “You can’t go into a space determining the outcome, but you can create the space where people are free to belong, disrupt, include, connect, share stories — and maybe, just maybe, a movement may be unlocked.”

And that is exactly what occurred as a new collective imagination was sparked in the hearts of those gathered.

And so with a desire to broaden this new imagination and to connect with others who were doing place-based work in cities across Ontario, the Story Night Tour was birthed. Dave Harder, who lives and breathes God’s dream in the neighborhood as a Parish Collective conspirator, place-based church consultant, and co-founder of Good City People, decided this movement needed wheels. And so he conspired with artists Drew Brown and Sunia Gibbs, spoken word poet Heather Beamish and fellow organizer Bryce Diamond to take Story Nights on the road this spring, visiting 11 cities over 3 weeks! The stories curated in each place would be centered around one compelling question — Where do you find love here?

What transpired was so much goodness that it cannot be contained on a mere page. As they traveled to different cities and neighbourhoods, they encountered everyday, local heroes. Not heroes on stages or big platforms, but heroes who were living into the ordinary, messy, yet stunning ways of love.

Heroes like Rielly Mclaren of Windsor, a chaplain at St. Leonard’s House. St. Leonard’s is dedicated to the integration of male offenders into the community, offering transitional support in order to reduce the reoccurrence of crime. Rielly is working for shalom in his community so that everyone in the neighbourhood has value and can live in safety and harmony.

Heroes like Jason McKinney, an Anglican priest and long-time resident of Parkdale, Toronto. Jason works with neighbours, organizers, and local agencies as a part of the Parkdale People’s Economy to help to resist gentrification by preserving the affordability and diversity of his neighbourhood. His ordinary superpower is removing land from the speculative real estate market and bringing it under community control, with the belief that the spiritual potential of the land is realized in its de-commodification.

Heroes like Jane Andres from Niagara on the Lake who realized there were over 100 of her neighbours who were hidden and silenced in the community. So she started Niagara Workers Welcome, providing three simple ways to reach out to her migrant worker neighbours. Through welcome gift bags, picnics, music nights, and bikes for transportation, Jane is conspiring for good ensuring that farm workers in Niagara are connected to a caring community.

These and so many more ordinary heroes may never make the headlines. But their stories told from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and city to city are the stories of good news. These are the stories that will form us, disrupt us and shift us forward. These are the stories of an unlikely revolution and a ground swell of neighbourly love.

For as Harder and this motley crew of artists and dreamers set out to find love and connection on the ground, they encountered the stories of pain and disconnection from those often disfranchised. But as they held a space for courageous words from voices often unheeded, brimming with heartache and beauty, they experienced church — as in the beloved community in all of its glorious diversity and ordinary splendor singing the songs of hope.

Harder says, “Healing melodies of God’s love are so easily silenced today by the noise that insists on dividing, confusing and tearing us apart. But what I have experienced on this tour brought hope…  there are prophets, poets, pioneers and everyday peacemakers who are serenading us into the future.”

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// HOST A STORY NIGHT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
We believe that we are hard-wired for story. We are spacemakers, creating brave spaces for peoples stories and breaking down the silos through connection. It is through simple, ordinary practices like stories, arts and food that help us break down the many divisions between us and acknowledge the humanity that connects us all.