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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.”


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.

by pcadmin

Facilitating in Communities that You Don’t Live In

April 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

Creating Safe Space
A couple weeks ago I sat at a dinner table with some lovely people who were involved in various aspects of refugee ministry across North America. We had recently emerged from a co-learning space where I had facilitated and taught on the topic of developing healthy and authentic cross-cultural relationships. The ability to break bread together (or in this case chicken burgers) allowed the opportunity for us to deepen our learning experience. It was in this space that I heard something that made me excited. One of the White attendees commented that she had been observant of how I “held the room” for my 90 minutes as a facilitator, which in turn provided her with tips on how to do the same when she sought to share the information with her staff and volunteers. Her astuteness and attentiveness to my facilitation practices, i.e., when I stood and when I sat, brought much joy to me because I believe that 25% of biblical reconciliation work in a co-learning space is information dissemination, while the other 75% is the actual space that is created for people to be able to feel safe enough to begin examining and challenging their perspectives, beliefs and actions, as well as those of the social and structural systems around them.

Although my co-learners do not typically name the facilitation techniques that I use, it is actually common for me to hear that they felt safe, honored and/or respected during our time together. I am honored and overjoyed every time I hear some version of this feedback because it means that one of my main goals of training has been fulfilled. Let’s be clear, when I share space with co-learners, regardless of what title is affixed to the workshop, it is almost undoubted that we will (in one way or another) touch on themes of biblical reconciliation, privilege, power, oppression, the history of racism, and analyze the social and societal structures that support racism. The subject matter can be challenging and create much discomfort and dissonance, a fact which I forewarn people of at the onset of our time together. I owe my ability to create a safe co-learning space for co-learners to an intentional application of ABCD principles. In specific the principle of listening.

The Practice of Listening
In ABCD we rely heavily on the practice of listening for the sake of understanding the gifts and talents that are already present in a community. This ongoing posture of listening helps to ensure that community members are being heard and are active contributors to the agenda building and problem-solving processes. In like manner, I employ listening techniques pre-, during and post-facilitation to ensure that the learning community that’s created is aware of the knowledge and gifts that’s inherently present in the room. Jeanette Romkema of Global Learning Partners (GLP) has pointed me towards excellent Dialogue Education tools and resources (i.e., Learning Needs and Resource Assessment), which help with creating learning spaces that honor co-learners. I highly recommend checking out their website which is chock-filled with ways to build listening into the design, implementation and evaluation of your workshop. Technology of Participation’s (TOP) Focused Conversation facilitation method also offers an excellent framework for creating questions that allow co-learners to engage in conversations that move from surface understanding of concepts to deeper meanings and contemplation of current and/or future actions.

Other ways that I employ listening is through providing co-learners with the opportunity to share the ways that they’ve already used the principles discussed in our workshops and by offering them a space to problem-solve collectively when contextual questions arise before inserting my own input. In these ways I try to empower them by revealing their God-given abilities to walk justly and act mercifully toward others. I also invariably try to provide some opportunity, usually through an activity, for co-learners to be able to examine and share their own narratives. This allows people to determine their social location, provides opportunity for them to identify how they fit into the social continuum (including their access to privilege), and provide opportunity for them to share how they’ve experienced oppression or marginalization (no matter the degree) due to some aspect of their social identity. It has been my experience that these listening practices assists in disarming co-learners and in building learning environments that they feel safe to explore in.

Anyone who has engaged in the work of racial reconciliation or had a discussion about race related issues can tell you that describing it as hard can at times be a gross understatement. I have found that employing listening strategies that are central to the practice of ABCD has by God’s grace provided opportunity for sacred spaces to be created that by their nature oppose the dehumanization of others. It is my hope that by assuming a listening posture that dignity is offered each co-learner and Grace and Truth finds their place to transform each heart including my own.

What tools, resources or practices do you use to create safe spaces in co-learning environments?

(Camp Shout Staff Training; Photo Courtesy of Bernadette Arthur)

– Originally posted here.

Will you change as a result of being at the Inhabit Conference this year?

April 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

As I sit and wait to board my plane from Chicago to Seattle, I ponder this question from three perspectives. First, I’ve been living in Chicago since 1985 and my wife and I started living in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and working with a group of friends to start a nonprofit that would mobilize adults to come alongside youth as mentors. We were also involved in a local church that would begin to experience huge amounts of disruption as Jesus would get our attention on what He was doing in the neighborhood where the church building was/is located. I guess I was already headed into ‘growing’ the church more by disruption than numbers. My eyes and a few others eyes were focused on our own spiritual growth AND finding out what God was doing in the neighborhood. It’s surprising when you begin to listen to neighbors about what was most important to them. Eventually, we saw a rift between the youth and the adults where each looked at each other with suspicion. I thought, if there is a way to bring the two groups together we would be able to dispel the misconceptions and eventually work together to make the neighborhood a place where all could thrive! So I went to work putting all of organizing skills to work. I found out what made adults (read homeowners) angry enough to get off their couches (read butts) and into the streets to do something. I also found out what made the youth angry so that they would do something other than hang out on the street corner making a living. What I learned is that anger is a fleeting emotion and doesn’t create a space for people to come together to build relationships of trust. So a lot of effort went into trying to do this and a great lessen was learned.

Secondly, I thought that if my organizing were faith-based it would be tempered with the right perspective and attitude so I deepened my understanding of what it is to be ground my organizing in the bible and went back to work. The only thing was that my primary motivating speech was about tapping into the anger of all parties and using that to get people into the streets. Again, another lesson learned – anger will not sustain a transformational movement.

Thirdly, I gave up on organizing after seeing people burn out over and over again and thought there has to be something different to help create thriving communities where humanity flourishes. I stumbled on faith-rooted organizing and caught a glimpse of the possibility of integrating my faith and God’s word in the public square no matter where that square took me (us). I found prayer, reminding elected officials why they took office in the first place, casting vision for what’s possible in our communities to be an important tool and continue to use it in the work that we are doing in Chicago.

One more lesson I hope to unpack is this idea that Alex Roxburgh represents. He says, God is already out in front of us and it doesn’t matter if you are part of an institutional church or organic church. It’s not about starting something ‘new’. It’s about listening and seeing where God is working and going there with an attitude of a listener; being ‘the stranger’ and expecting to be surprised by God’s wonderful work that is already going on in the neighborhood.

I can’t wait to be in Seattle for #inhabitcon2016!

by Paul

Connecting Neighbors and Modeling Shalom

March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

Portlander Brandon Rhodes delivers organic vegetables by bicycle… From the beginning, Rhodes knew he would not be the first company to offer doorstep delivery of groceries. Yet his sense of conviction about the need to create positive environmental, economic and social impact sets Rolling Oasis apart…

Read the whole article here from George Fox Evangelical Seminary

Early Morning Prayer Walk – With a Friend

March 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

Day Seventeen: WALK. PRAY. PAY ATTENTION. LISTEN. (From the Nav Neighbors Prayer Guide)
Today I will invite a friend to join me as I walk. (The relationship with this person will determine whether we pray together or simply walk while praying silently.) “For where two or three come together in My name, there I am with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Our friends Scott, Jen, and their daughter, Megan were visiting Seattle on a tour of colleges that they were considering for the next phase of Megan’s life. As is our custom with guests, we had a very enjoyable time showing off our beautiful city. Our relationship with Scott and Jen began many years ago as discipleship, but it long ago transitioned into a mutual friendship among fellow travelers. 
On the morning of their departure, Scott and I decided to get up early and pray through our neighborhood.  It was still dark as we walked out my door and turned left down my alley. We prayed for Ed & MJ, for Tim & Dorene, for Jean and for several other neighbors as we walked by each of their homes. We tried the gate at the Children’s Play Garden. It was unlocked so we found a place in the middle of the small park and asked that God’s Kingdom might be in this neighborhood as it is in heaven. We thanked God for the way that this plot of land had been transformed from a place of rusty, broken playground equipment and drug dealing to a place where kids played freely and learned to grow vegetables. We sensed the light and power of the gospel even as the first light of the sun broke over the homes and buildings of our neighborhood.
We walked by the Japanese Presbyterian Church – a congregation more than a hundred years old and part of our neighborhood since the 1960s. We thanked God for their presence and prayed for their pastors, Kerry, JP, and Satoru. We walked to the corner that had become a construction sight. Gone were the abandoned houses and rising are more than forty five apartments and townhouses. We prayed for the future residents of this plot of ground. We walked down toward Rainier Avenue. Past the five rusty old RVs  like the hundreds that serve as the only home for so many in our city. We prayed. We watched. We listened.
We walked past the Lighthouse for the Blind as people were being helped off the vans and as they felt their way with white canes along the sidewalk and as they felt for the code that would open the gate and take them to another day at work.  We prayed. We watched. We listened. Jesus said, “for judgement I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). 
We climbed the hill that overlooks the valley in which I live. We grabbed some excellent coffee at QED. QED stands for quod erat demonstratum – “that which is to be shown”.  Like the great brew at QED, the power of the gospel is that which is to be shown. We looked over the city skyline and prayed for the advance of that powerful gospel in the city of Seattle.
We walked down the hill. We said goodbye to our friends as they flew home to their neighborhood. The virus is spreading.

by Ben

From Slacktivism to Neighborhood Presence

January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 25, I recorded a podcast called, “Slacktivism, Suffering & Stones” in which I reflect on a MLK quote and how it calls us to seek reconciliation and renewal in our neighborhoods and workplaces, as well as a recent trip to Washington, D.C. in which I got to visit the MLK Memorial. Take a listen and stay tuned for more podcasts with parish themes in 2016!

by Paul

Garden Church Growing an Urban Sanctuary

August 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

There are so many creative ways to get people working together for good. Read more about Anna Woofendren, Garden Church, Green Girl Farms, Lara Hughey, Swedenborgian Chuch, Wayfarers Chapel


Read the full article here:


by Paul

Iowa barber gives haircuts to children in exchange for them reading stories to him

August 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

DUBUQUE (AP) | Love this creative way to stimulate the Gift Economy. Children who read books to a local barber have received a free haircut…

Read the full article here:

by Paul

Focusing Where You Live – The Grand Exchange in Akron

August 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

Check out the full story of the Grand Exchange in Akron at the link below

“It’s a place where we can experience that integration [of relationships, worship etc.] Beyond that, it’s a sense of destiny. There’s almost this sense of being bound to Akron. How Akron goes, I go. And how I go, Akron goes.  … We’re bound to this place and we’re bound to these people and this is where we’re called to live out our lives and be invested.”

Check out the story:

by Paul

Lamphier: Abundant Community concept gaining traction

August 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

After living in half a dozen cities across Canada, I can honestly say Edmonton is the friendliest, most tightly connected place we’ve ever called home. That’s not just local boosterism. Nor is it a knock against Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver or Windsor, my home town. Each has its own unique virtues and personality, and I’ve loved living in all these places.

Sourced through from:

"Edmonton is the friendliest, most tightly connected place we’ve ever called home."

Love this new article which includes words from Peter Block the co-author of The Abundant Community. This is the city Elizabeth Sparks and I just returned from. Liz received a grassroots leadership grant to learn about Asset Based Neighbourhood Organizing with Howard Lawrence and the Abundant Community Initiative.

See on Scoop.itParish

by Andy

The Inclusive Front Yard

April 17, 2015 in Featured Posts, Uncategorized

Like most yards in our neighborhood, we have a public sidewalk in front with either grass or a garden bed with shrubs marking the line of our property. It’s quite clear what’s “mine” and what’s public. People walk their dogs through the neighborhood but know it’s a “no, no” to let your dog do its business in the middle of someone’s property. We walk by and admire what each other has done, but these are not yards to really stop and enjoy. While I’ve yet to see a “Keep off the Grass!” sign in our neighborhood, neither are front yards an invitation to community.

I was first stimulated to think about this when I learned about Springwater Community and the “little free libraries” dotting the Lents neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Here, in front yards, was an invitation to stop…to open a tiny door and either leave or take a book. This simple expression of community, of sharing, really began to open my eyes to front yard possibilities!

The Design

Last fall we gathered a whole lot of plain cardboard boxes, flattened them out and covered all the grass in the front yard. My folks had just removed a couple of dead trees from their yard and the chips from all the branches provided a nice thick mulch over the cardboard. It sat this way over the winter as I pondered and prayed about what it could become.

God was challenging me to explore what it would mean to live more fully into the plans and purposes of God every day of the year, right in my neighborhood. What would it look like to design our front yard with God and neighbor in mind?

And that’s where my vision for the front yard was transformed. As I sat looking out over the yard, I began to ask questions like:

  • What does our front yard reveal about what we value?
  • How do front yards create barriers to community?
  • As we walk through our neighborhood, what inspires us about other people’s front yards? Why?
  • Are there front yards that make us feel excluded or unwelcome? What are the elements that provoke those feelings?
  • Are there front yards that feel more inviting? Why?


What do we value? Personally, I know I need solitude. our backyard is a place of prayer and deep reflection. Others are welcome there, but usually only by invitation. But I also value community. Over the years I’ve had a lot of opinions about what community is, or should be. It’s easy to let our opinions run away with me until “community” becomes some collection of people who conform to my standards and ideals. But that’s not community.

Community comes to us on a multitude of terms. My involvement helps shape it, but so does the involvement of each of the others who participate. Community is not my backyard sanctuary where I’ve pre-defined the conditions. Community is often messy, welcoming of the other right where they are. What would that kind of community look like in my front yard?


We began exploring what it would look like to have an inviting space. We don’t want this to be a space people feel they must be personally invited into, we want this to be a place that draws people in. A space that says “Welcome”. Whether we are in the front yard or not, we want people to feel this is a place of rest, of quiet conversation, reflection, and community.

Although we have only 40 feet of front yard garden space, we created two paths from the sidewalk into the garden. The paths fan out at the sidewalk, a kind of visual invitation to venture in. Paths radiate in waves like rays from the sun. Nothing is straight, but flowing and natural. We didn’t want it to feel like a formal garden but a place to casually explore.


The design

Soon we added a bench next to a micro-library along one of the paths – an invitation to come in, to sit, to share. We also have plans to include a you-pick tea garden with a variety of mints, lemon balm, and herbs for the taking. Later we may even add vegetables and flowers to share.

A Grand Experiment

This is really all a grand experiment. We don’t know where it will lead. Already God has touched and challenged us to rethink what it means to love God and love others in the context of our landscape. As we’ve explored what can be done, I’ve found myself more open to how this all applies outside the confines of our own yard. Curious neighbors have stopped by to find out what we’re up to, which has led to some wonderful conversations and new ideas for the space. While talking with our neighbor to the south, we were inspired to purchase together two espalier apple trees to plant on the border between our yards. Soon we’ll be sharing the fruit of friendship!

And really, as I reflect on what God is cultivating in us through this redesign of physical space, I’m realizing that the cultivation and nurture of friendship is not limited to a garden or a yard but is a challenge to each of us whether we live in urban centers, suburbs, or way out in the country. Perhaps the most authentic of gardens are the ones that break down the barriers between us and them, and mine and yours. And maybe the garden is simply a metaphor to encourage us to more intentionally cultivate community from the barren soil of alienation and loneliness and to nurture friendship from soils contaminated with fear and suspicion.

by Paul

Theaster Gates: How to revive a neighborhood: with imagination, beauty and art

April 4, 2015 in Featured Posts, Uncategorized

Parish Collective Co-Director Tim Soerens has long followed the wonderful work and thought of Theaster Gates. Don’t miss this Ted Talk and the powerful Q&A at the end. 

“Theaster Gates, a potter by training and a social activist by calling, wanted to do something about the sorry state of his neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. So he did, transforming abandoned buildings to create community hubs that connect and inspire those who still live there (and draw in those who don’t). In this passionate talk, Gates describes his efforts to build a “miniature Versailles” in Chicago, and he shares his fervent belief that culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, anywhere.”