Building community happens one relationship at a time

America’s religious landscape is changing. This week’s three conversations underscore why building relationships are essential to fostering community. From Charlottesville, Rev Alvin Edwards shares why he started the Charlottesville Clergy Collective and how being in the same town and seeing colleagues doesn’t always translate into trust. Then religion reporter Bob Smietana talks about his new book that examines how American churches are adapting and the pressures facing congregational leaders who have to rethink how they engage and revisit mission in a world where going to church is no longer the norm. And from the Pacific Northwest Victoria Loorz, cofounder of the Wild Church Network reflects on 6 years of building a movement that invites people to leave the church and gather in nature.

“We Knew Each Other From a Distance…”
Rev. Dr. Alvin Edwards has been part of the Charlottesville, Virginia faith community since 1981 but in 2015 after the horrific attack at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina he began to assess his relationships with the local clergy. The question he could not shake – do we trust each other enough to come together if racially motivated hate and violence comes to our community. Edwards talks about what happened next – long before the Unite the Right rally.

“The Hamlet Problem – Congregational and Faith Leaders Think They are the Stars”

Bob Smietana is an award-winning religion reporter and editor whose new book Reorganized Religion takes a closer look at the state of the American church and the way congregations and their leaders are adapting, shifting, or resisting. In this conversation, he describes the struggles facing congregational leaders from those unable to persuade and engage new members, to the challenges of revisiting a church mission when the congregation dwindles or buildings sit empty.

“Putting Church With The Wild Reframes It…”
After experiencing burnout, a seminarian decides to recharge by centering nature in her sacred practices and rituals in Ojai, California. Within 6 years her exploration and experimentation spark a new movement – the Church of the Wild. Today over 100 local groups meet outdoors for church or what many simply call gatherings. In this conversation, she describes what holds the network together and how eco-spirituality offers enough commonality for people who have different identities and beliefs. Loorz is the co-founder of the Church of the Wild network and the author of Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred

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