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Story Sharing in Portland
by Eric Conklin


A few weeks ago, an evening of story sharing was held at the United Methodist Church’s Peace House in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. There were about 75 people present from a variety of experiences and traditions, all of whom came curious to hear stories and make connections with others. I emceed the event, which was fun and a little nerve racking! There was an opportunity to talk about each of the sponsors for the event, where Missional Wisdom was one of 3. This story sharing event has been an ongoing project of the Parish Collective, a network of neighborhood expressions of micro-faith communities, inspiringly born out of the work of Paul Sparks, Tim Sorens, and Dwight Friesen.

People began trickling in at 5:45PM, enjoying the beverages of their choice and beginning to make conversation with old friends and new. Kjirsten Tornfelt played a beautiful set of acoustic songs for about 45 minutes.

We began our sharing with a time of remembrance for Ann Huntwork, a founding member of the Peace House, led by Charlie Collier; she had died a few days prior.

Four people from the region were invited to share their stories in the “pecha kucha” format where the presenter chooses 20 pictures to accompany their presentation and has 20 seconds for each slide, a total of 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The presenters included John Schweibert from the Peace House, Luz Gomez from the Lutheran-emerged faith community Leaven Community, Gus Kroll from an area houseless ministry called HOMEpdx, and Laura Hutchison from neighborhood-base intentional church, Winding Road. Each brought a uniques witness for how God’s commonwealth has been cultivated in their context.

After each presenter, there was a time of silence to reflect on the story and any questions that may have occurred, and there was a time after all had shared for a Q&A panel. People were invited to stay as long as they wished, and I was the last non-resident to leave at about 10:30PM. I was super excited about the kinds of conversations that I had and witnessed others having!

It has been a great collaborative effort with Parish Collective coordinator, James Helms, to coordinate and shape these events (next one in January). We are talking about how the Parish Collective and the Missional Wisdom Foundation can collaborate more broadly on spiritual change-making in our neighborhoods and our city.

It has been an honor to discover the resonance within this group, among others, in my research and action over the last year and a half!

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