Church of the Brethren leaders attend Inhabit Conference 2022

By Stan Dueck

On April 28-30, 22 members of the Church of the Brethren including church leaders and district and denominational staff attended Inhabit Conference 2022. The conference, an event of the Parish Collective, returned in-person to Seattle (Wash.) School of Theology and Psychology, the host site of this annual flagship summit. Church of the Brethren participants joined approximately 300 people representing various Christian communities of faith in the United States and Canada. The group gathered to worship, celebrate stories, and share ideas on being the church in neighborhoods everywhere.

The concept behind the conference is best stated by Parish Collective board chair Jonathan Brooks: “The word inhabit is defined as, ‘to live in or occupy a place or environment.’ When I hear this word, it reminds me of why we gather together as often as possible and why these last couple of years have been so difficult. When we gather together to occupy the same space, celebrate our collective love for our places and what God is doing there, we literally begin to re-shape the environment of the place where we gather. For this reason, there is something special that happens at Inhabit each year. As the hallways of the Seattle School are filled with excited parish leaders and the rooms echo shared stories of renewal and hope, we are reminded that we are truly better together.”

In addition to powerful worship experiences, the conference offered insightful workshops such as
— “A Journey to Deeper Belonging: How to Cultivate and Contend for Community”
— “The Embodied Church: Practices of Everyday Goodness and Beauty in the Neighborhood”
— “Neighboring as Discipleship”
— “Women of Color Panel”
— “Disrupting the Narrative: Using Stories and Art as Creative Resistance”
— “Curating Creative Gatherings”
— “How to Be the Local Church in the Age of Empires and Epidemics”
— “Soul Care for the Streets: Sustaining Our Wounded Souls as We Tend to the Wounds of Our Neighborhoods”
— “From Idea to Reality: Possibilities for Neighborhood Flourishing”
— “Art, Poetry, and Creative Prophetics in the Neighborhood, Learn from Them”

Workshop leaders included seasoned practitioners such as Christiana Rice, José Humphreys, Majora Carter, Paul Sparks, Shannon Martin, Michael Mata, Sunia Gibbs, Coté Soerens, and Dwight Friesen.

The Church of the Brethren was a contributing sponsor of Inhabit 2022. Due to the developing relationship with the Parish Collective, our group of 22 had a private session with co-founder Paul Sparks who facilitated conversation on the significant and dynamic shifts that have contributed to the mistrust and polarization in our communities and culture.

The conference activities and many engaging conversations inspired and challenged attendees to return to their respective neighborhoods and see those spaces with a fresh incarnational perspective and presence.

However, while the conference was stimulating, we were reminded of the reality of the times. One day after the event, Parish Collective leadership sent an email to registrants saying that several of the 300-plus participants were experiencing symptoms and testing positive for COVID. It is a reminder that the art of neighboring includes an abiding concern for our neighbors’ health and wellbeing.

– Stan Dueck is co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

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