Name: Doug Harrison:
Relationship to the Collective (or the event):
A member of St David’s Episcopal Church 787 team, and lead artist for this event: The RSVP I: How will you respond?
Describe the event in three sentences or less:
After weeks of sending cryptic teaserinvitations (an even a questionnaire), we hosted a threshold-themed interactive dinner that was carefully designed to foster different kinds of participation and engagement. We held it at artistic home setting none of the participants had been to and placed colorfully lit full sized doors in the front yard. While the environment was intentionally strange, many of the details communicated a sense of familiarity and thoughtfulness, like the graphic “name” tags that used images instead of words in such a way that each tag would only be recognized by the person for whom it was intended because it had images that were specifically meaningful to them. Rotating teams would finish and serve each course while other participants took turns answering modified versions of the now-famous, “36 Questions to Make You Fall In Love” from the New York Times.
What did you notice during or about this event?
It was striking just how eager each person was to answer what were sometimes very probing questions. Some people expressed remorse that their question they answered wasn’t as challenging as they had hoped.
What impacted you the most?
The evening was framed by three videos created to drive the theme of the event – that we were standing at the threshold of being a community. During the final video (set to the music of P!nk’s “What About Us?”) a few people were moved to tears, and not necessarily people I would have originally expected. It really seems like we were collectively consenting to move closer toward each other in our relationships. We actually crossed a threshold.
What impacted you the least?
Several aspects of our creative planning did not succeed. We lost musical playlists, had technological failures, failed to print some essential elements of the event, but the energy and courage of the participants quickly demonstrated that what we really wanted to happen, was happening. Small, butstressful, problems melted away.
What about this event struck you as spiritual and/or carried spiritual significance for you?
Many people opened up about some personal things including their families, struggles and spirituality. Some questions prompted people to share affirmations with someone else at the table and they were quite sincere and carefully worded. Itwas fairly intimate at times. The best sign was at the end of the evening, rather than expressing gratitude on the event organizers, people were quite emphatically thanking each other and their openness and participation. People took chances and made connections and it really paid off.
What new or next thing, if anything, did this experience inspire you to do/be/or try in the future?
We were already hoping that people who had attended this event would want to take leadership in planning the next “RSVP” event. Several people expressed interest in doing so that very night. It is a great opportunity for people to identify and use their gifts in a way that gives them joy, while also discerning where we are as a group and how are gifts can shape and experience that evokes a response in those who attend (hence the tagline: “How will you respond?”). We can produce interesting and engaging experiences using the gifts of the people who show up and we can use them to help people reflect on and respond to what God is doing in us as a group. Meanwhile, we will be practicing discernment through the whole process.
How would you like to see The Collective craft a follow-up or a response to this event or experience?
We have a really unique mix of gifts to work with. We have a strong spiritual leader that has established a culture of openness, acceptance, and safety. Members of our team also have knowledge of how to intentionally crafter transformational experiences and not just entertaining events while still relying primarily on the gifts of the people within the group, (and recruiting outside young adults who have gifts that would be appropriate for a particular experience – this is also part of our outreach). We would like to keep doing more of the same while letting other branch out into deeper discernment, awareness of each other’s giftedness and skills, and I hope we can eventually empower other groups and churches to also think creatively and engage all the gifts of their members.