Earlier this month, 20 individuals from throughout the U.S. and Canada completed the 2014-2015 Leadership in the New Parish certificate program. Leadership in the New Parish, a partnership between the Parish Collective and The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, is an imaginative, collaborative, and transformative program in which leaders and practitioners join together to passionately engage the intersections of God’s story, their personal stories, and the stories of their particular neighborhoods. Designed as a practitioner think-tank, the program seeks to equip participants for innovative missional work that transforms neighborhoods and revitalizes local churches.

LNP-3Leadership in the New Parish (LNP) combines The Seattle School’s model of relational hermeneutics grounded in personal narrative with the Parish Collective’s vision of reimagining the church through place-based solutions. Participants are challenged to engage the desires, woundings, failures, and triumphs in their own stories, develop innovative skills to engage the stories of their neighborhoods, become more boldly attuned to God’s work in their local contexts, and grow in their capacity for relational presence with neighbors.

The program combines teaching, personal reflection and discernment, collaboration with a wide network of practitioners, and hands-on experience. Four weekend intensives, ongoing small group conversations, and generative readings all function to support each participant’s organic experimentation and theological reflection in his or her own parish. This model is in contrast to the traditional, hierarchical educational structures in which abstract scholarship is the final product; instead, the imaginative ideas of scholars and the grounded discoveries of practitioners are tools that equip LNP fellows to continue the gritty, beautiful work of pursuing shalom in their neighborhoods.

LNP-5One of the cornerstone experiences of the program is the parish tour, in which LNP fellows are led through a particular neighborhood, hearing stories about faithful practice and presence and dreaming together about how local churches can pursue the Kingdom of God in particular contexts. This year’s final parish tours were in Tacoma and Portland, including visits to Tacoma Catholic Worker, the Lincoln District in Tacoma, Corina Bakery, the Springwater community in Portland’s Lents neighborhood, Southlake North Church, The Oregon Community, and more. The group was joined by LNP Fellow John Pattison, co-author of Slow Church (one of the primary required texts) and Tony Kriz, storyteller and author of the new book Aloof.

“What a year! Congratulations to the Leadership in the New Parish 2015 Fellows,” says Paul Sparks, a co-producer of the program. “We can’t wait to see the continued stories that will come from all of your parishes in the months to come.”

If you are interested in joining a growing collective of pastors, lay leaders, churchgoers, theologians, entrepreneurs, community developers, and place-makers who are passionate about weaving together individual narratives, the stories of local neighborhoods, and the ongoing work of the Kingdom of God, then we invite you to join us. Learn more here.