To highlight our newest certificate program – Leadership in the New Parish – we conducted an interview with people who are doing the work of understanding the mission of the church through their neighborhoods. First interview is with Lisa Carlson, one of the creators of Aurora Commons and graduate of the MATC program.

The mission of the Aurora Commons is to provide a safe place of hospitality along Aurora Avenue where we seek to grow the relational capacity within our neighborhood so that, as we care for one another, we may share space, resources and the fullness of life. The Aurora Commons does this through fostering community, facilitating holistic renewal, and bridging resources.

Sometimes it is difficult to describe to folks just what the Commons “is.” It is difficult to express because we are guided by our sense of place on Aurora Avenue and by who we encounter in any given moment in this particular corner of the world. And everything is always changing – I’m always changing, you are always changing, the seasons are changing, the nature of this universe is forever in process. The Commons exists to be a space where everyone can play out their dynamic human experience in the midst of a safe, nurturing environment with people that desire to love them and be loved back in return.

If we are to be connected to the rhythms of place, then we are refusing to be like other set structures and social structures that have treated the bulk of individuals that come here as transactional.

For the bulk of individuals that come to the Aurora Commons, everywhere they go they’re treated as transactional. In most of their experiences it’s “Take a number, fill out this form, wait in line, do such and such service.” Even a lot of churches go with this model where they have one way of helping people because it is so hard to deal with complexity and inconsistency of each individual story.

We’ve recreated systems and structures social service that are seen in other churches, but that respond to the individual need. Because we are allowing inhabiters to be creators and co-contributors to what we do, then it’s a lot more dynamic. Life is never dull here. With the Aurora Commons, we become who we are through the people that come here.

One of greatest examples of who we are is by our kitchen. We have a communal kitchen and we stock the refrigerator by putting out list of food items. We also ask our friends and Commoners to bring food here. It’s all of us stocking fridge. Some of the Commoners who come who don’t have homes will get food from the Food Bank.  It creates an invitation for everyone to be a part of the Commons’ kitchen. So someone will say, “Hey I’m going to the Food Bank, and I”m going to get eggs and ingredients” The food is communal is here.

Our only rule is if you make food, make it for more than yourself.

At the Aurora Commons – and everywhere, really – we are all in need of one another, whether we know it or not. Whether we are housed or not housed, addicted or not addicted, abused or not, lonely (and we all are) or not lonely, we need one another. I am a person of great need – and the Commons was created just as much for me, as it was for anyone else.