A Small Group, Restoring and Reconciling Cincinnati
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Restoring St. Elizabeth's Church- Norwood, Ohio

Some time ago, while attending an ASG intensive, I was in a small group pondering one of the powerful questions: What commitment are you willing to make without expectation of reward? That question had been asked before, and I had always answered truthfully – nothing. There was nothing I was willing to do without expectation of reward. This time, I had a different answer: Restore St. Elizabeth’s.

St Elizabeth’s is a beautiful 100 year old former Catholic church in West Norwood. She has eight large stained glass windows, two rose windows, and two strained glass domes, all combining to let in a subtle natural light. She is also in a state of disrepair. The roof leaked – and was allowed to leak – for several years. She has had severe water damage, and large patches of plaster have come off the walls. Brick columns are exposed, like underlying bones.
Elaine and I attend Vineyard Central services there. I am convinced St. E’s is a Sacred Space. She is for me and Elaine, and she seems to be sacred to others as well. Visitors are always moved by her beauty and brokenness and (perhaps) feel the presence of God within her surround.

Elaine and I have formed what the church leadership calls the building committee, but we think of ourselves as the St. E’s Restorative Community Team. Our gatherings are held in St E’s to feel the presence of the Sacred Space. Whenever we meet, we use the Civic Engagement process to begin. Connection, after all, comes before problem solving. And it always works. No matter how badly – or how well – I facilitate the process, it is those who have accepted our invitation who make the meeting a success.
We – Elaine and I – love this process and how it brings people together. We have used the questions in our personal lives, and attempt to remember them whenever we are in any meeting. It is our hope that someday, the Civic Engagement process will be as natural to us as breathing.

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