It was at a meeting of St. Agnes’ in Little Falls’ Listening Excursion team that Deacon Deborah Drake suddenly got the idea for an experiment.
“I just came up with the slogan We Dwell, We Dwell – kind of hip hop, you know – and everybody liked it.” So Drake designed and ordered T-shirts from VistaPrint.com.
The congregation of St. Agnes’ has been regularly Dwelling in the Word using Luke 10:1-12 ever since Drake and three members attended the Listening Excursion Kick-Off on March 4.
Drake was already familiar with Dwelling through her work as a Going Local coach, but for the other three team members – Michelle Borden, Nancy MacDonald and Amy Allen – this was their first exposure.
“They got really excited about it and thought that it was time to go on a journey,” she said.
After attending the Listening Excursion Kick-Off, the St. Agnes team introduced Dwelling not only at all vestry meetings, but also after coffee hour every Sunday.
“We set up folding chairs, and whoever wants to join us, joins us,” Drake said.
Drake has also used Dwelling in place of the sermon during the service. After introducing the concept and then reading the scripture, she went first, “just to give an example – that it didn’t have to be some big, profound statement.”
Because they were constrained by sitting in pews, the congregation didn’t pair up as is the typical practice. Instead, they did Dwelling as a group, and whoever felt moved to speak up did so.
The congregation will continue to do Dwelling in place of the sermon on fifth Sundays, when the service is a lay-led morning prayer.
Team member Michelle Borden also led the congregation in Dwelling at the start of their Annual Parish Meeting.
Drake says the congregation seems to feel freer to speak up during Dwelling when it’s held outside the context of a church service. About the Annual Parish Meeting, she says, “We had more people speak up, I think because it was a less formal atmosphere.”
“Even at the church service, afterwards people came up to me and said, ‘You know, I was thinking this but I was shy about saying it during the service’,” she added.
In addition to Dwelling, the team members have also invited members to sit for an interview about their life at St. Agnes.
"We want to hear stories about the past and present, to help discern where God is calling us in the future," Drake said.
As for the We Dwell T-shirts, Drake plans to share them with the members who come together for Dwelling in the Word after church on Sunday, as well as the vestry. She sees them as a conversation starter.
“Even my husband said, ‘I don’t think people are going to know what We Dwell means,’ and I said, ‘Well, then that will be a good intro.’”