Introducing Shelly Denmark
I knew the Crave community was something special the moment I entered the second floor of the East End Market. There was a sense of closeness and connection and common purpose among everyone present. It was evident from the way Michele, the Crave leaders, the Board members, the Mentors, and other support partners interacted with one another; they were deeply invested in each other’s lives as part of a spiritual, meaningful community. I have tried to capture what Crave is and what Crave does when sharing about it with other people, and yet, there’s a magical element of needing to experience the Crave community in some way for oneself in order to grasp how the Spirit is moving. I am beyond thrilled to join Crave as the Director for Crave Orlando III, and I am confident that this transformational, hope-inspired community will continue to thrive and expand to new cities in the future.
To understand why Crave had such an impact on me in that particular moment, you’d need to know a bit about my recent history. Last fall, I decided that I would take a break from serving as a pastor in a local church, starting this summer. There were many reasons for my decision, but mainly I had a hard time seeking balance in a system that oftentimes is set up for the contrary.
Underneath it all, however, I felt a holy discontent. There was something about the way we have “done church” all these years that felt like it wasn’t working anymore, nor able to carry us into a new, creative future. Some say that mainline churches in the United States are in a “Reformation” moment. Many churches are in decline with many things needing to change, but a lot of leaders aren’t sure what those necessary changes looks like. To borrow from Tod Bolsinger in Canoeing the Mountains, we are in a “Lewis & Clark” moment. We have to adapt and innovate. Enter Michele Van Son Neill and Crave.
Around the same time that I was feeling this urge to do something different for awhile and have more time to devote to my family and overall sense of wellbeing, Michele and I had a two-hour mutually-beneficial conversation. We felt a similar need to find balance as spiritual leaders and mothers, we both sensed that ways of “doing church” in the future looked radically different from the models we have now, and we were set on encouraging one another to take brave steps in order to address both of those issues. A few months later, we had another conversation, and Michele invited me to the Crave II graduation to get a better sense of an alternative way for churches to connect with people who are already transforming the world. I was hooked, especially after applause in the Crave community meant a standing ovation! And I am even more excited, having read the stories and projects of our Crave Orlando III applicants who are engaged in meaning-making work here in Orlando. I can’t wait to learn from them, support them, and journey alongside them this year!
Director, Crave Orlando
Announcing Crave Sanford!
Next Up: Sanford!
I have long been aware that my generation gets behaving and belonging before believing (to borrow some words from the brilliant Rev. Ben Collins). I know that intimately because that is part of my own story, even in realizing I was called to ministry. If you asked me when I was 21 if I wanted to be a United Methodist pastor in a local church, after laughing at you, I would have mumbled some curse words under my breath and rolled my eyes at how irrelevant the church is in solving the world’s real problems.
25,000 kids die globally of preventable diseases and hunger every damn day.
2.5 million kids and youth experience homelessness in the US every year.
Even though the Fair Housing Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed 50 years ago, our neighborhoods are still painfully segregated.
Fresh out of college, I worked full-time for a shelter for youth under 21, and I gave approximately zero cares about believing anything that didn’t lead to some kind of liberation for 18-year-old single parents living under bridges and in bus terminals. What I did care about though, was deeply investing my life and my passion into making the world a better place for them and for all of us.
Now I realize that’s a pretty run-of-the-mill experience for folks who have gotten burned out on organized faith, but often not on Jesus, the pursuit of a beautiful belonging, or the desire to make Good in this world.
After a few years at that shelter, I reached what is called “Compassion Fatigue” by people who know what they’re talking about and I ended up in a therapist’s chair because my best friend loved me enough to call and say, “Yeah, Richard? Its an emergency.” I realized that I would not survive without a community that literally carried me on the roughest days and a deep abiding formation that could connect me to Something Bigger than myself. That’s when I began to grasp what “the church” should be and could be: a place of belonging, formation, and enacting goodness now.
This is why I’m so excited that Crave’s next home will be in Sanford, Florida, where we can create a space to ask:
What does it mean to commit to a place and a people in a transient, globalized world?
What would it look like to gather with other folks trying to make the world a better place, even if they’re still figuring out what they believe along the way?
How can folks who so often create belonging for others (i.e. the world-changers gathering, growing, healing, investing, incubating, innovating) find a place of belonging for themselves?
How can the church invest in the big dreams of people who may never join their church but have already joined the mission to bring Goodness here, now?
We’re not sure about the answers, but we’re excited to ask these questions and more in Crave’s next cohort of spiritually curious world-changers in the best town in Central Florida: Sanford. (Try to fight me on this if you want, but you’ll see: we’re awesome).
Want to learn more? Let’s grab a coffee or a swing on the waterfront and dream together.
Director, Crave Sanford
January 2019 – Sade Adeyemi
January 2019 – Chantel Aquart