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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!

Shelly Denmark
Director, Crave Orlando

#CraveFLA

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.

 

Meghan Killingsworth
Director, Crave Sanford
meghan@cravefla.org

#CraveFLA
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CraveFLA
Instagram: www.instagram.com/CraveFLA
Twitter: www.twitter.com/CraveFLA
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/CraveFLA

January 2019 – Sade Adeyemi


I spent one of my first few hours as a Crave Leader in tears. Here I was, in a room full of ambitious, established people dedicated to their respective causes and making major moves within their communities, and I, a recent grad with bright blue hair and little experience in the real world, was still figuring out my path. In this room where I sat between a nonprofit’s president and an executive director I felt like I did not fit the idea I somehow formed of who an ideal Crave Leader should be. I turned to Michele and said, “I don’t belong here. I think you made a mistake.” Nobody has ever told me so adamantly how wrong I was. She told me I seemed to hold a wisdom beyond my years, and invited me to be vulnerable. Taking an unprecedented leap of faith and embracing that vulnerability has undoubtedly been the biggest catalyst in my personal growth and self-discovery. By allowing others to intimately know me, I’ve learned so much more about myself as well. I’ve been pushed to explore what motivates me, the path that has led me to where I am now, and the steps I’ll need to take to reach my goals. I’ve been able to pinpoint my passions, and I can finally say, with more certainty than I’ve ever held, that I know who I am, and where I’m going. In the past 6 months I’ve grown out of the uncertainty that I deserved this exclusive position, and into acceptance that I am exactly where I’m meant to be right now. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and the person I have become, and the person I am striving to be every single day could not exist without the experiences I’ve had so far in Crave.


My mom always told me, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Through Crave, I’ve found more than just friends; I have an entire family behind me with my growth and best interest at heart. I have a mentor who has helped me to put my passion into words others can understand. I have a community of people who push me to explore thoughts I otherwise would’ve let slip away. I have leaders to look up to who are also doing the best they can, and who aren’t afraid to admit if they don’t know what they’re doing. Crave has given me more than I possibly could have anticipated. Every meeting begins with the sort of stillness you can feel within the very core of your being, and ends with a glow that reminds me I’m working toward something greater than myself. Crave reminds me that together, as a community, we are stronger, wiser and capable of so much more.


Michele and the rest of the Crave board saw something in me during my interviews that I couldn’t even see myself, and I couldn’t be more thankful. They recognized my craving for the greater good, and my burning desire to make a positive impact, despite being unaware of how best to apply my efforts. I have finally discovered that I am most passionate about personal development and education reform. I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to grow up to reach their fullest potential, and some of the resources and knowledge needed to do so cannot be intrinsically learned, and so must be taught. I believe that this discovery is the first of many steps I’ll need to take in order to help initiate the changes necessary to make this happen. This is only the beginning.


Chantel Aquart


January 2019 – Chantel Aquart

 

Organize – verb

 

     1. Arrange into a structured whole; order
        Synonyms: assemble, systemize, declutter
     2. Make arrangements of preparations for (an event or activity); coordinate

 

I believe that the ability to organize your life is a critical skill that should be taught to us from a young age. Knowing how to make a plan for our life, keep our personal space in order and our mind at ease while managing our daily, weekly, yearly tasks and schedules can aid in preventing enormous amounts of stress and chaos. Our lives are bombarded daily with things to do and attend to. When we have a system of organization in our life we have the opportunity for spontaneity, autonomy and adventure. Despite the amount of things crying out for our attention, being organized can lead to personal growth, meaningful relationships and a more enjoyable life.

 

Having clutter in our space, mind and time interrupts the flow of our life. This clutter causes chaos and slows us down weather we realize it or not. Our mental wellbeing and physical environment become unsatisfying compared to the safe havens we need them to be. The process of streamlining and organizing life can be a key factor in bringing us peace, calm and happiness. This skill is not something that we are born with and it’s not even something many enjoy doing. Thankfully there are professionals like myself and others that can work alongside you gently helping you find solutions for life’s clutter while gaining productivity and efficiency. There are also many online resources such as napo.net and challengingdisorganization.org which can give you some resources to begin the organization journey. The month of January is usually a good month to start this process although it will benefit you at any point during the year. Start small with a plan and believe in yourself that it can be done. If all else fails, call an expert for assistance.

 

In August of 2018 I began the incredible experience of being a Crave Leader. Since then, I have benefited greatly by making companions with other like-minded Leaders. I have received tremendous professional skill development from industry leaders as well as mentorship from caring individuals who all crave the common good. Crave is a “soulful learning container for social innovators who lead meaning-making communities” and I am so pleased to be a part of it. I have gained an extensive amount of knowledge from this experience and look forward to continued development and connections with my work, vision and mission of life organization.

 

Chantel Aquart

 

December 2018 – Bill Walker


Reflecting on those matters which have contributed to shaping my life to its present state, I begin with my family of origin, in which I was the only child born of a remarkable couple who were bright, loving, caring, industrious Methodists and whose first concern was others, rather than themselves. Throughout our joint lives they modeled those values, along with Boy Scouting and Rotary. Those institutions not only enriched my life, they set forth models of behavior and core values and disciplines which throughout my life served to guide and hold before me values of the highest order.


We seem to be in one of those times in history in which our culture is awash with change, and in which the direction of change is unclear. Perhaps it is a time in which we have thrown out the bathwater and are unclear what happened to the baby which was in it! That is, we are collectively casting aside that which we knew was useful, albeit imperfect, with no collective clarity as to what will replace. When I think of those institutions which amidst the communities I have lived, I am not clear who I would be without their influence. I am reaching the end of my life, but my children and grandchildren “have miles to go” and out of my devotion to them and their best interests I want to contribute meaningful to the transition, as denying it is futile.


Crave is seeking to form itself as a helpful thing to one important group of this new world, and that is leaders who crave a deeper understanding of themselves and who wish to participate in forming the modeling of the new world what will aid themselves and others to thrive in spiritual health, perhaps the essential component of a leader.


If you would like to learn more or wish to join in supporting the next generation of spiritual leadership and belonging, I welcome you to reach out to me directly via email and follow Crave’s journey on social media at @CraveFLA.


Bill Walker
Founding Board Member
Crave, Inc.