October Letter from Executive Director Kelsey Rice Bogdan

Dear Friends,

It hits me as soon as I walk into the room: the loud chatter of folks settling in and catching up with fellows from other houses, the sight of the candle-lit altar in the center of the room, sometimes the scent of incense floating on the air mixed with a coffee aroma. All of this buzzing energy is held by the clean white walls of the the training room at 40 Prescott Street, decorated with praxis posters and Dorothy Day quotes. Coming back to this room on the first day of Orientation this year, my third with Life Together and first as its executive director, I felt a palpable sense of how much collective memory this space holds for our community. When I was a fellow, we spent every week together in this same training room, perfecting our public narrative skills and tallying turnout numbers for our latest events on large sheets of butcher paper. Since then fellows have practiced Centering Prayer together; put on NVC jackal and giraffe ears; told River Stories of struggle and strength. Every time I come into the training room, I remember those moments and feel the “cloud of witnesses” that has brought their own unique gifts and challenges to Life Together. And I know I’m home.

Yet home isn’t really a static, fixed location; people create home. And this year’s fellows are actively shaping a home at Life Together, both within the training room and beyond. I think of our evaluation space during Orientation this year, regularly full of snaps, shout-outs and other affirmations for one another. I remember fellows’ willingness to “try on” meditation in the blazing summer heat. And I know the care and intention with which they’re digging into community life within their houses.

All of this culminated for me in a “Storytelling Slam” dinner we held in late September with Bishop Alan Gates here at 40 Prescott. Rather than arranging tables, we ate the Bon Me dinner out of our laps, sitting in our customary circle in the training room, with meditation pillows scattered around the floor. In the soft light of the training room, fellows began to share-- questions about vocation and call, stories of surviving and thriving, poems of pain and hope. After each story or poem, we held a space for people to resonate by sharing what in the speaker’s words touched them. And as I sat there next to Bishop Gates, I realized that this was anything but a church event of small talk and tired smiles. This was sacred space, the kind of deeper home in community that many of us long for and rarely find. That is the kind of home our world so desperately needs.

At Life Together this fall, fellows are actively creating home: in their intentional communities, in their site placements, and yes, here in the 40 Prescott training room. In this month’s newsletter, fellow Eliza Marth finds glimpses of God’s dream for justice in the gifts of home, while alumna Laura Shatzer, ‘14, discovers a deeper practice of the school of love by building community with people experiencing homelessness.

As we begin the work of building community this fall-- coming home to ourselves and others-- I’m grateful for all the ways in which our broader Life Together community of alumni, partners, and supporters sustains this group of fellows in that work. Thank you for helping to make 40 Prescott, and Life Together, a home for so many prayerful and prophetic leaders.

Blessings,

Kelsey Rice Bogdan