Storydwelling Reflections on 2020

Letters from the Board + Staff

December 2020

Friends, Partners, Allies:

It has been an unusual year to say the least. In the last eleven months, our hearts have broken over and over again and missed one another deeply in ways few of us, if any, had ever before experienced. As the Storydwelling Board of Storytenders, we entered 2020 imagining what the next steps for our budding community might be. A building, a childcare co-op, more expansive involvement in socio-political advocacy, all of these possibilities and more captured our hopes in the early days of this fateful year. Over the next several months we made the transition from planning for Erika’s maternity leave, a challenge we gladly accepted - celebrated even, to managing pandemic-forced quarantine, race-based civil unrest, and the ever-deepening polarization of political discourse in our nation.

Each obstacle seemingly unmovable in its own way, these challenges sucked up the majority of our collective energy, demanding more time for logistics, emotional processing, and communal re-imagining. In all these ways and more, 2020 has been a year for grief and has tested the endurance of our Storydwelling community like never before. Fortunately, though, and without even knowing it, we had been preparing for just such an occasion. For months and years prior to COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder, and even before overt bullying became the normative disposition of our nation’s highest office, we had been choosing to practice grief and gratitude as two sides of the same coin. We had begun to learn to commune together in the deep knowing of our human condition and to embrace our pain as the necessary and only path to authentic love, community, and hope in our world.

So here we are, nearing the finish line of the calendar year, exhausted by far too few hugs and far too many Zoom meetings, holding on to the hope of what’s to come, as the first followers of Jesus did. We choose to believe that no death represents the ultimate end, not the death of joyfully singing together, not the death of treating others with dignity, not even the bodily death of our beloved brothers and sisters. Always new life is springing up out of the inevitable deaths we endure, so we continue to hold our eyes and hearts open to receive and re-create the goodness, truth, and beauty bursting into being all around us.

Greg Lamont,

Board of Storytenders

Winter Gathering 2020

As you read this letter, feel your breath and celebrate you are alive in 2020! As the world makes history with so much heart breaking news, celebrate your life and be thankful for what you have! As a Storytender with Storydwelling, I must remind myself of this more often because it's so easy to complain and feel like I'm on my journey alone and isolated during a pandemic, but that is truly a lie. I hear people say they want 2020 to be over, but it's not the year to blame, it's my perspective to evaluate every day to choose to live and not wish away this year and time.

How do we digest all this negative input coming in? We don’t do it alone, that's my answer! As we are discovering in mega fashion, we are not meant to travel this journey alone. For me, this community is a down-to-earth and grounded group of loving and non-judgemental people who are made of the same ingredients we all are. We are a growing group making a positive difference in a time that needs light and love. A place where you can be, worship, breath, rest, rejuvenate, connect and share your story!

Kelly Ripley,

Board of Storytenders

Winter Gathering 2020


What a year, huh? I have felt the shifting axis of our world and context in my body: a global pandemic, the inadequacy of our systems to respond and keep us healthy; uprisings in the streets for Black lives; a fraught presidential election; and local movements for justice and equity. I have felt these things in my body.

My personal axis has shifted dramatically too: Tom and I gave birth to baby Theophilus on March 14 in a dramatic and intense way. Then I returned to work to find that the ways we gathered and did life together as a community were very different. My call was different.

I have felt this year in my body in brand-new beautiful and heart-breaking ways.

But when I have found myself overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and sometimes just “over” all of this shift and change, I remind myself: this is all about relationship. Every single thing. Which is, really, a no-brainer; Jesus embodied relationship in every story we steward. And so our gatherings, our organizing, our advocacy and activism, our very faith expressions-- they all about relationship. I think you will sense that in reading this annual report. Relationship is at the center. And relationship has, does and will continue to ground the Storydwelling community. Relationship is why we are thriving.

It was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received to be able to take a generous three-month parental leave when Theo was born. The community held me and us, even as it continued to do the work we set out to do together. My time away without worry or concern feels like a great testament to the tightly woven bonds of relationship that this community embodies. Ministers of new and young communities often spend a lot of time wondering, in the words of Gertrude Stein, “Is there a there there?” Those three months of leave proved to us that, yes, there is a there there and it is a body of love, power and deep connection.

In gratitude,

Pastor Erika

Summer Gathering 2020


When Erika brought me in as Storydwelling's musical leader in August of 2019, part of what resonated, I think, is that we both believe that making music together can be a powerful way to both forge and strengthen bonds of community. Indeed, my background as a community songleader meant that my sweet spot was inviting people into our natural ability and birthright to make meaningful sounds together. "Singing is just talking slooooooowed down," I would say on Sunday mornings.

At first I think this was an adjustment for our growing congregation. Indeed, many PNWers, in my experience, are not used to singing together. As we gathered, I grew in my ability and confidence to invite people into singing and the congregation started to know moments of full-hearted harmony, moments that soothed, that lifted spirits and for a little while helped everything else drop away. I primarily chose music from a cultural revival of aural tradition songs, music with inclusive language and repetitive poetry for Storydwelling's circle-based, participatory way. I remember singing a groovy version of Debbie Nargi Brown's Do Not Be Dismayed on Christmas Eve last year, our voices filling the Monkless taproom, remembering the “technology of belonging” that is a group of humans singing together.

Then the pandemic started. Singing together was all of a sudden not an option. I began inviting folks to sing-along via zoom. It is not the same. Still, we found ways to get creative, singing over a 'drone' note that we all could hear, sometimes even passing a well-loved song like Laurence Cole's You and I around the Zoom, each person or pair or family singing one refrain, still feeling that sense of "we're in this together." But it was challenging. And, at least for me, the socially distanced in-person gatherings presented a whole different set of problems. I shifted to more performance-oriented song selection, growing outside my comfort zone. Erika and I found contemporary, relevant music for the season of Chrysalis we were in. Some folks told me they really loved listening to live music, something that became rare in 2020.

Going forward, we know it won't be safe to sing together in person again for a while. What I hope for Storydwelling is a small group of committed people who work together to create socially distance-able, beautiful music for our community. A group that meets outside of Sunday mornings to (safely) develop harmonies and rhythms that can hold us in our fullness. I also know there are increasingly creative ways to sing together virtually (including sign language, which we've dabbled in) and I hope to employ some of these next year. Finally, I envision an accessible compilation of the relevant, inclusive-language songs we amassed this past year so the community has a way of knowing who we are in song, bringing songs to our homes and, when necessary, onto our streets.

In peace,

Eoghan Carrick,

Storydwelling’s Leader of Music & Song

History of Storydwelling

It is important to remember our story! In 2017, leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church, alongside local congregations Nativity Lutheran and Bend Church, put their hearts and heads together to call on their denominations to invite a pastor to Bend in order to listen to and accompany people in the larger community. Erika was called as the pastor to this work, ministry we now call Storydwelling, which has become a faith community, public sacred spaces, and a multivalent network of friends and neighbors standing in allyship for the sake of justice. The ELCA and UMC have continued to financially support this community, for which we are grateful, and the reins have been handed to new, emerging leaders whose hearts have found their home in this community.


In late 2019, a group of mothers gathered in the living room of a Storydwelling leader. “We can’t do this alone,” they said. “This” being the hard and beautiful work of caring for young children while also pursuing meaningful vocation. ReVillage was born in that living room.

After a year of promising starts and difficult interruptions, Storydwelling--in partnership with First Presbyterian Church-- will midwife ReVillage into the world in early 2021 as a new nonprofit.

ReVillage’s mission is to ensure that all Central Oregon families have the care and opportunity they need to thrive in work and in play by cultivating affordable, accessible, equitable childcare cooperatives, empowering parents, cultivating community, and advocating for system-wide, family-friendly practices and policies.

Our first co-op will root in First Presbyterian Church and employ two full-time teachers. Parents and caregivers will commit one day a month to serve as teacher’s aides, bringing the cost of ReVillage tuition down to 75% of the average childcare cost in Bend. We trust this model will not only make quality care affordable, but it will also create community among families so they can build power for the sake of our vision.

As of this writing, ReVillage is engaging in capital improvements to the space, recruiting and orienting board members, cultivating relationships with families, building partnerships with government entities, and crafting its founding documents.

Immigrant + Racial Justice

Our community’s faithful commitment to immigrant and racial justice, whose seeds were planted in the very beginning, grew to new places in 2020 as our hearts were broken and our spirits agitated to step into allyship with the movement for Black lives in our streets, courthouses and legislative chambers. We began to see in clearer ways that anti-racism is a way of doing community, not simply a committee or a meeting. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to Bend, Storydwelling folx showed up in defense of our neighbors. And in partnership with Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, Storydwelling birthed two Sacred Circles that meet bimonthly to deepen the spiritual work of antiracism and commit to public action together.

Rallies + Protests in Bend, Summer 2020

This year, Storydwelling participated in meetings with local lawmakers to advocate for more just systems of policing; we partnered with activist groups to host public vigils, sacred space and art to accompany Bend’s BIPOC community; we were represented on a statewide strategy table that kept vigil during a volatile election season, as well as a local table called to hold space for restorative justice in local court cases. Because of the financial investments our people have made in the Storydwelling community, we were able to leverage funds to create over $6,000 in contributions to the Oregon Worker Relief Fund to support immigrant families affected by COVID and wildfire.

We lobbied our legislators to extend the moratorium on evictions as the pandemic forced more and more Oregonians from their homes, and we endorsed our first ballot measure: Measure 110, which made Oregon the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs.

This starts to look like a laundry list of all that “we have done.” In reality, the work of continually learning allyship alongside immigrant and BIPOC communities is humbling, requiring ongoing repentance, study and relationship-cultivation. The work will never be done until all are truly free. We commit to this work as a way of life and The Way of community.

Our Partners

The following partners were instrumental in midwifing Storydwelling into life in its early months:

  • The Oregon Synod of the ELCA
  • The Greater Northwest Area of the United Methodist Church
  • The community of Nativity Lutheran Church
  • The community of Bend Church UMC

We are grateful to call the following organizations and communities partners and collaborators:

  • Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice
  • NeighborImpact
  • Cascadia District Church Extension Society
  • Clergy for Justice - Central Oregon
  • Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest
  • Interfaith Network of Central Oregon
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Unity Community of Central Oregon
  • Sunriver Christian Fellowship
  • Creator Lutheran
  • Prince of Peace Lutheran
  • Grace First Lutheran
  • Leaven Community
  • The Flame
  • Together Lab

Gatherings that are Touchstones

In 2020, we continued to practice weekly or biweekly, public, sacramental gatherings to deepen relationship, play & rest, practice spirituality and weave our own stories together with ancient ones. Story and song, bread and wine! But this year has also been all about adaptation.

Enneagram Learning Early 2020, Outdoor + Zoom Weekly Gatherings

Tom and Lindsay Airey of Kardia Kaiomene continued to gather us by Zoom through the spring as COVID became a real threat to public health, and we now gather both virtually and outside, taking every safety precaution. We have always intended to be a faith community that responds and adapts to the hard and beautiful realities of our world and context, and this year brought that intention to fruition.

New leaders guided an evening on the Enneagram; our Shameless womxn’s circle gathered in a new space in late winter to uncover the intersections of body, spirit, love and justice; smaller circles of intention formed over the summer to practice vulnerability and intimacy around the fire or around the outdoor crafting table.

Whatever expressions our gatherings take, we always return to relationship, which is at the center of faith and practice.

Summer Gathering 2020

Storydwelling by the Numbers

* Partnerships represent the financial power we were able to invest in other organizations and movements that align with our values, like the Oregon Worker Relief Fund, REACH, and our denominational partners.

“You and I drink this water,

You and I breathe this air.

You and I walk this holy ground.

You and I live here.”

Laurence Cole

Created by: Storydwelling Creative Team 2020


Created with images by ponce_photography - "crayons coloring book coloring" • WokinghamLibraries - "picture books subject"