creating containers for beauty, justice, community & healing

this past week was a really wild one. i know i say that a lot, but sometimes there are weeks that stick out above others as truly over-the-top.  this week wasn’t nearly as brutal emotionally as some have been, it just happened to be jam packed with the weirdest combination of starts and finishes and parties and memorial services and celebrations.  i finished facilitating a class at denver seminary for spiritual formation & soul care students & started teaching my first online bachelor’s degree course to make a little extra money, my kids are wrapping up school & i am starting to get really excited about my favorite time of year:  summer!

and throughout this week i kept thinking of how beautiful life together in community can be.  and what can happen when together we create open & safe spaces for people to share, love & listen to each other, celebrate & heal.  to use our voices, share our stories, our passions, our journey.  these spaces don’t have to be complicated, well-planned, or filled with all the bells & whistles.  they certainly don’t need to be controlled or over-programmed.  they’re  just simple intentional spaces–where two or more are gathered–where connection with God & each other & ourselves has a place to happen.

the words that have been whirling around all week are beauty, justice, community & healing. i experienced them all in different ways this week in a variety of containers.   i thought i’d highlight a few that stuck out.

  • friday night was our first voca femina share party.  we had it at a friend’s house in boulder; it really was the perfect spot. we had a mixture of women, ranging in age from 12 to 70! (that was one of my favorite parts), a combination of share-ers and just watch-listen-soak-in-the-beauty-ers.   it was a wild mix of book excerpts, monologues, artwork, jewelry, live music, spoken word, & other creative endeavors.  we didn’t manage or control it.  we just asked women to put their name on the list, and we’d let the evening flow together.  it honestly couldn’t have been more beautiful.  from the first to the last piece shared, i think everyone there was amazed by how much strength, creativity, passion, and beauty was in the room.  for me, as a dreamer & cultivator of voca femina, it reminded me of how important it is  to have venues to express ourselves & be challenged by each other’s voices.  it was also so fun that my daughter julia participated & shared a powerful monologue that electrified the room; my mom came, too, and shared how she wrote her life story & how healing the process has been.  you can check out some pictures on the voca femina site.  i shared a mixed media collage that was created from our launch party a few months ago & a spoken word piece that i wrote last week.  oh, it was fun just letting it rip on friday night!  my mom & daughter re-recreated it yesterday with me so we could put it on the site but i like all kinds of performance pieces, you kind of just had to be there.  still, i thought i’d share it with you here, just for fun.   it’s an mp3 file called:  they rattle they roar they rob.


  • one of the things i am most proud of about the refuge community is that we share,.  every week different people facilitate, in all kinds of combinations and ways, not just at our weekend gathering but at our houses of refuge, too.   and what’s so beautiful now is that we have created a safe enough culture so that people can say “hey, i want to take a saturday” and have freedom to just go for it.  this year we are focusing on big words together at our weekend gathering.  we are currently doing “justice”.   this past saturday eve my dear friend paul romig-leavitt who is part of our team facilitated a benefit concert called “songs for our babies” with a focus on human trafficking.  it was his blank canvas.  we raised over $1,400 for stop the traffik and had an incredible experience together laughing, listening, painting, soaking in God’s heart for justice and mercy.   during the last few songs all of the little kiddos came upstairs & were dancing and twirling in the front.  and i thought in this moment, “this is what happens when you make space for someone to create what’s on their heart.”
  • about 3 years ago i started a group that i like to call the “ex-good-christian-women-breakfast-club.” it is a weird combination of my rebel friends from all a wide variety of situations who have been emerging from the good-girl christian stuff over the years.  it has turned out to be one of the highlights of my month.    different friends facilitate, we eat, we laugh, we cry, we say crazy things out loud that are swirling around in our head, we gain courage & strength to keep pressing toward change.  it’s fresh on my brain because we met yesterday morning.  my point in sharing this:  there is absolutely nothing special about this group.  we don’t have a curriculum, a plan, a leader, a goal.  it’s just a simple sweet 2 hours once a month to hang out with other women, an easy but powerful container for beauty, justice, community & healing.

i could go on and on, but i think what i am thankful for today is a community that gives the microphone to everyone, that creates a space for people to  use their voice, share their real story, facilitate communion, lead a conversation, celebrate their victories.  everywhere i look i see these little, simple, amazing, powerful containers for beauty, justice, community &  healing. and the best part is what happens in those containers can’t be contained.  in fact, what we learn, gather, glean through all of these experiences ends up spilling out all over the place.  the kingdom extended.  beauty, justice, community & healing infiltrated in all kinds of mysterious ways.

yeah, for me, that’s church.

if you have some stories of containers you are experiencing filled with beauty, justice, community or healing, i’d love to hear about them!

* * * * *

ps: well it’s a few months after the fact, but i did finally write a re-cap of a panel discussion at february’s convergence gathering in portland on the emerging women site:  a lot of wisdom in the room. i just shared a few of the highlights i wrote down.  i think many of the things shared related to women in leadership are also appropriate to churches, too.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Great words kathy! thanks for the shout out but the evening wasn’t have nearly as successful if it wasn’t for the culture that The Refuge has cultivated. I’m simply one of the people who is so grateful for the photosynthesis God has orchestrated using all of our broken crap. The room was so full of beauty.

  • sorry for the typos. here’s what I meant:

    Great words kathy! thanks for the shout out but the evening wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if it wasn’t for the culture that The Refuge has cultivated. I’m simply one of the people who is deeply grateful for the photosynthesis God has orchestrated using all of our broken crap. The room was so full of beauty.

    There, that’s bettter…. dang it!

  • Kathy, I about jumped out of my chair when I read about your “ex-good-christian-women-breakfast-club.” I have had something swirling around in my head for months now and you just gave it a name for me! Oh, I just love, love, love it! Is it just totally free form, eat and gab? Details, woman, details! I really want to do this….thanks for giving it a name!

  • paul – yes, i am so with you. the culture that has been created makes room for that much beauty! thanks again, though, for giving your heart so freely & passionately. we were all moved!

    tracy – yeah! i have all of the “stuff” we’ve done over the past 3 years. i’ll email you! i’ll be glad to share what we’ve done…the focus has always been on freedom, passion, courage, strength, honesty…i am excited to hear what you might be cooking up!


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