10 years!?!

Before this week ended, I wanted to celebrate an important milestone that some of you heard about on Facebook and in real life while others may have no idea about–The Refuge, the mission center and Christian community I co-pastor, turned 10 last week!

We’re a whole decade old!

In church planting years, it’s a little like a 50 year anniversary. Considering we are a weird, wacky, unconventional, egalitarian, and not-connected-to-a-denomination one, it’s even more of a miracle!

Oh, the past 10 years have been filled with so many stories, so much sweat and blood and tears, so much beauty, so much joy, so many harsh realities, so many tender moments (and so many gray hairs and wrinkles for me, too).

I feel extremely grateful for all that I have continued to learn through being part of it from the first dream of it until now.

There truly is a huge difference between building a church and cultivating a community.  A lot of time when you cultivate a community, you may look like losers and get really good at shrinking, too, in the kinds of ways that are sweet reflections of the Kingdom of God here and now.

To me, this is what “church” is all about–creating glimpses of heaven on earth.

We had an amazing party on April 3rd to celebrate, and it was so good for my soul (you can see some of the pictures and videos on The Refuge Facebook Page). Hearing stories, seeing pictures, listening to people from Denver who aren’t part of the daily life of The Refuge but are our dear friends and co-collaborators, recalling fun memories, laughing, celebrating, seeing pictures of friends who have died and new babies who were born. It really was glorious.

I could go many different directions with this post but I landed on giving you a little taste of our community in a simple way because it makes me smile and reminds me of why I’m still here.

During our gathering we shared a quick Top 10 Ways You Know You’re at The Refuge.  When several of us quickly brainstormed them, there were way more than 10 so I thought I’d share the 10 we had for the party and the other ones that got cut out. As you read them, remember, don’t judge us 🙂

Top 10 Ways You Know You’re at The Refuge:

10. You arrive on time and no one is there yet.

9. Every problem can be solved by writing “hope” on a rock.

8. You might perhaps know someone’s Enneagram number before knowing their last name.

7. People play cut-throat Bingo for dollar store prizes.

6. Someone’s phone rings and they answer it and start talking during the service.

5. You somehow always find yourselves eating fried chicken, cake, or gluten-free communion.

4. Someone asks you, “So what is The Refuge anyway?” and you have no idea how to answer.

3. When Halloween is the biggest service of the year.

2. You baptize people right next to a sign that says “Don’t go in the water.

1. You’re always celebrating something.

Here are some of the other ones that we didn’t have room for:

  • Our patron saints are Brene Brown, Melody Beattie and Henri Nouwen.
  • Instead of hearing “goodbye, see you soon” when you leave an event, you might hear “Good luck with your therapist this week!”
  • When 1/2 of the annual budget comes through the mailbox from folks who care about us.
  • You keep returning to an annual camping trip, even though you have endured almost all the biblical plagues over the years.
  • If we collected money for every time the term “faith shift” was overheard, our offering would double.
  • Kids sometimes out-number adults.
  • People share raw, honest stories spontaneously.
  • In some way, shape or form, you end up lighting a candle.
  • When Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists get to share their beliefs in a group of Christians.
  • When you invite people to come visit you always warn them, “Um, be prepared because this isn’t like a regular church and you never quite know what’s going to happen.”
  • One Sunday a year is a Disco Dance party.
  • Santa Reads a children’s book on Christmas Eve.
  • Our contemplative space can convert to a yoga studio.
  • You are just as likely to hear people talk of drug, alcohol, and sexual addiction as about Jesus.

If we asked everyone who has somehow been part of The Refuge, there would be countless other ones but hopefully this gives you a little glimpse.

Oh, I do love our community!

Most of all, it is a gift to be part of a community where dignity and God’s image in people is always being restored, equality is normal, no story is too hard, and everyone gets to play.

I am also extremely grateful for all the ways people love and support and pray for us from afar.  There’s no way we could have made it this long without such an amazing web of support and care.

If you want to listen to more about what we’ve learned in this past 10 years, Karl Wheeler and I did a Faith Circus episode centered on a look back and our hope for other people and communities desiring something different, too.

To wrap up, here’s my quick, unedited, one sentence summary of the past 10 years:

Even though I’ve wanted to throw in the towel thousands of times, all the vulnerability, blood and guts, time, failure, good and bad, hard and beautiful, has been totally, completely, utterly worth it. 


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.

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