Visual facilitator Avril Orloff captured the stories and themes of Connecting for Community throughout the gathering. Held at the Cincinnati Club, the conversation was facilitated by thought leaders Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, Angeles Arrien and Harrison Owen. Photo April Doner
New World Story Emerging
Cincinnati gathering reveals alternative narrative for community

CINCINNATI – His eyes sparkling, Vancouver high school student Adam Wray described what’s resonating with him after being part of a three-day gathering in Cincinnati last week.

“I’m going away inspired by not so much the speaking, not so much the actual conversations but discovering all these people here who all have light and they all have something they want to do,” Adam told Axiom News.

Adam was one of a couple teenagers to join the 150 people from around the world gathered April 24-26 to share stories and wisdom on the theme of “connecting for community.” 

A member of the student council at his school, he has been grappling for the past year or so — often through conversations with his father — about his leadership role and what it means to create a community.

They both agreed that this gathering could be a place to delve into those questions more deeply.

While he’ll be thinking more on what he experienced, Adam is also now planning to attend a California event on transforming education in the summer, as a result of a connection he made with participant Ward Maillard, who works in an alternative education system.

Adam’s ultimate dream is to transform education in Canada and he says after attending the event this feels a little more possible.

“Coming here to this place where people are thinking dangerously and revolutionarily, has been really inspiring for me to continue thinking along the same lines and believe my dreams can become reality.”

As Adam’s response and many other stories that came to light in the course of this gathering show, a new world story is emerging. It is bubbling up in nooks and crannies of diverse fields of action.

The referenced media source is missing and needs to be re-embedded.
  Edgar Cahn also participated in the gathering. Photo April Doner

It is happening in social services, where people who have a disability are at the centre of neighbourhoods and communities reconnecting.

It’s happening in the work of the church with possibility-oriented, small-group conversations whose intent is the restoration of humanity.

Participant Edgar Cahn has been teaching and advocating for time banks, a structure for people to exchange their time rather than money,  for 20 years. There are now more than 800 time banks around the world. They are often strengthening communities. Conversations around the exchange of people’s gifts in time are sparking more liveliness, curiosity and authenticity than monetary transactions.

The new story is an interweaving of many stories. Some of the themes participants shared include:

  • Inviting art back into the centre of our lives in a way that builds community
  • Architecture that humanizes us
  • Developing protocols and ways of being together so there is surprise and aliveness
  • An alternative way of noticing the world
  • Seeing gifts rather than deficiencies
  • Restoring our sense of connectedness
  • Understanding that healing power arises from the low, from the grassroots and not from “royal protocol”, the protocol of the dominant narrative.

The dominant narrative or Pharaoh’s narrative, as Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann described it, is all about being faster, better, cheaper and doing “twice at once.” Its image is that of a production/consumption machine and its mantra is that no one has done enough yet . Its communication currency is memos.

But though Pharaoh’s system has a huge grip on our imagination, “we are watching its waning power,” Walter said.

People are departing for “the wilderness,” where stories and connectedness, alternative ways of seeing and hospitality offer promise of healing and restoration.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)



One of the great resonances of this gathering was the clarity. “What should we do?” is no longer the question. Folks understand we need a new paradigm shift, a new narrative that reflects reality. That new paradigm was evident in the gathering. Now it needs to permeate the larger culture, which it will surely do in its own time.


wilderness, indeed! 

wonderful job captuing this jam-packed extravaganza of deep thinking, deep connecting and deep opening into new possibilities for all of us. You all are doing such great work in shifting the narrative. Thanks for this excellent article!


~ April (C4C participant from Indy)

Thank you April! We are so grateful that you allowed us to weave in your rich and unique contribution too, both blog and photos. Hopefully our paths will cross in the future and we can do this again!