Wondering Conversations Report

What We Hope For: Core Values & Projects

Report on our Wondering Conversations, February – March 2017


St. Dunstan’s Church is exploring whether we are called to undertake a capital fundraising campaign to update and improve our buildings and grounds. The heart of that discernment process was a series of Wondering Conversations, held in February and March – small-group conversations to reflect together on where God is at work among us. We especially wanted to learn where the congregation feels that our facilities do, and don’t, serve our shared life of worship, fellowship, learning and service. Over seventy members participated, either in person or online, yielding a large body of data. This document summarizes what we heard from the congregation.

What did we ask? 

The Wondering Conversations consisted of five questions.

  1. Think of three words that describe St. Dunstan’s, for you. A graphic based on your responses to this question is below! 

2.  Where do you see God working at St. Dunstan’s, right now? Where do you see potential, hope, excitement, and room for growth?

3.  Pick ONE concrete idea that you’ve heard or thought about for a possible capital campaign that really jumps out at you. Why do you think it’s important?

4.  It’s five years in the future, and you’re telling a friend about your church. What would you love to be telling them about?

5.  Did you hear any new ideas or perspectives in this conversation? Do you feel that you heard the Holy Spirit speak?

Recorders took notes at every conversation, and those notes became the body of data that we analyzed to produce this report. Nine people helped with this analysis, looking for the central ideas, projects, themes and hopes from all our responses taken together.  We found a great deal of consensus in our work, because the core themes present in the data were so clear.

What We Hope For: Core Values & Hopes

In the course of discussing these questions, people talked about many core values and hopes they hold for St. Dunstan’s. These ideas are more abstract and overarching; these are what we hope a capital campaign would ultimately help us live into more fully.

  • Openness, spaciousness, and safety
  • Embracing and empowering of those who come here – welcome, support, affirmation, and call
  • Worship and discipleship – nurturing faithful minds, hearts, and lives
  • Nourishment and community
  • Creativity – making and doing
  • Care of creation
  • Service and connection beyond ourselves
  • Sustainability and balance, in terms of all our resources and capacities

What We Hope For: Core Priorities & Projects

In addition to overarching hopes and values, we also heard strong consensus around a set of five core priorities. These are the areas of greatest interest, concern, and hope for our household of faith, as we think about the church we are, the church we’re becoming, and how our buildings and grounds can help or hinder us. These core priorities overlap, and many particular projects or changes we might undertake as part of the capital campaign would fit more than one of these priorities.

1. CORE PRIORITY: Space to worship, play, eat, learn, and make stuff together

What you said… 

“I see hope in the church’s openness and willingness to create a variety of sacred spaces.”

“There could be freer play for some of the energy that’s already present if there was a different flow. We’re trying to do a lot of different things at one time, like say on Sunday, and we’re kind of jockeying for space. We’ve got more energy and more action than we can actually physically accommodate, and I would like to see some of that set free.”

“We really have a problem in the sense that we can’t get the congregation together in one area. The pancake supper is coming up; we’ll be spread out over several rooms, and we’ll be elbow to elbow.”

“[We have] a two-butt kitchen, if that.”

“We need more space, period.”

Possible Projects… 

What might this look like? Some possibilities include:

  • Changes to size, layout and flow of building spaces, especially on main level
  • Multi-use meeting and classroom spaces
  • Large gathering space where the whole church can eat together
  • Kitchen renovation
  • Updating and enhancing the nave, including new seating with kneelers, and refinishing the floor

2. CORE PRIORITY: Welcome of kids & nurture of intergenerational community

What you said… 

“Our kids love church… Coming to this church with a baby is amazing! People are willing to help and give parents a rest.”

“I think… kids come to church because of their friends. I’d like to be able to say to my friends, Hey, we’ve got a really awesome Sunday school and youth program here.”

“[In five years, I envision] strong community outreach for all ages…. from tutoring to sing-a-longs.”

“[I value the] interaction between generations. Kids come to church to see older people and vice versa. It’s important to keep this type of interaction. It’s the only place where many children see people above the age of 35.”

Possible Projects… 

What might this look like? Some possibilities include:

  • Larger/more flexible classroom spaces
  • Large dedicated youth room, furnished to meet their needs
  • Changing tables readily available to parents
  • Variety of meeting and gathering spaces for groups of all ages

3. CORE PRIORITY: Accessibility – in terms of safety, comfort, and welcome

What you said… 

“[In five years] I’d like to say that we have a space that is welcoming and accepting, that our space feels accessible to everyone… That they are welcome here and have the space they need to feel welcome.

“[I hope for] openness and accessibility – not just physical, but people, identities, activities. So our church buildings will reflect our values.”

“[My hope is] that we will have an easy time participating in worship and other things, physically.”

Possible Projects… 

What might this look like? Some possibilities include:

  • Bathroom renovations, including handicap-accessible and unisex bathrooms
  • Improved choir loft and lower level access for those with physical restrictions
  • Parking lot repaving
  • Safe, accessible paths from parking to church, and around the grounds

4. CORE PRIORITY: Enhance connection with grounds 

What you said… 

“We need to recognize the totality of the property. How do we bring that into use in a way that is nourishing to our community of faith?”

“I would absolutely love to be able to explore the grounds but I have no idea how I could do it… I would love to be able to see it or at least know more about it.”

“I keep feeling like outside of St. Dunstan’s is this big spacious area. We have this big yard… We always push to help out other groups. And I would say we have maybe enough land to actually do some of [those activities on our grounds] instead of supporting.”

Possible Projects… 

What might this look like? Some possibilities include:

  • Outdoor storage for tools and toys
  • Better outdoor signage
  • Usable outdoor worship space
  • Outdoor equipment for fellowship & play, e.g., fire pit, basketball hoop, play equipment
  • Columbarium

5. CORE PRIORITY: Capacity for growth of our programs and ministries – including Outreach, Christian formation, arts & drama, and more

What you said… 

“[In five years] I would love be telling [friends] about how much my church has grown, both in the way that we’ve reached out to different people and tried new things, and grown in faith…. Movement forward and around – not just staying or being stuck.”

“There are possibly going to be way more [community] needs in five years. It would be cool to say: Yeah, we’re in the thick of it, at St. Dunstan’s.”

“[In five years] I would tell [friends] that this is the place where I learned how to find my inner self, and how to share good with the community.”

“If we hadn’t made our church match the way we are, in our hearts, it wouldn’t be the presence and resource it is in the community today.”

Possible Projects… 

What might this look like? Some possibilities include:

  • Reclaiming and using the parish center
  • Better indoor storage
  • Space to accommodate a wide range of community gatherings and events, art projects, and more
  • Showers in downstairs bathrooms
  • Endowing staff positions: curate, assisting priest, naturalist-in-residence, …

What happens next? 

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be working with Engberg Anderson Architects to develop a design concept that addresses these core priorities.  When we’re ready,  later this spring, we will present the parish with a suite of possible projects, a first draft of what could become the focus of our capital campaign.  At that point we will ask the congregation two questions: Is this what we want – and what we believe God wants for us? And, Do we want it enough to take the next step towards a capital campaign? If the answer is Yes, then we may move ahead to the next phase, in which a consultant from the Episcopal Church Foundation would help us study our readiness and capacity for a fundraising campaign.

Thank you for wondering together. Please continue to keep this process, and our church, in prayer!

6205 University Ave., Madison WI

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church