The PC(USA)’s ‘New Way’ podcast features The Faith Studio’s founder
by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service
“I like to refer to us as church adjacent,” said Gina Brown, founder of the new worshiping community The Faith Studio, describing how people respond when she outlines the three tenets of the community as “connect, inspire and explore.”
“Most of the time, people say, ‘You’re a new worshiping community? You know … you’re a church.’” In response, Brown insists that the studio is “an ecumenical, digital, diverse, interactive, dialogical conversation” where people don’t have to think exactly the same way. “This is a space where people of no faith, or people of faith who have been rejected from the tighter, more narrow idea of church can come and ask questions.”
This week, Brown was interviewed on the “New Way” podcast as part of its miniseries on technology because being open to innovation in technology, not just new ways of thinking, is important to sustaining such “a space of diverse learning, diverse thought, diverse people and walks of life.”
Brown’s conversation with the Rev. Sara Hayden, host of this podcast sponsored by 1001 New Worshiping Communities, spanned two episodes. The first debuted on Thursday and covers what Hayden described as “the kind of attention it takes to welcome wisdom in the room, the role curiosity plays in transformative spaces” and how the people in Faith Studio “sort out the role religious traditions may play in their story.”
“We’re big on conversation, short on preaching,” said Brown, who described herself not as the pastor but as a “community steward,” more participant than authority figure.
“There’s a level of disappointment that people are experiencing when they’ve spent their life doing this thing in a particular way and it’s not working for them, but they’re scared to say that it’s not working for them. What I’m finding a lot of the times, it’s not the God thing that’s not working. It’s the traditions and the rules and things that have been set up … that’s not working. But it’s very difficult for people to separate tradition from theology,” said Brown.
The Faith Studio has been featured before on the “New Way” podcast in its 2022 season. Hayden attends each online community she features on the podcast to discern each one’s unique vibe and identify best practices of creating safe and sacred space. In the introduction to her conversation with Brown, Hayden described the diverse, digital community as “one of those precious spaces where we are seen for who we are and feel able to fully embrace the complexity of our story and emotions.”
In the second episode, which drops Nov. 23, Brown described her Caribbean background, growing up deeply rooted in intergenerational community, and how that informs how she navigates the realities of digital spaces to create a community grounded in love and authenticity.
“I was a child of my parents’ and my grandmother’s community. I was accountable not just to my mom and dad, but to my uncles, my aunts, my nana, my nana’s girlfriends; accountable to so many different people who were there for my nourishment, to build me up and help me to grow. That’s my base and my understanding. … Everyone knew who you were,” said Brown, who added that the experience cultivated inside her a sense of belonging and a feeling that many people were behind her, seeing her for who she was and pushing her forward. In contrast, Brown described the experience of “bootstrap-pulling” in America as isolating and overly competitive. “That doesn’t make very well for living in community,” opined Brown.
“We live in a world where we’re not taught that there could be multiple rights. We live in this binary understanding, and so something’s gotta be right and something’s gotta be wrong,” but Brown seeks to hold many truths at once at Faith Studio. To do this in a digital space, the community focuses on listening and curiosity. People are invited to talk about why they’ve come to the particular gathering and to offer something of themselves to the space.
The cultivation of shared storytelling and seeking understanding helps to maintain the multiplicity of meanings at Faith Studio. “One of the things I’ve found,” said Brown, “is that it’s very difficult to point fingers at people after you’ve understood their story.”
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