Truth from the Italian Stallion

written by

To quote Rocky Balboa, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.”

Over the last month, we’ve shared some of our biggest highlights since embarking on this placemaking journey. There has been much to celebrate, and those wins have certainly stoked our passion for this work.

Yet there have been considerable challenges along the way as well (and there are undoubtedly many more ahead!). While only the most masochistic among us enjoy the pain and suffering produced by the challenging seasons of life, wisdom beckons us to recognize that such seasons are often the most refining and, ultimately, fruitful.

In the weeks to come, we’ll share some of the challenges we’ve faced the past few years, and the obvious place to start is the pandemic. We won’t rehearse all the ways COVID disrupted life as we knew it. But it provided a unique storm for us, as the renovation process for the Center of Belonging project began literally right as the pandemic hit.

On the one hand, it was the ideal time to gut and renovate a space since it was minimally disruptive to users of the building. That was the silver lining.

However, once the renovation was completed in the fall of 2020 and it came time for the partner organizations to inhabit the space, the reality was that none were ready to do so. No one felt safe to step back into public spaces during that stage of the pandemic.

Which meant that for the first year-plus of its existence, the Center of Belonging sat largely…


Hardly the picture of belonging we envisioned when cultivating the space.

And the truth is that even when the worst of the pandemic lifted and we began resuming some of our previously “normal” patterns, many things (permanently?) shifted from in-person to virtual. Which meant that some partners who had initially planned to meet consistently with clients at the Center of Belonging rarely did so.

In fact, we eventually lost our biggest organizational partner because of the way the pandemic disrupted their services and hampered their ability to work from the Center of Belonging.

Writing transparently, we’re still discerning all the ramifications of post-pandemic life for Flourish’s placemaking work. We all believe that in-person interaction and physical spaces of belonging are still vitally necessary, and we are seeing the Center of Belonging slowly but surely come to life. Yet the convenience of more and more services and interactions being housed digitally is stretching our placemaking imagination to uncertain (though exciting!) new places.

We resonate with Paul’s words from Romans 5:3-4:

“We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance,
which shapes our character. When our character is refined, we learn what it means to hope
and anticipate God’s goodness.”

(The Voice translation)

While it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, the pandemic has undoubtedly strengthened us; and God’s goodness in the midst of these challenges has furthered our resolve:

the work of placemaking is as important now as it has ever been!

With hope,