by Josh Packard
It’s been an amazing year to be thinking and writing about Dones. I’ve had the great privilege to hear a lot of incredible stories. Many of them were deeply moving, and I’m sure I’ll never forget them. There is one thing that cuts through the hundreds of emails and comments I get from people about this project. More than anything else this year, I’ve heard expressions of gratitude. People have reached out in all ways to thank me for showing them they aren’t alone.
There is a danger in naming anything. As soon as we place a label on something, it runs the risk of being commoditized or labeled as a problem to be “solved.” Certainly, I was cognizant of that when I started doing the research for Church Refugees. Ultimately, though, it was the number of people who were telling me that they felt isolated and alone in their experiences as Dones that convinced me this story needed to be told and that people deserved a way to identify themselves.
If The Dechurched Project has achieved anything over the last year, it’s been to provide a sense of common identity for people who are desperately trying to figure out what it means to develop, nurture, revive, and live out their faith outside of the institutional church. I’ve been encouraged time and again as I’ve traveled to talk about and present Church Refugees. The level of intentional dedication and seriousness with which the Dones take their faith is simply astonishing.
It is my sincere hope that 2016 continues these very fruitful conversations and that well-meaning people can continue to find ways to be involved in local faith communities. Together we can do more good than any of us can alone. God knows that my own faith life has been greatly enriched through community, and I hope that Church Refugees continues to help people come together to develop their own relationships with God.