By David Greusel

Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend that was so deep and rich that your greatest desire was to have the same conversation again? So I felt as I journeyed home from Faith & Work 2.0, a conversational experiment staged by ServingLeaders in Pittsburgh this month.

Although similar conversations are cropping up around the country at the Kern Family Foundation, Laity Lodge, and of course the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, Pittsburgh is becoming a hothouse for rapid growth of these seedling conversations about faith, work and their intersection. This particular conversation stretched over two days, morning till night, and when it was over, I was ready to start it again.

Sean Purcell, conversation visualizer at Faith & Work 2.0

Sean Purcell, conversation visualizer at Faith & Work 2.0

The conversers were several dozen thoughtful workers: some clergy, mostly not; some visitors to town, mostly not, but all with a shared interest in vocational stewardship. All share a strong sense that the conversation about vocational calling needs a broader hearing both in the local church and in the church broadly speaking. In fact, many participants spoke with passion of the need to start, restart, or amplify the conversation about vocation in their own churches, which represented a wide (though not wide enough) swath of evangelicalism in Pittsburgh.

This was a conference in the truest sense. Most of the “conferences” I have been to, either in my work as an architect or as a churchman, have in fact been serial presentations punctuated by brief Q and A sessions. This was a conference indeed, where most of the time was spent in discussion with friends old and new around the topic of how faith leavens vocation. As one participant, Nate Wigfield, succinctly put it, “Work is the primary arena for spiritual formation.” Nate may have been quoting someone, but his summary was as apt as it was brief.

Faith + Work 2.0 presenters Kirk Botula and Darrin Grove, on disagreeing with each other.

Faith + Work 2.0 presenters Kirk Botula and Darrin Grove, on disagreeing with each other.

Nate, by the way, works in a restaurant and catering company called Bistro to Go that is a great story in itself, one that you can learn more about here.  Birthed out of a local church, this small café not only beautifies a gritty urban neighborhood, it redemptively trains and employs at-risk youths and recent offenders. And worries that it’s not doing enough to redeem its neighborhood.

But apart from hearing stories like Nate’s, the value of the conversation was in the opportunity we all had to share sincerely, without the artificial armor of success or pride, how our faith informs our work, and to ask sincere questions about how it should. Stripped of boring PowerPoint shows and inspirational videos, participants were able to get real, get personal, and be honest about their struggles. Every story I heard about a stressful startup or a strained marriage was met with the understanding nods I imagine one hears at a twelve-step meeting: “Amen, brother.” “Been there.” It was these moments of transparency that made the conversation so rich and worthwhile.

There is also value in knowing that others have been exploring this space along with us. It was great to hear two Pittsburghers, Darrin Grove and Kirk Botula, trade anecdotes from their work leading different kinds of companies. Quite apart from valuable lessons learned, it was wonderful to see how men of faith had measured their own decisions against what they understood God’s design to be, not always coming to the same conclusions.

David Greusel explaining an element in the design of PNC Park

David Greusel explaining an element in the design of PNC Park

A personal highlight was leading the group on a tour of PNC Park, home of the resurgent Pirates and a building I helped design at the turn of this century. The ballpark stands as evidence, for better or worse, of one architect’s attempt to seek the welfare of the city in the most concrete terms imaginable: real concrete, and steel, and stone. PNC Park was abuzz with playoff hopes the night we toured, and I think the entire group was able to sense how even a playground for millionaires can bless and enrich the life of a city, irrespective of the faith commitments of those present.

The big takeaway from Faith & Work 2.0 was a familiar internet meme: More of this, please.

"David Greusel the architect who designed PNC Park, enjoying the fruits of his labor with the people and city he built it for." (Dwight Gibson, who took this picture.)

“David Greusel, the architect who designed PNC Park, enjoying the fruits of his labor with the people and city he built it for.” (Dwight Gibson, who took this picture.)

David Greusel is founding principal of Convergence Design, a nationwide architectural practice focused on public buildings. While with another firm, he led the design of new Major League ballparks in Houston and Pittsburgh. He is a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

Comments are closed.