Panel discussion – how other groups have moved or changed

We had a Panel Discussion to hear about the experience of other communities as they moved and changed.  Our panelists shared very moving and relevant experience.  Here is an audio recording of the  Panel their comments and the discussion that followed.  Thanks to Nancy Smith for capturing the highlights of what the panelists shared about their communities.


We were lucky to be able to meet at the Leaven community, away from our regular places ofo meeting.

For the Leaven Community, La Veta Gilmore Jones:

This building was built in the 50’s, the addition was built in mid-60’s when the congregation was growing, neighborhood too. In the 80’s the neighborhood was primarily African American; that shifted in the 90’s, impacted the congregation, African Americans left. Congregation started to age out. They realized that the church going to die. Began process of conversations. Hired outreach pastor and a community organizer. Talked w/ cong about what they wanted. Decided to create affordable housing, but market fell out in ‘08 and were unable to. Sold property to invest in finding out who’s in the neighborhood and who are we. Major effort of listening and discerning etc.

Decided to use consensus process. It all boiled down to trust. Had to build trust. Exhilarating, scary started new congregation. And form Leaven community, a separate nonprofit. Place to be spiritual, love and build community, bottom up, act together to create public systemic change. Now creating affordable Housing. Salt and Light Lutheran is within Leaven Community. Both agreed to not do anything that would put the other in jeopardy.

For Dharma Rain,  Kakumyo Lowe-Charde:

I have been involved with Sharma Rain for about 25 years, mostly on Operations side. 5-8 years ago, two abbots were talking about retirement and area near our existing Hawthorne location getting more dense. Too small to hold everything. Decided to look for a new location and to have more comty situation, think about community involvement, and refine the succession plan. I became project mgr for finding a new place. Worked hard to build consensus. 200 ppl in sangha. About half were regular attendees. Others more distant. Lots of meetings to build consensus. Looking for 2 diff locations, one out and one in town to hold all programs. Sangha voted down.  We looked at warehouse spaces, and nobody like the idea.


Looked at the back half of landfill off 82nd. Not positive response to past 82nd or on a landfill. Research zoning, planning, fundraising plan. Sangha felt overwhelmed. Board hotly contested. Voted to purchase 4 to 3 in favor. We bought it.

Been there for 5 years, all programs running on site, fully functioning, now relaxing, letting it hold them. Sanghas vision shaped what we wanted to do there, part of the neighborhood, a community resource, involve diff groups, have a strong monastic container, where the lay sangha could step in and out — all shaped what we did with the site.  The site shaped the sangha too. 14 acres, an asset for people finding a way in. 

We have adapted how we do things – forms, teachings.

Institutional change — before you knew most people. Still 200-ish ppl, but the dynamics are more cohort based activity, depending on the day of the week they can come, that’s where intimacy of sangha lies.  

There has been a big leadership transition. I’m now the  abbot. Gradual transition over 6-7 years. Now we’re there. Practicing together for a long time similar to Shambhala. Lots of voices that carry weight. So much is holding together the sangha. 

We stuck necks WAY out there.  It was absurd financially, risky. Co housing never materialized. Backer pulled out.

Clarifying to sangha to change a lot. Diff location but same practices, our sangha is fine. Very important for people to see.

For KCC, Linda Besant, Assistant President of the Board:

40 years moving to a new space. Similar discussions as to what we had today. Had “Search, renovation and move” committee.

Smaller community, have spiritual connection with a monastery in India, no higher rules or direction. Financial and risks are up to KCC. 1976 founded at suggestion of Kalu Rinoche. Few years bought house, purchased by a few members. Very quickly paid off the mortgage. Started w ground of owned house. 1991 started to outgrow it. Conversations about moving. Moved 2016. Had community meetings, time to move? What do we want if we move? Space considerations finally persuaded them to move. Spent significant $ to rent a bigger place.

2000 strategic plan. To purchase urban center and retreat center. $2million, 3-1/2 years. Takes a long time. Need realistic planning mind.

Decision to do the retreat center had priority, move put off till that done. Felt that the existing space was sacred, imbued space with practice, afraid to leave some people. Lose sense of community worried.

Promise to Board keep 6 months of operating reserve. Have 108 sustaining members give money monthly, email list of 1K people, can be a member if you feel KCC is your spiritual home, no dues. Lots of volunteers, who are always stretched to limits.

Board spent down reserve to buy and fix up new building. Went down to 6 weeks in reserve. It has come back up now, but were terrified.

John Jennings, leader of many committees: long period of planning, formed a committee to get it done. Created search committee, then a purchase committee, then a construction committee. Similar criteria to Shambhala’s. Prioritized criteria, work from top down. Searched everywhere within boundaries based on where people lived. Looked at warehouses which were all snapped up when marijuana was legalized.

Boundary expanded. No one wanted to go past 82nd. Westside was a logistical challenge at commute times. Lents, new construcctions v. renovate. New construction was prohibitive financially. Zoning critical barrier, restricts what can do in the space. Decided not new const.

Searched hundreds of churches or assembly space. Used a broker who specializes in churches, Mary Brown (which Shambhala has worked with). Most churches were nightmares mainly because they had not been well-maintained and were too expensive to fix. A dog “Bodhi” of a sangha member found the place we eventually moved. Was rented to current users, owner wanted to sell. Asking price was close to selling price of old house. 

Had to renovate before moving in. So had to stay where you are till done. So, paying for two, didn’t have the money from the sale. Some members of the community were willing to loan us money to keep going. Bridge loans. New location is at 49th & Skidmore. Beyond our boundary, but good location, streets, public transit. Had structural problems.  Always need to look for asbestos, earthquake upgrades, accessibility, oil tank, zoning. No zoning restrictions unless you put store in church. Can’t run it as a hotel. Renovation took thousands of hours, hundreds of bodies, ran into structural issues, lots of perfectionists on committee, still dealing with challenges in operations.

Moving really hard. Takes labor, very emotional, so much to do to move, took months, reorganizing, packing up. Be sure to stay for a while wherever you move. Worried that we would lose the core of our practice in the move. Did not happen like that. People felt the continuity right away – put up familiar thangkas.

Huge amount of new energy and opportunity and people from new neighborhood coming, space rewarding, new resident lama. Steadfast and rewarding to have all these changes.

3 year retreatants came out into new space.

Question: We have a major crisis in our lineage now. What stands out to you in your transition about the collective psych about cohesive state of sangha?

DR: We had several major crises during this time. Kyogen (former abbot) died after construction started, then we ran out of cash and couldn’t build the building. Stopped for 6 months, then started fundraising. More dissonance came up, people moving in diff directions but it didn’t change overall momentum. Leadership basically trusted the direction of moving/building, felt we could ride out the other things. We listened to people’s reactivity, absorbed it, and it normalized, people became more open and authentic. People needed to spark and we listened. It took 6 years for the new abbot to fully take his seat, didn’t push it.

Leaven – Melissa left suddenly (pastor and co-director) and had only 30 days to process. Crucial is knowing we founded in 2013, young organization, how do we define ourselves asking a lot. This past year we found the language to understand who we are in the world. Helped her remind the cmty to say who we are (on tape good descr.; not in notes). Looking at all their criteria, posted on the wall, the single thing that was part of each one was being a relational culture. That was recognized as their biggest criterion. If they keep their eye on that, the rest of it will happen.

KCC: kerfuffles around resident lama change and moving. Have confidence in the dharma in the West. Maintain equanimity of our practice and let people spark around us, confidence there working. Confidence has integrity at heart of sangha. Strong core.

Here is an interview with Teri Rowe, the current director of the Open Sky / Eugene Shambhala Center:

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