In January 2023, we launched a new program called “Courageous Conversations,” a series of public conversations. Through this series we seek to create a regular space in which to engage folks in our area on a range of pertinent questions facing our country and community. Each conversation, we’re tackling a different topic in the hope of creating opportunities to face hard, uncomfortable, high-stakes questions, together, in healthy, generative ways that stoke our curiosity, illumine our perspectives, and make space for real difference.

Conversation #4: On Gender Identity and Expression
On June 27, Pride month, our fourth conversation explored gender diversity, faith, and spirituality with the Rev. Dr. Donnie Anderson. Drawing on decades of ordained ministry and her own experience transitioning to become the woman she is, Dr. Anderson helped us to contextualize efforts around the country to restrict gender-affirming care by bringing her own scriptural, theological, and personal insights to bear.

Conversation #3: On the Morality of Abortion
Our third conversation, on the church and abortion, took place on March 28 at 7pm. Our conversation partner for the evening was Elizabeth M. Freese, Ph.D, a scholar-activist currently serving as a Scholar-in-Residence with SACReD (Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity) to support its curriculum program and Adjunct Professor of Religion and Society at Drew University Theological School.

Conversation #2: On Vermont’s Housing Crisis
The second conversation was held on February 28 with the topic being “On Vermont’s Housing Crisis.” Our conversation partner was Peter Elwell, the former Brattleboro Town Manager. Mr. Elwell lent his voice and insights to a constellation of issues related to the housing crisis, helpfully outlining the challenges in a clear, accessible way and shedding light on organizations and groups already doing great work in this area.

Conversation #1: On Christian Nationalism
Our first conversation, on Christian nationalism, was held on January 31. Our conversation partner was Erica M. Ramirez, Ph.D, a cultural sociologist specializing in American Pentecostalism.