Congregational Death/

Community Life

Exploring the challenge and opportunity in institutional death. 

Why is it so hard for congregations to just die? And is there anything to this "life from death" thing?

Pastor and professor Rick Mixon and Sympara cofounder Daniel Pryfogle take up these critical questions as thousands of religious communities go out of business while many more barely hang on, resisting death for reasons other than mission. In a series of live online conversations, Rick and Daniel explore the difficult work of death that is essential for life through a composting of psychology, theology and personal history. Each session includes a Q&A.

Upcoming series:

Session One: The Personal and Communal Work of Death

May 4, 2-3 p.m. EDT

How does death shape us? Rick and Daniel talk about early experiences of death in family and congregation.


Session Two: The Peril and Promise of Death

May 11, 2-3 p.m. EDT

Why do we deny death? Rick and Daniel consider psychological, cultural and theological responses to death. Read Daniel's short essay "Resisting the Death of the Temple."


Session Three: The Practice of Death

May 18, 2-3 p.m. EDT

How do we go through death as community? Rick and Daniel reflect on lamentation, liminal space, and discernment of new life.

About Daniel and Rick:

Daniel is cofounder and CEO of Sympara. For more than 20 years, Daniel has guided congregations and organizations in discerning the "new thing" which the Spirit creates with them. That new life, he says, always requires letting go and embracing death. Daniel's perspective on institutional death is shaped by the prophetic tradition of Judaism and Christianity as well as new science, poetry and the lyric of Genesis (the band): "We've got to get in to get out."


Rick is pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto. He has led the congregation through a multiyear discernment process and embrace of death. The church is nearing the end of that journey, which will result in sale of the church property and gifting of the proceeds to various ministries. Rick is visiting professor of pastoral care at Berkeley School of Theology. For more than four decades, he has counseled individuals facing death and preached the good news that death is not the last word.

In memory of Sympara cofounder Marcie "Sister Wildfire" Giarrizzo (1948-2019) and member Desmond Hoffmeister (1960-2016).


© 2019-2021 by Sympara, Inc. Fiscal sponsorship by Berkeley School of Theology. Design by SAVVY LN.