Bob Wegener’s Agape 40th Anniversary Reflection

Photo by Skip Schiel,

A community needs a place to gather.  These days that gathering has taken on new ways of gathering remotely and that has allowed for many benefits, but all said and done, we long for gathering in person.  There is a power to physical presence that captures more senses, puts us on the same ground and creates a sense of place that doesn’t happen digitally.

As one of the many people who helped to design and build this place we gather at today, I’m here to talk about that endeavor.

I met Brayton back in 1983 and Suzanne soon thereafter at the Paulist Center in Boston and gradually became more involved in the world of Agape (yes, even then it had many dimensions!).  This meant youth ministry, a prayer and reflection group known as the Wednesday night group, death penalty outreach, nuclear weapons witnessing and more.

I had no background really in any of this, but was trained as an architect, yet the power of grace kept pulling me into new territory.  Isn’t that how grace often works? 

Then in 1985, my architectural training and the flourishing needs of Agape intersected when Brayton ask me to help them think about building a home near the Quabbin Reservoir.

I vividly remember the meeting.  Brayton had thought about it and had done some research on modular houses, thinking it would be economical and manageable for people who had no experience with construction.  And when I say no experience, I mean no experience!  Like, I’m not sure if they even had a hammer that had been used for anything other than banging on the nose cone of a nuclear warhead!

I suggested we think about designing a house, which eventually led to thinking about actually building the house, which led to my wife, Tara, and I buying their house in Brockton and me spending a summer on this land clearing the trees and helping to build the bones of what would become Francis House.  I had some experience with building, but it wasn’t something I did regularly and my real construction knowledge was limited, so much help was needed.

To build a place for community you need a community that believes in the mission.  Enter Alden Poole, Dan Lawrence, Wayne Petrin and an unending stream of experienced and novice building volunteers over that first summer and into the following year.  This community house was built by community.  I look at this place and these buildings and think, how did this ever happen.  This isn’t possible.  And yet here it is and here you are.  A community with a place to gather!