Posted by Taylor Chazan

This is the third installation in our series, where each of our nine Board members answer the same set of questions, once a month, for nine months. We hope it’ll help you to get to know us better, and also see where we align and how we’re different.

1. What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know me very well, so I can express some fundamental aspects of my person. I am a curious, constant learner and a creative problem solver. A common question asked of me when meeting people is, “Are you a professional [topic of conversation]?” With rare exception, the answer is no. Therefore, I am, apparently, a nearly universally amateur everything. Also, I am exceptionally good at math, which is a trait both much less useful than you probably expect and useful in ways that probably would surprise you. Lastly, for shock value, I am a big fan of trance music.


2. What has been a spiritual turning point for you?

When I was 12, I had a clear and distinct moment of self-actualization. (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs did not apply, as I had thus far achieved few of his preceding needs.) I understood myself, for the first time and in great contrast to my prior understanding of self, to be an independent being with primary influence over and significant control of my consciousness, beliefs, and actions. The external moment was trivial, but the internal transition occurred quickly. I have been dealing with the aftermath ever since.

3. What is your greatest sorrow and/or accomplishment?

As this is a public blog, I declare my greatest sorrow to be none of the internet’s business. Using my sense of honesty to overcome my sense of humility, I say with absolute confidence that my greatest accomplishment is that I am a fantastic parent. Love, patience, and respect are key ingredients. While those feelings can be challenging to apply, children inspire me.

4. What is the best advice that you’ve received or given?

I try to incorporate a variety of advice and constantly pursue additional advice. Here’s a timeless piece that lives large in my heart. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” On the flip side, among the worst advice I’ve received is, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough” (or simply “good”). While not universally in error, it is typically a bludgeon used by the incompetent to enforce mediocrity or worse. Argh.

5. What book had a major influence on you?

Books tend to be too narrow in scope for any single book to have a major influence on me, though Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies stands out. For efficient incorporation of new ideas and viewpoints, I instead prefer to read articles. My favorite books are generally fiction, as I need the escapism. I am a huge fan of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

6. What inspired you to become a Board member?

Most proximally, the nominating committee asked me to apply. This highlights an underutilized tool in getting people to do what you want them to do: try asking them. More fundamentally, I am an institutionalist. One key role of the Board is that of stewardship. Neighborhood Church was here long before any of us. With proper leadership, it will continue to be here for generations after us. I accept the (shared) burden of that responsibility.

7. What would you tell someone new to Neighborhood Church?

Welcome to this community! Expect the freedom and resources to search for your truth and meaning, and accept the responsibility to help others in their search.

8. What is one way that you try to live the Seven Principles?

Our first Principle resonates with me the most. It is both our most liberating and our most challenging principle. I stretch myself by considering the least dignified among us — to me, those are powerful people who abuse their power — and searching for their worth and dignity.


2 Responses to Meet the Board: Donovan Steutel, Board Secretary

  1. Sue Iri says:

    What a great summation – I’m so glad to know more about you!

  2. Suzanne Smith says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses to these interesting questions! Your comment about perfection being the enemy of the good struck me. I have spent much of my life hesitating to act, out of fear that the results won’t measure up. For me, that advice has proved an admonition to “just do it, already!” But your critique is equally valid: a reminder that we can all see the same thing so differently!

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