Friday, December 26, 2008

On the Third Day of Christmas

Some gifts from the archives of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship:

1. December Prayers by Carl Scovel: Christ my morning, Christ my evening, Christ my noon, and Christ my rest...Transcendent truth, transform me...O God, teach me my insufficiency, then my power...Holy God, Holy River, Holy Reservoir to which my waters flow, Holy Spring from which they come, Holy Moving, Holy Mystery, Holy More than my mere words, Holy Void into which I pour my pitcher, Holy Flowing in which I love and move and am--and all this does not say yet. (after reading Psalm 46:3-4).

2. Christmas is about the coming of the Messiah. It is about the breaking through into time--our time, not just a time two thousand years ago--Christmas is about the breaking through into time of God's grace...The Christmas faith is not a faith in something which happened two thousand years ago, and it was done and over with then. We do not wend our way to the manger at Christmas to worship past history but to worship him who was called Emmanuel--God with Hoehler.

3. And as we sing our lessons and carols, this from James Luther Adams: The Christian, in singing, does more than express emotion. Like the singers of other traditions, there are songs of praise, confession, recollection, dedication, and fellowship. Hymns become forms of communion between people and God, providing a bridge that leads to the victory of the creative and recreative powers of the divine, thereby enabling us to find a new flute and a new melody such as the song the stars sang together on the morning of creation. Why do we sing? Carlyle has told us: "All Deep things are song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us is Song; as if all the rest were but wrappings and hulls. The primal element of us and of all things, the heart of creation, is music."

We are surrounded by a mighty cloud of witnesses, those who have left us the legacy of their lives and those who are with us today, supporting us and reminding us to look up where the Star of Bethlehem shines for all to see. For all, no matter what.

Creating Community One Meal at a Time

Is the title of a wonderful recent piece in Friends Journal; a call for religious communities to create relationships, move toward more sustainability, and reclaim communal eating as one of the marks of the Christian life. Raising awareness about that 1200 to 1500 mile trip on average the normal bite that goes into a U.S. resident's mouth takes and what it costs us personally and socially now and on into the future.

Envision a small group of people, some members of a church who know each other and some residents of the wider community who know each other, and some joining the group for the first time or off and on when they can, gathering on a Sunday morning in the missional center that is their expression of faith all the rest of the time, but at this time coming together around the cross and table to light candles and share the joys and concerns of their lives and the life of their wider community, praying the Lord's Prayer, singing together, celebrating the bread and the cup of Jesus, then bringing not a potluck meal to share, but bringing the ingredients of meals to share, and wherever and however possible and growing over time the ingredients will be a part of the community's "foodshed", and then all preparing together not only a meal to eat together on that Sunday, but promote preparing together a diversity of meals that could be taken home to be eaten throughout the week, creating more intentional meals of health rather than impulse eating, and/or meals that could be stored at the missional center to be shared as necessary during the week with others; coming together this one Sunday morning to help, in real, meal-centered ways, people to have less stressful and healthier days when all are physically apart from one another.

That sounds like worship to me. Children could be a part of all of it; and/or have their own version or time together during the meal preparation community. They learn that church is a community of values, resting on relationships, restoring souls for service and networking them as mustard seeds and leaven into the world. It sounds like something you don't have to have any particular set-aside experience or knowledge to do and coordinate. It can be multiplied and taken to new places and new times as needed.

This is nothing new, but stay tuned for the continuing Reformation of the meal at a time.

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Beginning Jan. 1: The Rule of Benedict

Subtitled "Insights for the Ages" by Sister Joan Chittister, these selections and commentary arranged daily in a cycle that allows you to come back to them twice more during the year, will be my daily reflection book. A good way to continue some movement prompted by the other recent works, The New Friars and Flirting with Monasticsm. Occasional reports to follow in the new year as I seek to explore ways to ground our missional being in a more monastic understanding and practice.

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Christmas Eve

Tomorrow at 11 pm we will hold our Christmas Eve "midnight" service of lessons and carols and communion in A Third Place Community Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave. A time of peace and hope, a celebration of what is being born of the divine within us, among us, and beyond us. A time to remember the night 2000 years ago when a small group gathered together under a star that shined where no stars had shined before; in a cave with stray animals coming in and out to eat, a bit of shelter where there were no inns, where a few shepherds were drawn by the gossip and by the message that here was something wonderful happening, something hard to describe, something that hadn't happened before, a hint, a glimpse that the world was about to shift just a little, a ripple of kindness spreading, a thought beginning to grow, that the Almighty could be seen and felt in an out of the way place, off anyone's map, in the lives of an outcast couple that didn't resemble respectable couples, in the wondering eyes and the grasp of a baby's hand that could hold the universe, a small fragile palm that touch was to touch Ultimate Love.

Tomorrow at 11 pm we will begin moving toward the turning at midnight of Christmas, with open doors for whomever may need a place to come and sit and light a candle on this Silent Night. Almost everything around us will be closed, except a convenience store and gas station, signs of the Empire, and perhaps a few miles away a bar on Lewis Ave. Both the station and the bar will undoubtedly have more people at midnight than we will have inside our community center in Turley. Our spirit will be with those gathered in the bar, who come to the station on their late hour drives to their other places to be, and with all those who are gathering with families, tucking in children one more time again, getting ready for the late nights wherever they are, and with those finding a place in the abandoned cars, the shelters, the jailed, the hospitals, and with those who care for them on this night as with other nights, our thoughts will be with them and with you. And for those few who are able to come to be with us in Turley at 11 pm counting down the minutes to Christmas with silence, and song, and the old old story, and the passing of bread and juice, Presence Enough, we will seek to make visible in our world now that night so long ago, when something happened that no one else but a few saw....a light in the darkness, a few souls together, an open hole in the cave to strangers, a new life.

Wherever you are tomorrow and on the day after that, know that you have a candle lit for you here, that you may take the story into your heart this season, that you are a blessing to one another and to the world, so be full of life in all its abundance and diversity of spirit that has already been given to you, for unto you this day was born a child to remind us that all are children of God, and go in peace into the places of your life and think of A Third Place, go into the places of your life and be in peace, in prayer, in passion.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Thanksgiving and Advent Church

Hi all. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Advent.

First, a few announcements then a few stories:

This past Friday was Buy Nothing Day, when we join with others around the globe in creating a counter culture to the consumerist "Black Friday" that seeks to promote affluence, appearances, and the nation's perceived GNP at the expense of the real health of individuals and families and communities. Starting at 9 a.m. we held our Giveaway Day from the donation room of A Third Place and offer our space for people to bring items of their own to giveaway to others. Our donation room works to promote this culture shift every day but we are pleased to yoke it with the annual Buy Nothing Day movement. I get more than a little "prophetic" when I keep hearing how important corporate "profits" are to our future if those are dependent, as so many are pushing regardless of political affiliation, on increased consumer spending and easier debt and disposable marketentertainmentplace values and products.

Sunday join us at Church of the Restoration, just south of Pine on Greenwood, at 11 a.m. for worship where I will be preaching on Advent and a theology of presence in north Tulsa through the mission of our churches.
And keep Sunday, Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. in mind when I will be with the Metropolitan Community Church United of Tulsa near the Airport. See

WOW: Weekly on Wednesdays beginning this Advent, on Dec. 3:
7 a.m. Morning Prayer and Midweek Meditation and Breakfast, a short period of centering the soul.
11 a.m. Bible Chat with Ron
Noon Prayer and Meal
6 pm to 8 pm Vespers Meal, Conversation, Advent Communion

Dec. 3, 10, 17 our Advent study will focus on Shane Claiborne's book "Becoming the Answers to Our Prayers."

This Thanksgiving Day was a great demonstration of our incarnational way of being the church. It was a kind of parable of us. Many churches do wonderful things on and for Thanksgiving; the line at John 3;16 mission for free turkeys stretched down the block when I went by there the other day, and I heard many stories of churches giving out food so families could make their own meals; and I know some families who passed the word that those who needed a place to eat with others could come to where they were gathered. These are part of the "come to us" type of churches, and we need more like them. But we also need more like ours, a "be amongst others" church, a go to them and learn from them, dedicated above all to creating relationships, connections, community and not just providing a handout or a service. We ate our meal with about 30 others at A Third Place, and some brought something to share too, and helped others while they were here; our new stove donated by a member of the wider community and connected by a volunteer; one of our new volunteers prepared all the place settings so people wouldn't fill like they were going through a line, and also cleaned the children's room; and people who couldn't eat with us brought food and will be around to serve and share leftover meals during the Giveaway Day tomorrow; plates of food were made and taken to those homebound during visits. We learned stories from those we ate with, and got ideas for ways we could partner with them, like the women who showed up from the local horse rescue group. We had people who had never been to the community center before too, but who will be back. A new Turley Tradition was started with this meal.

The day before Thanksgiving a man who had hitchhiked from Washington found his way to the Center to seek help in using our computers to try to find a relative in the area; a thanksgiving reunion happened at the Center.

We began our season of Reverse Offering this past Wednesday during Vespers when we distributed money to be used as people can come up with ideas on how that money can seed change in people or communities. We will share our stories in January on the Wednesday near Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is our preparation period to focus ourselves on the coming of Christmas, the Incarnation, the spirit becoming flesh, becoming meaty, becoming vulnerable, when the Spirit of God became visible in the world through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time when we enter into the story of how the divine spirit came not to the showy, the wealthy, the powerful, the resourceful, the institutional, not to any place and people where it would be expected by the world. Instead it came to a single poor young woman living in an unknown and unregarded part of the world under occupation by the world's mightiest power, when God switched sides, when it took on a human face, an earthy experience, one susceptible to all that we are susceptible to, even penultimately ending up on a cross. That is something worth following a star toward...It is something to use as a model for our lives and for our faith communities. This Advent let's contemplate how our churches and our lives are Advent-ures of an incarnational kind.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Below and off and on I have mentioned New Monastic movement, and gradually I have been drawn to the balance of missional-monastic for the vision of where we might go with our community here. A lot of this might depend on some discerning and dreaming we are doing around a possible new and much larger space, an old church building near us, but more with the desire to be an urban monastery or house of hospitality in this abandoned place of Empire we live in, as a way of creating a culture counter to the one about us, bringing back daily communal open to all public prayer, sharing of possessions and giving of them away, and our working together in service beyond ourselves. However, I am not sure we will become monastic in the sense of sharing living space on a daily basis with other members of the community, as is the monastic custom both old and new. Who knows what the future holds, but one way to move in this direction is to seek to live monastically, even if not as monastics. A recent read here in this regard is Karen Sloan's Flirting With Monasticism: Finding God on Ancient Paths. The main take-away that moves beyond the specifics of her own story is that we individually and communally can benefit from learning with and from and taking into our disciplines what the various traditions of monasticism have given us; there may be much that is not transferrable, but it is a conversation to become engaged with. I hope to revisit it here more soon. Oh, and The New Friars by Scott Bessenecker is one I might have mentioned too that has a helpful and different take on missional-monastic, and how friars, as opposed to monks, have been more popularly seen as out on their own or in pairs working in the world instead of, or in addition to, time withdrawn from the world. It is all transformational though.

This Advent will be eventful though as a few seeds and steps begin.

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From Next Gen leaders in Sojourners

This begins a series of quick quotes and excerpts and marginalia from not too long ago reading.

From Sojourners back in June:

Eliacin Rosario-Cruz ( & see below for comments on Tom Sine's book): Christians need to create contexts in which we live out the way of Jesus---physical places and relationships in which the story given to us by a market-driven, individualistic, racist, sexist system is challenged and subverted." What gives him hope? Easter. My daughter's love for gardening. Our little community of the Mustard Seed House. Friendship with other young conspirators. Libraries. Autonomous social movements in the Global South. Street artists. Workers co-ops in Argentina. Potlucks. Horizontalismo. New Monastics. DIY culture.

Lyndsay Moseley, Sierra Club---As John Muir said, "Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal body and soul alike."

Beauty, play, prayer, nature, healing---good guides for the road ahead here, things to look for as we grow organically and in that wonderful phrase, and statement of mission, create contexts in which we live out the way of Jesus.

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About us in "Small Talk"; Missional-Monastic?

The final part of the three part essay on us that I wrote for Small Talk publication is now available on its website. Thanks so much for their work and for highlighting ours. Go to and click on newsletters and go to volume 6 or Support their mission.

Things develop and evolve so fast when you move from organizational to organic. I can already see how this essay written just a few months ago was right at the turning point of how we had transformed from what most folks think of as church into being more of a missional group with weekly worship more like part of our mission to ourselves, resting in God's presence, so we can continue embodying that presence to others. Now I wonder what we might be able to write about us a year or two from now, as we begin to add, bit by bit (see the post below), monastical to missional.

In his latest good book, The New Conspirators, Tom Sine has a good overview of the different streams of dawning church that he calls 1. emerging. 2. missional, 3. mosaic, and 4. monastic. I will try to comment on these more in the coming days, but I can see us in our existing group anyway straddling the missional-monastic, having moved away from the emergent attempt back in 2003. It is also fun to see a developing mosaic type church with the changes that have begun at All Souls in Tulsa with the weaving together of that church with the members of the previous New Dimensions Church led by Carlton Pearson. More to come.

Icons and Images, Retreat and Turley

It has been quiet for a while here on the blog as work and local action get busy, but I have been accumulating a lot of bits and pieces that I will be posting in the days to come to make up. Here to start is some more about some recent travels and upcoming events in the neighborhood through the Living Room Church and A Third Place Center. It begins with a reflection on a spiritual retreat again at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham MA.

It was wonderfully refreshing to be on spiritual retreat at Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine home of hospitality near Massachusett's Cape Code. A spiritual retreat is somewhat of a misnomer since so much of it has to do with bodily rest, bodily rhythms and re-orientation, and rediscovering the joy of simple physical things. And I am thankful to be home. The particular focus of the conversation during the retreat was on "Seeing Jesus" and on the physical presentations of what no one can re-present physically, which is what Jesus looked like. I looked at hundreds of diverse images and icons made of faces and bodies in a myriad of poses, all called Jesus, and from nearly all centuries since Jesus, some by famous artists, some by artists I want to get to know better, and some by the early faithful followers of Jesus in the catacombs and elsewhere who are and always will be unknown, and whom I think I would like to know best of all.

And so now here in Turley again I find the vibrant and comforting and challenging spirit behind those images and icons of Jesus, this time shining through the people around here and in this place. Spending a lot of time looking at faces in art helps, believe me, to see more clearly and more deeply the faces we encounter all around us--especially if those faces in art have themselves tried to convey a glimpse of the divine.

I thought during the retreat of how,during the births of our two daughters, Bonnie followed that contemporary ritual of birthing, having a special photograph, a face, to center her thoughts during labor, a makeshift altar in a hospital room; and how important it is, for the same reason, to have little altars around us all the time, at home in corners, on the refrigerator, in our cars, out in our yards, on our desks or workplaces wherever possible, little bits and pieces of sacredness to re-orient us, like prayer, throughout our day. I know I need to fill my canvass of life with these iconic reflections more often.

And I know that all our A Third Place/Living Room Church gatherings of service and study and communion and community times are themselves images of Jesus which help us to find the Spirit and, refreshed, let it go to be born into the world.

And so as we draw into the special marking of the Thanksgiving Season, we are thankful for all that is being born within and among and beyond us, through us--and we have an eye, an expectant and eager eye, on the Advent and Christmas season and all that may, yet, be born which we have no inkling of now.

Who could have, for example, forseen the following, these times ahead on our schedule below where we enter into our mission of "becoming a body of people, who make Jesus visible in the world?." Everyday, it seems, something new is being born....

Wednesday, Nov. 19--6 p.m. meal, conversation, communion. We may be spending our time after the meal exploring a possible new and much larger building for our missions; we may be revisiting what it means to be ethical eaters and our developing food ministries, and how all of it grows out of and feeds into our sense of what communion is in our radical hospitality tradition, drawing from a recent and wonderful book called "Take This Bread" by writer, lesbian, political radical leftist, cook, Episcopalian Sara Miles (check out Come and see what all happens.

Friday, Nov. 21, I will be meeting here in Turley with an ACORN representative for some learning and connections, then meeting again with the TU law clinic to continue our project developments, and then meeting with representatives from the Kendall-Whittier community association to talk about their history of renewal.

The health clinic meets every Monday, Tuesday and Friday full day here, except for during the Thanksgiving week. Call A Third Place or OU 660-3613 for information on access during that week.

Saturday, Nov. 22, 12-step The Lighthouse meets at 7:30 p.m. here.

Sunday, Nov. 23, worshipping with Church of the Restoration at 11 a.m., Pine and Greenwood.

Tuesday, Nov. 25 we will be meeting with a member of OU Social Work Department again, this time about developing projects and particularly partnerships for our community gardening. Just today I had new leads and people wanting to help us with this work. Then at 7 p.m. meet with the Turley Community Association at O'Brien Park.

Wednesday, Nov. 26, 6 pm meal, conversation, communion: a look at how prayer can change the world, based on the new book by Shane Claiborne, "Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: prayer for ordinary radicals." [If you'd like to share in this conversation with us, let me know for a free copy of the book].

Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 1 pm we will bring our families, our food, and meet with others in our wider community who will bring their families, and if possible, their food, and share in this holiday meal and time together at our Center. All for free. We will also launch our Buy Nothing Day events encouraging people to take from our wonderful bargain donation room instead of shopping for new things for Christmas.

Oppose "Black Friday", Buy Nothing Day, Friday, Nov. 28. On the day the consumerist society seeks to encourage debt and bankruptcy of many in order that a few may reap increasing profits and on that day supposedly "go into the black or plus side of the business ledger" we will offer our alternative society counterweight of giving away nearly everything we can out of our donation room and plus from our homes, helping people fight the system of "gotta have it" labels and gadgets, recovering the joys of sharing. Come by and help us give to all freely. We have great books, clothes, large items, weird items, and more. The five and dime store is back, for free. This will help us create room for expanding our "lending library of tools and medical equipment and other items of necessity that not all need to own separately."

Sunday, Nov. 30, First Day of Advent, 11 a.m. Church of the Restoration. I will be leading worship and preaching on our mission in north Tulsa and Turley, our theology of presence, our inside-out church. Get a preview by going to look at the three part series of essays I wrote for Small Talk magazine, volume six in the newsletter section at

Beginning in the Advent Season, the season of new spiritual birth, Wednesdays beginning Dec. 3 will become a Mid-Week Day of Monastery and Meditation here, in addition to our missional daily work, we will have 15-30 minute morning prayer and breakfast at 7 a.m. (if you are interested but an earlier or later time in the morning would work for you, just let me know and we will see how it goes as we develop this); noon prayer and bible chat and lunch, and then our weekly Wednesday vespers beginning with meal at 6 p.m. All free, for all. If you'd like to be a prayer or meal leader during one of these times, just let me know. Come share with me also ways we can transform some of our inside space, and the new backalley space, into places for solitude and silence, even if it is semi-solitude and semi-silence of course. It's time for me also to resurrect my "Souls and Soles" meditative walking, so if you would like a walking partner, or want to join me, drop me a line and we can connect, same goes for those who would like an hour of spiritual reflection scheduled monthly.

A look ahead: Friday, Dec. 5, 5:30 p.m. at Tulsa Community College, meeting with other community organizers in north Tulsa House District 72; Tuesday, Dec. 9, noon, special program on personal and neighborhood safety by Sherry Clark, see; Saturday, Dec. 13, a special day of community gardening and transforming one of our neglected intersections in Turley; Sunday, Dec. 14 I will be in church and leading conversation on missional church with the Tulsa Metropolitan Community Church ( and looking for ways to partner; also look forward to our tour and meeting at the Turley Correctional/Residential Center next month, developing co-mission with the YWCA of north Tulsa on issues such as anti-racism and living multi-culturally with the YWCA, holding a program on disabilities awareness and learning how to be more hospitable, and a relaxing time for celebrating Christmas with one another, and for all those relationships and community and missions bubbling up and taking shape, and those I know I have forgotten to mention here that I should have. Looking even further ahead: plan to be a part of our local welcoming group working with the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship Revival as it comes to Tulsa and also to Turley, go to and especially click on the Revival link, and let me know you would like to be a part of it in March, and plan now to go to the regional UU summer camp this year at Western Hills Resort near Wagoner, a short drive from us, Aug. 2-7, part or all of the week.

Also I go to Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa at Admiral and Mingo on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. for chapel and then, as Director of Ministerial Formation for UU students, meet with students and others at noon meal for wonderful conversation, and would love to have you join with me sometime as my guest, especially if you are interested in seminary or possibly just taking some courses there. Let me know as there are some weeks that the seminary does not have these activities, such as next week during Thanksgiving Week.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

faith fragments from turley--hybrid church experience

Hi all. Some still lifes of faith on the move here in Turley....

I just love Turley sometimes, well all the time but sometimes I am reminded of it. The other day I am driving down 66th St. past O'Brien Park and alongside the new golf course they put in there (taking out community shelters for gatherings, but that's an old other story), and I didn't see anyone putting toward the hole but there was a family who had parked by the road and walked past the ditch and set up lawn chairs near the pond by one of the holes and were fishing there. I think Tiger Woods would have been proud too. The Spirit lives on...

Tonight we will eat together at 6 p.m. and then talk together about using the Bible as a spiritual resource to sustain our justice work, then we will pray and have communion together. Next Wed. while I am in Chicago preaching and leading communion, we will watch the second part of the movie about peace activist John Dear's mission, and his times in prison and what sustains him. Then on Wed. Oct. 22 we will have special guests and a conversation on restorative justice led by Rev. Thea Neitfeld of Tahlequah, OK. Part of our focus this year addressing issues in the legal system, and our visiting with prisoners.

Also if you can I invite you to the Phillips Theological Seminary worship tomorrow, Thursday Oct. 9 at 11:30 a.m. for a service led by Rev. Tamara Lebak of All Souls Church, as part of the seminary marking Domestic Violence Week. I am now at the seminary once or twice a week as part of being the Director of Ministerial Formation for Unitarian Universalist students there. And also for a few Mondays more there is the Faith Matters lectures for the public at Phillips. Go to

Starting Sunday Oct. 19 following Bible Study at All Souls, I will also be moderating a monthly film discussion series where we will go see a movie together after church and then return to All Souls for discussion.

We have become here in Turley a Matthew 25 community it seems, at last (well some never get there !). We feed the hungry here (free meals and free peanut butter and jelly anytime someone needs it), we have the health clinic that heals the sick, we give free bottles of water for the thirsty, and free coffee as well, we welcome the stranger and help strangers to learn to welcome strangers, and now with our growing relationship with the Turley Correctional/Residential Center and University of Tulsa Law Clinic and others to come in the legal field we are visiting the prisoner and having them visit us. Such, Jesus says, is how you live in God's spirit. Click to read more...

This Saturday, weather allowing, we will sponsor our Turley Clean-Up Day beginning at 8 a.m.. Feel free to start with breakfast at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy, and give a free will donation for community projects and then come pick up trash with us or pick up trash first. Take a break at noon as we will have outdoor live music to entertain the volunteers and others. We provide free bags and places to pick up what others have dumped on us. It is the kind of street ministry and preaching that really inspires and makes a difference.

This Sunday I will be back at All Souls Church at 11:30 a.m. for bible study in room 207, with an episode from the video curriculum Saving Jesus: from the Christian right and the Secular Left. We will be exploring the death of Jesus.

Last night we sponsored a gathering to keep momentum moving toward beginning the first of what we hope to be several community food gardens in our area, as well as sustaining our current Let Turley Bloom projects, and beginning new ones...We will get these started this Saturday too and keep working on them as people can and weather allows throughout the fall and winter and spring months. We will start with a community garden at the corner of 61st and N. Rockford Street which is near Cherokee School and on the way for folks in the Park Meadows Mobile Home Park where many of the children live, as well as others in the area. Come check in with us Saturday and you can help on that in addition or in place of the trash pick up work. We are also going to claim an abandoned but highly visible intersection that has been neglected by the county officials, at 66th St. and N. Lewis and begin getting it ready to turn from a trash site to a Turley treasure site with cardboard, rocks, and plenty of mulch to begin with after preparing and combatting the toxic stuff that has been sprayed over and over there. And we are going to plan a "Trash Garden" Seminar for February, 2009 to help people learn how they can easily make vegetable gardens for all of their sites. We also have become members of the Oklahoma Food Coop and will be promoting that here, along with signing people up for the community garden.

All of this reminds me that what the church does at heart is to provide opportunities for people's generosity. In all we do we seek to foster a spirit and openness for people to be generous, to give back and to give away. In this way we fulfill the spirit of Jesus and align ourselves with the nature of a Generous God, creator of a diverse Creation.

We are looking for medical books to help people study for nursing aide positions; we are looking for GED materials to help residents study for the GED; we are looking for people to offer to teach basic ways to use the computer; and to help parents who come here with their children after school to help with homework online and in person; we have been receiving medical equipment to have as part of a loan system and can always use more; today we had cases of baby food donated; we also had to turn away someone looking for utility assistance by referring them to others; we need help teaching parenting, and job skills; we are getting a sewing machine though; and this, again, is just part of a day's activities, part of the ebb and flow of the Spirit moving. Fortunately, as it should be, sometimes I am the last person to hear stories of the generosity and companionship that come through here and that spin out from here. Jesus said you will always have the poor with you, meaning you will always have opportunities to be generous, if you live his Way.

There is a revival going on, and pardon the transition, but please go to and begin your plans to join us here in March for Revival, as part of the event will take place in Turley one afternoon.

So you see why these emails are often periodic in nature. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers and allow us to keep you in our thoughts and prayers. We have many among us sick and many among us mourning and many among us celebrating recovery and many among us struggling financially and many among us despairing. And so we simply open our doors, we smile and wave at strangers, and we live hour by hour, failing but living hour by hour, guided not by the day's news but the good news of everlasting hope.

Oh yes, remember and spread the word that Friday Oct. 10 is the final day to register to vote. We still have forms at the church/center (or as a new book I am reading calls places like ours, a "hybrid church.") and let them know, as our sign out front continues to, that many felons in our state can vote and they don't know it. It can be a first step sometimes in their sense of re-entry into community, ownership of the world, and hope for new life.

blessings, Ron

Friday, October 03, 2008

Koinonia Film

In 1942, Rev. Clarence Jordan, a white Southern Baptist minister in south Georgia who believed in integration and also believed in following the radical Jesus and Paul mission to share possessions and live and work with the poor set up Koinonia Farm near Americus, Georgia. The rest is history. We took a break from our planned conversation to let the spirit move us toward this film and the testimony of Rev. Jordan and all those who followed at Koinonia Partners and its birth of Habitat For Humanity. So many lessons for the organic church, for what we are inching toward here in Turley, OK. Just a plug for the documentary, 57 minutes long, perfect for small groups to watch and discuss, and seek ways to keep its spirit alive wherever you are. You can get the documentary through Netflix and probably through your library, I hope. Go to

Small Talk link for my article

I would like to put in a plug for Rev. Jane Dwindell's work and ministry and publication "Small Talk" which just published the first part of a two part piece by me, see post below for Inside-Out, Upside-Down, Large-Small, Church-World. You can go here to

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Inside-Out Upside-Down Large-Small Church-World

Here is an unedited essay on what we do here and why, and how, in a full version. A shorter edited version in two parts will be published soon elsewhere and I will have those details for you then. It was fun to take a step back and do this, especially geared for those in "small" churches. It is kind of like a summary overview or first chapter. Hmmm. Click below to read it.

The Inside-Out, Upside-Down, Large-Small, Church-World

Here are the facts: The Living Room Church is an emerging Unitarian Universalist church. We have no paid staff. We have six leaders who all work full time, or near it, at other jobs. We have about ten to twelve at our most, usually, when we meet weekly for our spiritual gatherings. We have now two children who have a weekly classtime. We all live in the poorest zip code, Turley and area, in the Tulsa, OK metropolitan area, where our life expectancy is fourteen years lower than that of the wealthiest zipcode where a high percentage of UUs live. Within a two mile radius of our rented space, our primary service area, the population is 66 percent African-American and the largest growing population is Hispanic. We have no pizza delivery for thousands around us; no movie houses for miles and miles, or any entertainment venues though we are only six miles from downtown Tulsa. Most of our schools have for years been suffering and are on the list of most in need of improvement. We have no hymnals and occasionally no printed orders of service and we have no name tags, and don’t want any. And here is maybe the most important fact of all: If you drive down the major street that runs by our rented space, sandwiched between the local post office which is struggling to stay open and a closed laundramat, you will purposefully not see the name of The Living Room Church out front, or the hour of worship. Many many people in our community still have no idea the Living Room Church exists.

So why should you bother to read about us? Why was I asked to write about us?

Here are more facts: We have two hundred or more different people a month coming into our space, on an average basis not counting when we held the community Halloween party and had 125 new people that night alone. In the past year since we have been in our new 4,000 square foot space, we have started a community library, a free internet center with six computers and wifi access for those around us who have none at home, especially the youth who come be with us, a free giveaway room of clothes and goods and whatever people wish to donate, a place to watch cable television and to read, a health clinic that meets twice or more a week, a community resource center with a graduate social work student twice a week, and we offer free sandwich meals anytime someone wants one and we are open, which is usually seven days a week at least half a day and often a full day and late into the night. We host a 12-step program. We have started an animal welfare group and helped create another one that in the past two months has helped spay and neuter more than two hundred dogs and taken them to no-kill shelters out-of-state. We have started flower beds to beautify our area at the Turley welcome signs and at the local elementary school and at local businesses and the recreation center, and we have supported and continue to grow interest in community gardens and local food projects. We have gone out on graffiti-removal missions several times and most recently worked to make safe two abandoned houses and properties right across from the school playground. We have started weekly nutrition classes. We have held an appreciation reception for local businesses. We coordinate community anti-litter drives two or three times a year. We offer our area a free music coffeehouse experience monthly. We have been the hub for the first ever community planning and envisioning talks from the grassroots up here in our unincorporated fall through the cracks of the sidewalk area, and we have been the hub for local petition drives, voter registration especially for ex-felons, and more. Nearly everyday we have people coming in and talking about a project to start. If it fits our vision for the world, we try to help turn them loose through us, whether or not they ever give us a cent; it is part of the permission-giving culture of an “open church.” And each Wednesday evening we meet for our common meal, open to any who wish to join with us since our community center stays open during our time of worship in the center of the Center, and then have a time of spiritual conversation, followed by a brief time of small group worship of lighting candles for joys and concerns, offering individual prayers, saying the Lord’s Prayer, having a free and open communion for any who drop by, and holding hands (leaving one space open for the stranger we will meet) and singing Shalom Havyreem and Go Now In Peace.

I want to talk about connecting those two sets of facts. I want to talk about how we moved from being a “small” church with a vision of being “bigger” to a church that was intentionally fewer in number so we could do more, becoming an “enough” church. We always have “enough” in numbers and in spirit to become the church in the world and to be a living message, in a community full of scarcity thinking, that abundance is all around us, and out of a generosity of vision comes “enough” to always meet the hurts of the world and of our own lives and community. I want to talk about how we moved from being an “attractional” church to an “incarnational” church.

In Alan Hirsch's terms, An "attractional" church is one with a "come to us" mentality; it primarily puts out a message and hopes to "extract" people from the world to be a part of the church which is seen as a distinctly different organization and identity. It focuses its resources on trying to offer its own appealling and attractive building, programs, worship, and opportunities to go help others. It seeks to grow by addition, bringing in one person or one family at a time into itself. It is rooted in the centuries of Churched Culture when people more normatively sought out churches to join or found their way to the church of their inheritance, when the "mission field" for new members was mostly in other cultures and not in the neighborhoods around a church community, when churches could put up their sign and advertise their services and people would be attracted to them. The church might then have programs and services offered back to their community and to the world, but there is always a kind of division between the church and the world, between members and visitors and others. Church shopping is the norm as people look for different churches the way they might try to choose between a Lowe's or Home Depot, and with the end of brand loyalty they might just as easily move between churches the way they do between big box shopping centers.

An "incarnational" church is one with a "go to them" mentality; it primarily looks for ways to break down barriers between what is considered sacred space and secular space, blurring the lines between church and society; it looks for ways to live amongst others in the world as the church; it looks to reproduce itself and multiply itself rather than adding people to itself and gradually growing bigger and bigger in one space and organization. In some ways it hopes of course to "attract" others, but to do so by dispersing itself in small groups throughout an environment and living in such a way as others are drawn to be a part of the relationship. It roots itself more in a spiritual communal and tribal identity and experience than in individual consumer identity and experience; it is a church metaphor as more community gardening, as a mission trip, as a camp experience, than as big box store.

In the twenty-first century, there will still be churches which are healthy, i.e. mission-focused not maintenance-focused, organic not organizational, and which find ways to work in incarnational approaches, but are overall still using the attractional-extractional model. (It is just that in today's competitive and marketplace world, it requires more and more resources of money and people power to keep up with the accelerating requirements of the attractional model and so it will be experienced in ever larger churches rather than by small or mid size churches, which will burn themselves out by trying to play by the "big church' rules). Just as there will be, according to Bill Easum and Tom Bandy (in Leonard Sweet's "The Church of the Perfect Storm" page 92) thriving churches of many different forms, particularly very large mega churches and very small micro churches, house churches networking together and marketplace churches that have very little institutional form, and some remaining traditional mainline churches who have found ways to be "islands of strength." Churches that are considered small need to play to their new cultural strengths, but that might mean making radical changes.

Theologically, incarnational church is much akin to the liberationist base community, or communitas, models of being the church (communitas is simply community that turns not inwardly but outwardly for its life), finding solidarity with and among the poor; church as houses of hospitality akin to Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker movement. The scriptural basis often used by incarnational church leaders is from Paul's letter to the Phillipians, chapter 2, where he includes a hymn considered to be probably one of the oldest parts of the Christian scripture, coming from the earliest gatherings of Jesus followers. In the hymn God is seen to have refused to have taken a hierarchical "top-down" power-over separate from the world role in relationship to the world and humans, and instead through the faithful life and mission and ministry of Jesus Christ to have become a humble servant to others, becoming incarnated, or a part of the flesh and body of the world, to the extent of having been brutally killed by oppressive forces of Empire for challenging the values of the Empire, and who was then was raised in faithfulness to eternity with God. This theology is also described as "kenotic Christianity", kenosis is the Greek word for "emptying out", and it is a kind of theology and way of being church that seems needed in our world today, and in our particular Unitarian Universalist and even UU Christian world.

If I talk about numbers I want to talk about how we don’t think in terms of three and five year plans, but live month to month with a three hundred year vision, a seventh generation vision, that we are sowing seeds so that when the time comes we might be the most numerous church in Tulsa though we still might not have more than twelve people gathering in any one place together at one time and without a building with our name on it. I want to talk about how we moved from being an “organizational” church where the church is seen as a religious non-profit and its holy writ is bylaws, holy space is its own named building and its holy mission is its own budget and endowment, to being an “organic church” that is able to transform lives and the world by transforming itself. When we were in our other space even here in Turley, we seldom had people of color come inside to our events or programs; we were another small “white church” just like all the other small “white churches” except we were new and all of them had been here for decades; the other new churches around us in our area are all African-American. Now in our new space, in our new way of being church, we have pretty much a fifty-fifty racial balance of people coming inside and even joining with us at times in mission, partnering as volunteers, and sometimes joining us for our spiritual gatherings; we have much still to do to create the space to be “a third place” for all but we have seen a major difference by simply turning ourselves inside out and becoming missional. The same is true for issues of class and economic factors and political leanings. When we were in our “small church space” with our language of free and universalist faith outside our buildings, and even messages of our UU principles and the principles of The Center for Progressive Christianity on our doors, we weren’t nearly as effective at building relationships with the neighbors around us, partnering with them, and in some cases having them become leaders of our church, as we have since we have gradually put away our messages (in an area of high illiteracy and with only 7 percent who have had any higher education) and again simply lived and worked and dealt with issues affecting all.
Any and every small struggling church in our movement has the capacity to change to do this. But only if they stop struggling. Only if they move from anxiety to abundance in how they see themselves and those they are trying to serve. One year ago in Turley, in the historically neglected north side of Tulsa, people would say: “They need to do this for us; why won’t they do that for us?” Now, at our recent community volunteer appreciation dinner sponsored by our church and our partners, that was never heard, and people instead were constantly saying “we could do this, or that, or why don’t we try this or that?” A guide we created during our community grassroots meetings, with the help of the University of Oklahoma Social Work Department, was to create a culture where people looked not at ourselves as other people in other areas looked at us—through the lens of stereotypes and statistics and scarcity—but through the lens of stories, and strengths, and spirit. This is a guide that all ‘small” churches can use because like us, such churches also can find themselves being self-defined by stereotypes, statistics, and scarcity. It is a default-mode changing way of communicating for many of us, but it can be learned, and it has an amazing ability to transform conversation and the culture at large.

Church consultants Bill Easum and Tom Bandy stake it pretty clearly when they write, in the foreword to Robin Trebilcock’s “Small Church At-Large” (Abingdon, 2003): “The competition that challenges the future of the small church is not the influence of other major religions; nor is it the influence of deified cultural forms of sports, success, profit, or politics. The real competition comes from within the small church itself. It is the smallness of its vision, the smallness of its inclusivity, and the smallness of its heart.” Or as Trebilcock puts it, from his experience transforming small congregations, “The small church at large is free from fear of the future and released from any sense of inadequacy.”

When that book was published, I hadn’t quite got it as a church leader and church planter. My learning curve was fast and steep from the time of our first gathering in 2003. At first we tried to be a smallish (125 or so member) niche church in a very conservative fast growing suburb of Tulsa, hoping that renting a space, putting up our church sign and information about us on the outside, and advertising our message of a progressive free church and holding programs a couple of times a week in our space would draw in the numbers of people to help us keep steadily growing toward that “magical” number 125 that seemed to be what it would take to have a full-time pastor. It had worked for me before, back in the early 1990s when I started the UU Congregation of Tahlequah OK which has been a model of a small church, with the help of extension monies and building monies, and in an area with demographics that were not promising for a UU church. But that was in the early 1990s and the culture has undergone an earthquake cultural shift since then with changing generations, more competition, and the move from a modernist individualist Enlightenment focus on messages to a postmodern experiential more tribal focus on community and relationships and mission. In an era that has gone from being Churched to not only Unchurched but De-churched, we fail often when we seek to embody church as it looked and felt like in the time of the childhood of most of us.

Between 2003 and 2007 we failed to sustain our seed growth in that first soil (for lots of reasons that you can read on my blog history of our time at Planting God Communities, or search for church plant killers). We moved from suburban to an urban-rural-small town mix, or “edge” area, one of the spots described as “an abandoned place of Empire” (to use language by the new monasticism; see Shane Claiborne’s work such as The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical). In other words, we moved to a place where coolness, money, and the usual investments of Empire, would not and do not go. It happened also to be home to my wife and I who met here when we were five years old in the kindegarden room of the local urban school where we now help.

We began as a Sunday morning meeting, order of service sermon and music driven, class and program oriented church. In other words our motto was the old one of “acting bigger so you can grow bigger.” Which is a surer path to burnout and to a treadmill of anxiety. We were trying to attract people to come in and become like us so we could go back out and do more in the community. I guess you can think of it as the standard operating manual for church in North America, especially among the descendents of Western Protestantism. You can go anywhere on Sunday morning and in different guises experience the same thing. And it is working for many people. But there are vastly more people whom will never walk inside the doors of anything called church, or fellowship, or congregation, or society, or anything else that has the look and feel of every other church be it a small storefront like many here, or the big mega-churches in the suburbs or downtown. And there are many people who go to those churches and always will but are hungry to be in mission, in community, in deepening relationships and they don’t care what the brand name of the religious identity is of the person or people they join up with when they aren’t worshipping with their own kind on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening.
You know the scene. On Sunday morning buildings all over our community would come to life for anywhere from an hour to maybe three or four and with some communities maybe all day. But everything in and with those churches happens inside those buildings, and most of them here have boarded up windows because the old stained glass has been broken over the years and not replaced and so you can’t even see what goes on inside them if you wanted to. Then the other six days of the week the buildings and the rented spaces remain empty or virtually so. They have little connect with the community immediately around them; they offer no corridors or open community spaces. They perpetuate an “us” and “them” world. For all our efforts to be missional, to start community groups that met in our small rented church space, and for all our efforts to hold events and projects outside, we weren’t much different from them. Oh, The Living Room Church, another “small church.”

(We also during that time changed our name from the sacred-sounding Epiphany Church, but which few if any in our immediate area could define; we changed it to The Living Room when we were still in our small rented space, 1800 square feet, to reflect our change from Sunday morning formal to Sunday afternoon worship and gradually more informal, more conversation than sermon oriented; and now in our new incarnation, we have moved some away from that name too as it seems too safe for the edgy spiritual adventure we are on and in the place we are; we have talked about becoming The Salvage Church because we have salvage yards nearby and we are all about salvaging lives and our community; or something even more striking and reflective of our DNA. We admire the name of a church community in downtown Denver called Scum of the Earth, also the name of their goth band, taking the name from a passage in one of Paul’s letters to Corinthians where he said they were seen as the scum of the earth in the world and Empire’s eyes, but were glory in God’s eyes; or maybe like the Waco, Texas outdoors church with the homeless called The Church Under The Bridge. The point is that we might change the name often, as we might change where and how we gather, in response to our changing environment and not to the authority of “we can’t change that.” Everything is up for changing except the DNA that we become the church when we become a people of God who make Jesus visible in the world, and we are free to make that happen in diverse ways, times, places, and with diverse people without being stymied by organizational bylaws, structure, budget or people who seek to control turf and mission.)

So one of the storefront churches a couple of blocks from our building moved into another bigger building next to where they had been. It was between two busy, at the time, places—post office and laundramat, across from the local bank. It happened at the same time I was envisioning a new way of being church in the world. Away from attractional, churched model, to what is called an organic, incarnational, emerging church. I envisioned turning the empty bigger space into a space not for those of us in the church but for our community (in all the ways mentioned earlier) and then we would meet within it, as a guest in our own place given away to the community. It meant living out the truth that the church was not the worship service, not the building, not the identity, not the programs we put on for other people. And so we did. We made the move. And we are still moving, still incarnating, and even now imagining ways to take all that we do inside the community center itself and taking it even beyond these walls and into other public spaces. We have formed a local community foundation to run the A Third Place Community Center and its activities (with church members as the starting members of the Board but with others as well) and this will allow it to continue to take on a life of its own while the church is free to become more underground, to seed more, to become more the “leaven” in the world. (A pivotal scriptural passage for us is Jesus’ parable of the leaven; see biblical scholar Bernard Brandon Scott’s “Reimagining the World: an introduction to the parables of Jesus). The leaven is identified with everything that the world says has no value or a negative value, but which God favors. He says it shows God changing sides from the recognized powerful to the most vulnerable. It shows religion being turned inside out and upside down. That is the kind of church we seek to be.

After five years, and new folks and in a new place and with a new identity and focused mission, and all that, we might become still a wholly different church. We talk about being a kind of urban monastery; we might meet more in homes and in abandoned lots and in old burned out shells that were often used or could be used as meth labs (we recently did a survey and found that there are some 70 such places just within a mile radius of our community center, not to mention the two mile primary service radius). We are looking at moving the Center into an old church building (the church building where I grew up) which is more than ten thousand square feet and abandoned and decaying, or into another bigger space. We might find ways to be more communal, more sustainable, helping us to live more freely. We are becoming less organized as a church so we can become more organic and missional and, to use another catchword, viral. We hope to connect with and spur on the start of other A Third Places all over our Tulsa area, Oklahoma, the U.S. and the world wherever the Empire has abandoned people. We seek to learn from the communities such as ours especially in the places of more poverty and crime and suffering than ours.

Much of this new but ancient way of being church comes, as mine have come, in the form of new plants; there is a reason why growing denominatons invest higher and higher percentages of their resources into new and diverse church plants (especially those which have in their DNA that they will be church-planting churches instead of just a new church, so that their new church is not considered a success unless it plants another with the same DNA). But what of the existing “small” church that has been around for fifty or more years, either maintaining a status quo of place, style, numbers throughout most of those years or which once was a “larger” church now decreased in numbers attending worship? How can these congregations, perhaps your congregation, become incarnational missions where their current resources are yielding so much more transformational results, to the point where if they closed their doors their immediate community would not only notice but be drastically affected, the same as if a school, store, or other secular institution closed?

First a look at a few other facts, financial resources, about our church in Turley. Those six leaders contribute average monthly pledges that don’t quite pay for even the monthly rent of our space, let alone utilities and supplies and to fund our many projects outlined earlier such as the internet center and cable TV for the community. We get no rent from the University of Oklahoma for the clinic space we offer to them for the people in our community especially those without health insurance, and we even donated medical exam equipment to them to set up the clinic in our space when their mobile unit became unusable. In the past year we have lost two of our largest monthly donors as one shifted to another church and another left to focus on family and school. We have two other monthly community-related donors who are committed to our mission and Turley community but who go to another church in our community or have family here, and we rent office space to the UU Christian Fellowship national offices, and this all helps us meet the rent but not extra. We also have received a grant that amounts to about a month’s expenses from the Massachusetts Evangelical and Missionary Society connected to our support of the Council of Christian Churches within the UUA. But, here’s the most radical and important point, most of our funding comes from the people we partner with and serve who are not, or not yet or never will be, part of our church. Just recently a community leader who attends the Seventh Day Adventist church began giving us a monthly donation; and when people use our services and when they become volunteers they often help us with donations when they can. Like the people we live amidst, we live from paycheck to paycheck, month to month, and do so intentionally because we want to end each month at zero, knowing we have spent all on mission. We are not afraid of the future and uncertainty and of failure. When we ask, we receive, because we have created relationships.

The lesson here is that if existing churches of whatever size and resources can see themselves differently, everything changes. We in Turley Oklahoma hearken back to an old Unitarian congregational model where the “church” is at the faithful center of the “parish” and sees itself as serving the parish, and the parish in turn supports it. Just that back then the parish support was with taxes and for only the one church in the Town Center. Here the unofficial parish supports us voluntarily because of what we do. As we move further into creating a spin-off non-profit community foundation to run the Center, we will have memberships and grants coming in that may hopefully pay for all this and more growth in service. This will free up the monthly pledges of the few church leaders to go toward other “plants” or ways to make the radically inclusive and healing spirit of Jesus visible in their lives and in the community.

What do we expect from those who join with us as leaders and engage with us in our weekly leadership worship still open to all? Speaking of financial resources, we hold out the healthy vision of ultimately reaching the point where we give 80 percent of our own money away to the church, Center, causes local and global and however we can find ways to change a life, and give 10 percent to our savings, and live on a remaining 10 percent. It is a vision we may not all achieve or even come close to, but it is a part of the way we live incarnationally with our values and embody a God that turns the world upside down. Trying to get people to achieve ‘the impossible dream” at their best of the “liberal tithe” to the church and their causes and then spend the other 90 percent of their resources on themselves and their own kind seems at odds with the spirit of the one who said to “render unto Caeser what is Caeser’s and to God what is God’s” with the meaning that nothing ultimately was Caeser’s and everything was God’s. This goal also becomes more doable when people make the leap to live in the “abandoned places of Empire.” And also when relationships are created and communities within the community are formed for sustainable living, tool-sharing, food gardens, free clothes, sharing services, etc. At our Church/Center we say we are a “giveaway/giveback” place. People often come to get something and find here ways to give back.

We also in our church seek to develop the spiritual life that sets us apart from any other service-oriented non-profit group of people. Following a model I fell in love with at a spiritual retreat led by the Rev. Carl Scovel, minister emeritus of King’s Chapel in Boston, we hold out a covenant that we will 1.) pray and/or meditate daily; 2.) worship weekly; 3.) have monthly spiritual check-in; 4.) go on spiritual retreat annually; 5.) aim toward a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual pilgrimage; and 6.) constantly be open to opportunities to do random acts of kindness and beauty. Notice there is nothing about serving on a committee.

It is true that we have been able to do much of this, both in our parish and in our church sphere, because I am a minister; but I also believe that is one of our own personal drawbacks too; many emergent churches are finding that pastors can create, whether intentionally or not, an atmosphere that you have to be ordained and seminary-trained to lead church. This might be true of the way most church is done. When you move, though, as we have in the past few years, away from a sermon-centered small group worship approach to a liturgy-based small group worship approach with conversation, then it is easier to exist and thrive as a small group and not always be trying to just survive and get and “keep” a minister. This is a growing edge for us, and we still have much to experiment with and learn, but as we seek to multiply and reproduce ourselves, especially having spiritual gatherings at different times and places to reach out to others, we will need to grow the priesthood of all believers along with the prophethood of all believers, to use a phrase from our radical reformation UU church tradition.

Speaking of worship, we have tried and will try again offering spiritual gatherings and different kinds of worship as a kind of new service for the community even if no church leaders or regular participants, as we have on Wednesday evening or when we travel to other churches together on Sunday morning, are present. We might offer soon again mid-week morning prayer and meditation. I dream of being able to have the Center open and develop new spiritual leaders that might meet weekly at midnight, as we do on Christmas Eve, especially for the many night-owls and those who work a shift that gets out at 3 a.m. We look for spiritual gatherings of ‘two or three together” as being enough. This opens up new gates for us with others. This also means none of it can happen if people and myself become “clergy-focused” instead of “mission-focused.”
And what of visitors? Doesn’t this all seem exclusive to attracting visitors? Yes and no. Though our Wednesday gathering is open to all, and we hold it right now right in the middle of the community center while it is open, it isn’t geared to attracting visitors, but to feeding the Spirit of our leaders so we can better serve others. Our focus is in attracting visitors first to us in mission, working with us in one of our many community projects, getting to know our DNA of mission being ultimate and of worship helping us to sustain and shape our mission. This is why we did the topsy-turvy thing of creating a Center for others, in which we would be like a guest. In today’s culture churches are also finding that trying to use Sunday worship as a way to propel people into mission throughout the week is harder to do and see results from than focusing first on missional opportunities which then naturally prompts and leads to worship itself as a response of gratitude and sustenance for the mission. It keeps church from being a one or two hour a week, at best, part of people’s lives.

And what will happen if and when we grow in numbers of those leaders? We hope it happens. Right now we don’t focus on “members” but on growing three areas of relationships with people: 1. Participants in mission with us; 2. Partners who become leaders of different missions with us, at the Center or out in the community; 3. Leaders in the church. These first two groups will include people who never become a part of the third group, church leaders, and that is as it should be, and those groups will always be the larger in numbers. But those in the third group will, especially over time, come from the circles of the first two groups as people who need and desire a particular faith community like who we are and what we represent and gravitate to go deeper with us. And simultaneously we may also have people who do identify with us the “traditional” way of joining with us first in worship and study, but they will become members of the third group only over time and as they take on leadership of a certain mission. In our world today, and particularly but not exclusively among younger generations, people are not looking to be “members” of “institutions” but “missionaries” of “movements.” Churches will thrive to the degree they are able to make such moves.

Now, what do I think existing “small” congregations can do to live more fully in this way, the way of a new plant? Well, we went for three years without any bylaws or a budget (actually we have gone almost the whole time without a budget; just the knowledge that everything goes into mission and being broke helps that). So suspend your bylaws for a specified time, at least a year and preferably more because it takes sometimes three to five years to create culture change, get rid of all positions, so often the ‘protected turf’ of self-selected leaders who control the church, and see yourself as starting anew. Create “discontinuity with the past.” Your minister, area consultants, others can help you do this, and there are lots of ways to walk with one another through this. You can create a curriculum of change that includes study of culture, of what new church plants and social ministries and even entrepenurial businesses are doing, of turning communities inside out, and also of using the time to rediscover your roots of your faith tradition so you can branch off in new ways. Do a demographic/ethnographic study of your own church community and of the area within two miles of where you are located, and also become acquainted with the “abandoned places of Empire” and consider ways to relocate there, either wholly or in part with new partnerships and new missions (though nothing is the same as becoming a part of a place where you already have enough resources to make a huge impact). As part of that study, learn about the multiple generational cultures perhaps within your own group and especially of the area around you. Discern ways that your folks in their sixties and older can see themselves as helping create a “legacy” of change for the future beyond themselves instead of lamenting being a part of “loss” for church not being what it used to be for them.

You can also look at ways you can turn over your existing space to your community; perhaps following our approach of seeing what your community needs and using your bulding for those purposes, and then figuring out how you can do worship or education for your own “members.” Also consider how you can take events that have been primarily for just church members and to meet a church budget and make them outward-focused to help meet a community need and to bring in community folks as planners and leaders of the events. Speaking of budgets, do away with annual budgets and move toward monthly or quarterly at most budgeting, enabling you to live closer to the edge and to be more responsive to the chaotic forces of a changing culture. If you have inherited the curse of an endowment, look for ways to channel it into mission and not into maintenance; that might be hard to do, but inspiration will come and I would love to hear the stories of how it is working; perhaps as you expand your sense of yourself as church, how an endowment is used will change too. And consider ways to partner with others to enlarge your sense of your self and your mission; maybe it with some non-profits of varying kinds; maybe it is being a part of a new multi-site congregation where you become a particular missional wing of a larger church; mergers out of weakness often create more weakness, but if you approach it from sources of strength and spirit and innovation and radical discontinuity with the past, it can grow; so maybe another small church can be the worship center and your small church can be the mission center, or vice versa, two poles creating energy back and forth between them like a Jacob’s Ladder.

Maybe there’s no way you can imagine doing any of this and are feeling a bit despairing (after all, studies have shown that in nine out of ten cases people will choose to die rather than to change). So instead find hope as you just look for one way to begin some one new missional activity outside of your usual parameters of time and space and people; seed it, nurture it, protect it from those who wish to call it a weed and kill it, let it grow, and watch it self-sow some place else; in time it will change the Sower as well as the world. Stories of this abound.

Risk death. Risk failure. Risk people leaving. Risk healthy conflict. In fact, cultivate all of that.(Besides, they are going to happen regardless anyway). It is a good thing. Many church planters aren’t concerned if their group is around in ten or one hundred years or more; what keeps us up at night is whether we are sowing enough seeds of change now and trusting enough that our faithfulness to our mission is all we need worry about.

Which begs the question that you know and feel what your mission and purpose is, in your own life and in the life of your church—don’t do a long process to figure that out, and don’t waste your time coming up with a long paragraph to describe it, something that not long from now no one will be able to recite or remember. But, in sharing, listen to the stirrings of the prophets and the poets and theologians among you and learn from those outside your group, and you will find the words of a phrase no longer than a dozen words that will mark you and guide you and set you free to act. For us, again, it is being “a body of people making Jesus visible in the world.” For you it may be ”a body of people making Freedom/ Love/Justice visible in the world” or something else all together.

Several books, besides my own spiritual yearnings and experiences, have helped to shape my understanding of the “small’ church. One important one has been mentioned, Trebilcocks’ “The Small Church At Large.” The church that thinks of itself as being “at large” in the world will grow in all the ways that matter. Lyle Schaller’s “Small Congregation, Big Potential” is another. And almost all of the new books on the emergent and organic church movement have been vital—see my blog mentioned above for reviews and reflections on many many of these, most importantly “The Shaping of Things To Come” and “The Forgotten ways” and “Exiles” by authors Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost about moving from “attractional” to “incarnational” church, Neil Cole’s “Organic Church” and “Search and Rescue” about life transformation groups approach to church and multiplying church rather than trying to grow by addition. Many of these come from people with theologies way more reactionary and conservative than my own as a UU, but they have much to teach. From a more progressive approach, great experiences of transforming churches and what it means to be a church can be found in the works of Shane Claiborne already mentioned, and by Brian Mclaren (especially the practical appendix on small gatherings in his book “The Secret Message of Jesus”) and in “Emerging Churches” by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger. “Small” churches when they are healthy can be “swift” churches and can respond quickly to changes and be experimenters and innovators in ways churches with more people cannot. New books like “The New Friars; the emerging movement serving the world’s poor” by Scott Bessenecker and “The New Conspirators: creating the future one mustard seed at a time” by Tom Sine are inspiring for how small groups are making a huge impact in simple, though radical, ways.

Being “small’ or ‘micro” or ‘tribal” or ‘relational” or “communal” are all terms for something that is happening not only within religious spheres but across our cultures. It is being on the cutting edge of new ways of being church in the 21st century and echo back to the ways of the early church in the first millennium after Jesus (see Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashimi Brock’s new book, Saving Paradise, from Beacon Press, for more about that first thousand years and its lesson for the third milleinnium). It is exciting to be here and to have such an opportunity now right within our grasp—if we will let go of our fears, and, in the words of one of our beloved hymns, let the “Life that maketh all things new” grasp us.

The End…For Now…Type rest of the post here

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My take on UUA Principles&Purposes Revision Effort

Apologies to non-UU readers for this: And This may not have much to do with church planting within the liberal UU tradition, or it may have everything. Anything that takes away time and energy and focus away, at this pivotal cultural time, from starting new ministries/misisons/churches in as many ways as possible is consequential. So I shouldn't go with my first impression when all this talk of revision came up a year or so ago--which was to yawn, ignore and just keep on keeping on...

But there has been a lot of very good conversation by a bunch of very thoughtful and committed people...So....I like trying to talk about roots and the future and a theology of culture and appropriation and tradition; I have never been a big fan of the existing P&P and basically ignore them in my church planting as well as anything smacking of denominationalism or creedalism. I personally resonate with the suggested draft that nuances what wasn't nuanced, which has some acknowledgment of evil, and that couches our faith tradition in the language of faith traditions. But the more I read the great prose in the draft, and from those who are commenting on it, the more I think we shouldn't have it in the bylaws.

I just don't turn to bylaws for theology and statements of faith, or whatever. In fact, I would think all bases would be covered, for me, if the current section under Principles was just removed, and the other three sections of Purposes, Non-Discrimination, and Freedom of Belief were left in.

I know as a Christian that means there isn't mention of God or our roots, etc. which has caused so much historical consternation in the past (another good reason not to go down that road again), but I have come to the conclusion that if we have to have that in our institutional bylaws for it to matter than all is lost anyway. I know what the purpose of the church is, to be a body of people to make Jesus visible in the world; but since that language will never be in the bylaws, then it doesn't really make much difference what is, except if we focus on words and thought and mental propositions then we won't be focusing as we need to, especially to make up for lost time, on incarnating our spiritual DNA in the cultures around us. And on the plus side for me it also means there wouldn't be any other of the theological or values language in there now like there seems to be that seems to just wither away over time (see Rev. Marlin Lavanhar's comments about the P&P in the post below about being who we are where we are when we are).

And the more I read all the attempts, and all the beautiful words that really do resonate with me but just fall flat when applied here for all of us, the more it seems we try to pack too much period into the bylaws as a legal document. Leave the bonds of union up to churches in the Association; that way we put the organizational focus on the purposes and promoting and starting churches, and we don't run any risk at all of creeping creedalism, the use of the P&P as marketing, and we really do put congregations first.

If people feel something is just missing then (something to explore by the way) we could always just leave in the last paragraph, a little tweaked, from the Principles as a kind of preamble to the Purposes section. It would just read: Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we promise to one another our mutual trust and support.

Let the congregations and the individuals, and our history and our name, determine then what that "our faith" is without it having to be elaborated on and every mandated time period reviewed....end.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sundays coming up and bible study

We are going to be busy in mission all over our Turley and area this fall, but we will also have opportunities to worship dynamically with others and engage in conversation with others as well. On several Sundays in September and in October I will be leading bible study at All Souls Church Tulsa at 11:30 a.m. and hope to also catch the New Dimension/All Souls praise music that begins at 11 a.m. After the bible study hope to go out to lunch together, or to other places like this Sunday, Sept. 14 at ShalomFest with Temple Israel.

The bible study will be called Saving Jesus based on DVD by the LivingtheQuestions folks, a continuation of our All Souls bible study in the Spring.

Sept. 14: The world into which Jesus was born, featuring John Dominic Crossan and Walter Brueggemann
Sept. 21: What do we know about Jesus
Sept. 28: Jesus' Birth: Incarnation
Oct. 12: Who Killed Jesus?
Oct. 19: The Atonement
Oct. 26: Revelation (this isn't on the DVD but will be from my resources)

The Simple Church, again

In a new book I will blog on soon, Frank Viola's Reimagining Church, he begins by talking about how hard it has been for the past twenty years to explain to others, to describe, to talk about the organic church that is non-institutional but not individualistic, not go off and do your own thing or with someone else out by yourself and call it church. So I don't feel so bad for being tongue tied, or more often too verbose, in trying to describe the vision and the reality of what we do in Turley as the church, making Jesus visible in the world. I've just been at it a few years really. I fall back on the early disciples admonition to "come and see." This is doubly difficult since we are also based in Christianity that is generous and generally considered progressive and emergent and all those words that fail anymore to mean much, like liberal. So organic and progressive, sometimes at odds with one another, sometimes very much in synch. So "come and see."

Here is the latest "attraction" style publication we have out for people to pick up and take if they want to...not a substitute for incarnation presence here, and most of our folks who hang out and help us in mission and celebrate with us in worship don't do it from a flier but from witnessing and interacting and building relationship with us. Still, here it is...

The Simple Church
Focusing on the “deeds of Jesus” and not the “beliefs about Jesus”.

We in The Living Room church began the community center for the benefit of all our neighbors regardless of what church they attend or whatever their religious affiliation or none.

We welcome all to join with us when we have our spiritual gatherings on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. at A Third Place, or during our “service to others” gatherings which happen at different times during the week and month.

Our purpose is to simply “make Jesus visible in the world.” We are a free non-creedal church. We are welcoming of all who welcome all regardless of religious belief, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, or political opinions.

When we meet on Wednesdays we have a common potluck meal at 6 p.m., believing that breaking bread with one another and strangers is at the core of freely following in the spirit of Jesus. All donations toward the common meal are welcome. Then we have a time of conversation and study or helping others work from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. We may study bible passages, world religions, social issues, personal faith issues, and there is a children’s ministry during this time at the Center. Then we come together at 7:30 p.m. for a time of small group worship, sharing prayers of joys and concerns, lighting candles, having a free and open communion of bread and grape juice to remind us of the spirit of Jesus to take with us into our lives the rest of the week.

We also often meet together on Sunday mornings to worship with other churches, and particularly our sister church in North Tulsa, Church of the Restoration at Pine and Greenwood.

We ask those who would be with us to commit to daily prayer or meditation, weekly worship, monthly check-in spiritually on our personal journeys of faith and ethical living, annual spiritual retreat and revival, and work toward a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to some place that has special spiritual meaning to us, and at all times to look for ways sow seeds of love and justice through acts of random kindness

Our vision is to help start places like A Third Place center wherever and whenever they are needed, and to sponsor small organic micro-churches like ours in other places.

Fall Focus in turley: good christian curriculum

We got this fall focus here in Turley off to a great start and spirit this past Wednesday, lots of people dropping by and staying from activities at the community center to join us in our dinner and in our showing of the documentary The Narrow Path about the life and work of Father John Dear. A good selection of folks, veterans and pows and pacifists, all struggling together to consider ways of Jesus and non-violence. One of my favorite learnings was John Dear's distinquishing between peace, which everyone is for including Empire, and nonviolence, which few walk.

Anyway, here is a look ahead. We are using some good new book resources as background for our conversations, including To Do Justice, a guide for progressive Christians, and Resistance: the new role of progressive Christians. And the bible.

We are alternating between the outward focus of social justice, and the inward focus of developing the personal spiritual resources to allow us to better resist the dominant culture.

Wednesdays---common meal at 6 p.m., conversation at 6:30, prayer and communion circle, 7:30. Times may vary. All are invited for any portion.

Sept. 10: Justice and Nonviolence---from a documentary called “The Narrow Path” about John Dear, priest, author, peace activist.

Sept. 17: First Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.

Sept. 24: Justice and Work

Oct. 1: Resistance and the resources of the Bible

Oct. 8: Justice and Families

Oct. 15: Resistance and Prayer

Oct. 22: Justice and Addictions

Oct. 29: Resistance Theology

Friday, Oct. 31: Community Halloween Party

Tuesday Nov. 4: Community Civility & Common Ground Election Watch Party

November 5: Justice and Politics

Nov. 12: Resistance and Forgiveness

Nov. 19: Justice and the Imprisoned

Nov. 26: Resistance and Sustaining Creation

Thursday, Nov. 27 Community Thanksgiving Meal?

Dec. 3: Justice and Health Care; Season of Advent Worship: Peace

Dec. 10: Resistance and Money; Season of Advent Worship: Joy

Dec. 17: Justice and Immigrants; Season of Advent Worship: Love

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service(s): Hope

Dec. 31: New Years Eve Watch Party Type your summary here


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Interconnections Story on Us

Here is a link to read the article about us that was in the Unitarian Universalist Association publication for lay leaders called Interconnections. Go to

More Stories From Turley, Part Two

I like to balance the commentary here with some actual reports from the ground. More Stories from Turley, part two:

on Tuesday night we were featured in the news by Tulsa Channel 6 news for our efforts to get people to vote on Election Day yesterday. We live in the area with the worst voter turnout in the County, and that doesn't count those who don't register. We have on a good turnout day about 30 percent of registered voters going to the polls compared to some 67 percent in the south tulsa precincts and in the wealthier suburbs. And in an election like yesterday's the turnout is barely a blip. Lots of reasons for this as we told the TV news people (no access to information, or limited access, means people don't feel they know enough to vote, plus apathy, plus cynicism, etc.) And yet yesterday was national women's rights day celebrating women getting the right to vote, and in our area we also have 66 percent African Americans who have historically been oppressed in voting rights, and so we need to focus on voting responsibilities now. It is a deeply faithful and spiritual matter. It holds up one of our core principles that everyone is a child of God and worthy. The welcome table of Jesus is also part of the government participation process and all need to be encouraged to feast and celebrate. And this includes the many felons in our area; and will be the focus of a project here through our area this Fall heading into November's elections; many people think felons can't vote, but they can if they meet some time requirements. The news crew took a picture of the sign we had out front of A Third Place yesterday--it said on one side, Vote Today Celebrate Democracy, and on the other side it said Thank You Candidates Vote Today. I couldn't find any video posted on the website but if you find it let me know and let them know you appreciate their coverage of our efforts.

Church gathering tonight and each Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.--ish, the all important "ish" of the organic church; personal spiritual check-ins during conversation; planning for a spiritual retreat; and more....Be thinking of the topics you want to cover, the lectures you want to bring to Turley, this year.

This past Saturday's big event with the Univ. of Okla. was wonderful. About 100 people showed up for free dinner, kids area, a local farmers market, booths and information on Turley volunteer opportunities, chances to sign petitions, and to see a video made about the treasures of the Turley area, plus three bands---gospel, bluegrass, and rhythm and blues. We continue to raise the Spirit around us.

Coming up: Tuesday, September 9, community and public gardening projects, 7 p.m. at the Center. Keeping going with our projects at the school and businesses and the Center and also starting a welcoming bed at O'Brien Recreation Center. Let Turley Bloom.

Saturday, Sept. 13 big day of events. community breakfast at the odd fellow lodge, followed by our random acts of kindness events from 10-noon, followed by volunteer orientation session at the Center, and then that evening at 7 p.m. continuing a monthly free music series for residents in our area. This time featuring Turley resident Johnny Cervantes and his Johnny and the Oklahomans classic country band playing music of Bob Wills Hank Williams and others. If you know of others who would like to be a part of providing this service of spirited entertainment where none exists in our larger area, have them contact me.

We are setting up our A Third Place meetings and deciding those, as well as planning our first A Third Place Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. September will be a watershed month for events that will help us to keep going and growing.

Everyday at the Center lots more going on. We have worked to finish putting the final touches on the health clinic that is now inside in our building, and we have upgraded the free internet center and we continue to expand our free meals with a new additional refrigerator donation, and we have gotten a thank you card from Cherokee school for our help and donations of clothes and more for the children there; continue to bring kleenex, clorox wipes too. More and more people are becoming owners of the Center and keeping it open and helping out one another and all those who happen by or come in. After Labor Day and as it gets a little cooler and people feel like getting out and walking more during the day I think we will see even more come by. And we are looking at possible larger buildings already for possible purchases and renovation to help our area. Stay tuned, or better yet, come by and catch the Spirit.

In all of this, and as we plan ways to continue becoming more a part of the community in order to transform the community, we are freeing the spirits that have lain dormant for so long within us as well as others, and through it all we are simply being the kind of leadership we want to see spring up in others who will begin projects right around their own neighborhoods and in their own churches. This coming second year through church as a community center is going to be full of even bigger dreams, bigger failures, bigger hopes. We are getting ready to get started now to plan a renewal of a community spirit parade in Turley for next September. We have our big Halloween party just around the corner in October.

Leadership is about simply being present with a mission mind-set, living out moment to moment the kind of core values that you wish to see spread to others, and looking for ways to celebrate, connect, celebrate. That's the Jesus way; no fancy programs in it you have to attend, no workshops or classes; become embodied with the spirit of Jesus that everywhere he went good things happened and greater things were even done by others in his spirit after him, as he said. And sometimes, oftentimes, don't forget to just sit back and Enjoy The Show.

blessings, RonType rest of the post here

More Stories From Turley, Part One

I will be sharing some of the details of what has been going on with our intentionally small simple organic church here in Turley this past month. What a movement of the Spirit. Part One:

Tonight (Tuesday, aug. 12) at 7 p.m. we will have a meeting to do some initial planning to get a community garden going in our area, and ways to help others. Let's talk and maybe view some potential sites, and come up with a way to get more people involved on it. The Tulsa Area Community Gardening meeting is a week from today Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. at the kendall whittier library followed by a visit to their garden. Tonight let's also talk about ways we can move forward on having community-owned livestock and lending tools.

Tomorrow Wednesday, Aug. 13, common meal at 6 p.m. followed by a work session as we get things ready for the Giveaway Donation Day this Saturday, deciding what furniture to keep what to giveaway, etc. and work on sign boxes and other ways to promote the Saturday event. Which will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Come and meet the community and help us raise funds as we give huge amounts of items away at this back to school time, all for just "best offer." We will end with prayers, candles for joys and concerns, story for all ages, and communion as we live out the radical spirit of Jesus.

We have turned one of our rooms into a permanent room for the University of Oklahoma Health Clinic, and they are very impressed. We have donated an exam table and filing cabinet and Turley volunteers have fixed and replaced lighting and OU folks have painted the room, and it is really looking great for the patients. The OU mobile unit is down and may be for some time, and we have such a need in our area that OU wants to bring the clinic staff to Turley as much as they can and we want to be ready for them and their services, as we seek to cut the disparity in life expectancy in our area; our zip code is 14 years lower than the life expectancy in midtown just 8 miles away.

Turley volunteers have also been working to upgrade and continue improving the Free Internet Center in our place, and it is getting close to a big transformation and we will work on it.

Today the rain is a blessing, for the past few weeks have been full of heat alerts. Our Center has been open almost continually as a shelter for those without electricity. This has helped us become more of a presence in our community, but of course the rising electric costs have really hit us hard. Any special extra donations at this time are greatfully received and all goes into mission, as we are all volunteers and no one is paid.

One of the stereotypes of people in our area is that we are only "takers" and not givers, have no community spirit, because of our poverty and our many problems. One of the missions of our creating the community center was to provide opportunities for people to show this to be untrue, and to show what can happen when you approach people with a spirit of radical trust and hold out community and connectedness as an ultimate value. This summer is really showing how these deeper values can come out in people.

This past Saturday morning three of us painted over graffitti that had been painted with swear words and drug-oriented words on two abandoned houses with broken windows and trash all over the yard and street, right across from our local elementary school playground; this area still needs much attention and work and needs to be on the county health-department watch (because there are still major problems with weeds higher than a house that is abandoned right across the street too). We picked up trash. We also worked on planting more gardens around the school, so when the students came back yesterday they would have something uplifting to look at and not the despairing yards, and we will continue this. This not only affects the 300 students and teachers at the school, but the neighbors around the area as well. It is a shame that what should be a highpoint of the community, the area right around the school for our children, is often in the worst shape. We will work throughout the year with the school and PTA (paying for a pizza meal when the school wants an incentive to help bring parents together) to keep seeing the improvements we have seen the past three years.

One of the catch-words of transformation and sustainability these days, and the organic Christian church movement too, is "co-conspirators." People who conspire together for transformation. Conspire means to "breathe together." We are celebrating one of our co-conspiracies with the OU Social Work and Community Medicine Departments, and with the local Turley area community association and groups, in a Big Free Celebration on Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Center, from 6 p.m. on. Beginning with bluegrass music, ending with rock and blues music, having a presentation by OU about what they have found in Turley and helping with us to promote volunteering in our community through a big volunteer fair and visual presentation. You can show your support by dropping by during this event; sending in money to support it; offering your prayers; as we use it to launch our "organic church" year of hands-on mission. Come meet the disparate, improbable people, the folks all over the theological and political spectrum, the ex-felons, the recovering, the wounded helping the wounded.

And we have been promoting a celebration of democracy. The next election will be Tuesday, Aug. 26. Which is also Women's Rights Day when women got the right to vote. And that night is the next Community Association meeting at 7 p.m. (just as the polls close) at the O'Brien Recreation Center. There is a lot going on with the renewing efforts of the animal support group, and more.

We will be starting a Monday Matinee film group to watch spiritual and socially-justice themed films and documentaries. We are also starting back up our monthly free music coffeehouse with a concert at the Center on Saturday Sept. 13 by Johnny and the Oklahomans, a band with a local Turley flavor, which plays the music of Bob Wills and Hank Williams and more from the 30s through the 50s, classic country.

We continue our food pantry and will be working to expand it.

Our free wifi and internet center helps people of all ages, including the sheriff's office which uses it to send in their reports from our area so they don't have to travel downtown; it is the little things, always, which make a big difference.

Please spread the word about us. We are the leaven in the world, slowly undermining the dominant culture's values of individualism, hyper-commercialism, appearances, achievements and affluence, of cynicism, despair, fear, and a sense of scarcity. We are doing it by becoming "fractal" promoting chaos and self-organizing that comes from that, not fearing ambiguity or things getting complex. We do it through trying to fail, and learn from our failures, because trying to fail means you are trying and risking the impossible. And because it, our openness to failure, opens us up to receiving the good news that through God all things are possible, you just have to get out of your one-year three-year five-year plans and have eyes on the horizon.

Keeping our eyes on the horizon is one of the missions of our Wednesday spiritual gatherings, and of our Sunday morning trips together to worship with Church of the Restoration and others, and of our planned upcoming weekend Spiritual Retreat; come to help us plan and participate in it too.

August is going to be the month when we plant the seeds for the immediate future events, which are planting the seeds for the next 300 years.

What area of leadership would you like to take? What dream would you like to seed? Everywhere we start counts; everywhere we go, good things happen.

blessings, Ron Type rest of the post here