Friday, February 15, 2008

In Reality: Latest "A Third Place" reports

On this blog I try to balance the theory with the real practice of planting God communities, so periodically I post on the local front here in Turley, OK and its north Tulsa environs and our incarnational church. You can actually get a glimpse of me and some of our work, our kenotic Christianity, in a recent TV news piece on us. You can get to it at www.kotv.com and going to their website exclusive stories, called Bedlam Clinic in Turley. Or here at http://www.newson6.com/Global/story.asp?S=7874529. And click to read more. Oh and you can leave comments on the local news site about the story too. I hope it airs on the regular news soon, of course, since so many of our folks don't have computers, hence the center itself.

So we now have the Univ. of Oklahoma health clinic here at our place twice weekly (the response has been overwhelming, so much that they now have to book patients by appointment only and can no longer handle walk-ins; this might change after the rush of the beginning). This shows the severity of the health discrepancy between our zip code area and other places in Tulsa. The OU report showed that our area has a 14 year average life expectancy less than the wealthiest zip code area which is just some eight miles away.

But the deeper issues persist. The reasons why there is such a discrepancy in the first place need to be addressed even as we are trying to attack the tip of the iceberg. Getting access to health care is a moral issue, and it is being talked about in that way, but few if any are talking or reporting about why the problems exist in the first place, which is also a moral issue. And how the answer ultimately is a radical call for people and communities to change and upend their normal value system, to invest their homes, their lives, their money, their organizations in this area, not as service providers ultimately, but to do so as if their future and life depended on it, to see this area as one of beauty, of promise, of having great people that can change their lives. We are one of the best kept secrets, an opportunity for people to re-shape their lives, to live sustainably, and to have a huge difference in life just by being here as what I call "culture agents."

So, this Sunday at our gathering between 4:30 and 7 p.m. we will focus on "Gardens, God, and Food" and some of these deeper issues and ways to respond to them in order to create healthier lives in our community. While we still have no grocery stores within at least an eight mile or more circle that carry options of healthy food, and while transportation for most people to get to these stores is still difficult, and while there continue to be no pizza delivery in much of north Tulsa's urban area, and while cigarettes and alcohol and casinos continue to be available and growing, we don't have to wait for others to make the kind of moral investments that are needed. We have proven that a small group can make big differences, and we can continue this by looking at community gardens, farmers markets, food co-ops, healthy living workshops and lectures, and sharing resources, services, goods, and working beyond ourselves for social justice for others in all those other "abandoned places of Empire." (Speaking of Empire, I will be showing and studying a new DVD class called Eclipsing Empire, a look at how Jesus and Paul challenged Rome, and how we can challenge America today. I would love to hear from any who would be interested; we can do it weekly, in a weekend workshop format, monthly, you name it. Just let me know).

We also know that while we have changed the face of our area already, and while we are doing it because this is where and how and with whom we experience God's loving presence and can follow freely in the spirit of Jesus, part of our community ministry is nevertheless spiritual, a ministry. We know we need to cultivate the spiritual center in our own lives and in our community in order to more fully be present to and with others as we have been and will be doing. Burnout is the dead-end of where our dominant culture seeks to send us all. Both God's means and ends are the opposite, are life-affirming. So we also need to go forward from this point more intentionally seeking centering prayer, quiet meals, thoughtful study of scripture, sharing moments of awe and wonder in our lives.

This Sunday morning and for several Sunday mornings to come at 11:30 a.m. I will be teaching a bible study at All Souls, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. in Room 207. You can worship there at 10 also, or at another church, and still come to the bible study I'll be leading on the Apostle Paul's witness about God and Jesus, and what it speaks to our time and place.

Let's share ways to go deeper spiritually, personally and as a community, and with other communities, even as we share ways we can continue making A Third Place a better place.

Keep in your prayers Jolene and her family as they grieve the death of her sister-in-law Beverly earlier this week. Keep in your prayers Keith as he is in St. John's, and let's plan to visit with him soon and often as it looks as if he will be there for some time. Keep in your prayers all those who have come to the Center this week especially in search of care at the clinic. And keep us and our mission in your prayers, our many needs, and above all our gratitude for this opportunity to serve and to meet so many we may never have otherwise met, the people of all ages who are beginning to make a place in their lives for others here through A Third Place we call church.

Oh, yes, and pray for our next event as week try to get business owners and employees to come together in our area, and for the public to give thanks to them, at a Mar. 4 6 to 8 p.m. reception.

May what we do together---celebrate, serve, study, and party--fill up your life so that you may spread faith, hope and love wherever you are. We hope to see you again soon too here.
Type rest of the post here

4 comments:

Stephen said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for this report. Here in the UK we're appraching the Unitarian General Assembly in March. The whole theme for the meetings is 'growth.' The drum I want to keep banging is that the best way to achieve growth as a denomination is to plant missional new churches. But I'm actually unsure where to go to back up this claim. Could you recommend a book or something that gives some support to this argument that I could go armed with? Cheers.

Ron said...

Hi again Stephen. I will have to look more closely for page numbers and specific books, but this is an area covered quite extensively in the works of consultants Lyle Schaller and Bill Easum. When I get a chance I will see if I still have the specific books but I think Schaller's books What We Have Learned, also Mainline Turnaround, go into this. With Easum it is probably in his books Under The Radar, maybe also The Nomadic Church, a few others. Just about any of the classic church planting works should give some background on this--like Aubrey Malphurs' book. When I get to the office I will see what I can dig up. I would think, though I haven't done it, that a good search engine request for church planting denominational growth, and maybe adding in some of the authors names might get it. Schaller's work which I quote somewhere in my blog is very specific about the percentage of new church plants needed each year in order for the denomination to have a growing future, based on the number of existing congregations. Seems like I did the math for the UUA numbers when the book he mentioned that in came out and we needed 33 new ones each year, for an association of some 1000 plus existing. More soon. and thanks and best wishes. People seem to either get it or not. the difficulty is that they think the new churches being planted have to look feel and smell pretty much like the existing churches and they think that is going to be so hard to do, which it will be, but once freed from that notion the number of plants, missions, is more doable.

Stephen said...

Thanks Ron, that's really useful stuff.

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