Sunday, November 23, 2008

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 http://www.saramiles.net/). 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 http://www.spiritoflifepublishing.com/newsletters.html.

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 http://www.facestulsa.org/; 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 (http://www.mcctulsa.org/) 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 http://www.uuchristian.org/ 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.