Sunday, December 27, 2009

Open For Church, Indeed!

I love holding worship in a place that doesn't look like "a church" so that "the church" can happen so much easier; this morning on the third day of Christmas was an example.

We opened up the community center amid the continuing snow and ice at 10 am and a little after that one of our regular members showed up, then another came in as we gathered by the TV for a "soft chair Sunday". I began sharing Christmas stories from Carl Scovel's book of radio messages, "Never Far From Home" and we began discussing and sharing from them; during this, another one of our regular folks walked in, and then a little later during another story and conversation a man with his two dogs and a chain saw came in; he was out walking and looking for any work to do, and was tired cold and very hungry; he grabbed food and drink and joined us; then later another of our semi-regulars came in. Then later another that comes every month of so on Sunday morning but joins with us during the week off and on. Most people this morning came by walking as much as a mile and a half to be with us, for worship and company and food and drink and to take some of the food back with them from the food pantry, for themselves and family members.

After the stories were told and talked about, I put in the DVD Saving Jesus from the folks and we watched the episode on Jesus Birth: The Incarnation, listening to Marcus Borg and Amy-Jill Levine and John Dominic Crossan and John Shelby Spong and Walter Brueggemann and John Cobb talk about the scriptures of Jesus birth and the way they hold out the choice about which kind of Son of God is the real one, the one to follow, about the choices of following Empire or Christ and how they are or were opposites, about the real meaning of Christmas and incarnation and the nature of Jesus and God. I thought again about how our church/center is about recreating mangers in the world, not Inns, and how the folks we create these mangers with are more like the ones who hungrily sought out Christ in the world that favored the Caesers. I couldn't help but think about how rare it is that progressive Christian voices are heard and discussed in settings like ours and by our folks.

After the video lessons, we then had even others come in to be with us, to meet up with others who were there, and this was just in time for our "readers' digest condensed version" of the christmas eve liturgy.

First a digression about Christmas Eve; we kept the center open throughout the evening toward the time of the 11 pm to midnight carols and communion service; folks came and ate and left as the roads got worse; by 10 pm it was just two of us in the center getting ready to see if anyone else would be getting out; a teenage boy came in and stopped to see if we had any work he could do; he is a regular in our area; but this night he was on his way walking in the storm from here in north Tulsa to family in West Tulsa. I talked him out of the walk during the night; let him use our phone to try to get a ride knowing it would be futile but he tried calling several people, and by then I talked him into not heading out at least until daylight; in the meantime he helped us clean up to earn some gas money to give someone who would drive him; he helped a few cars out on North Peoria get unstuck, including a county snow plow, then left before the service began. As 11 am came there were three of us for the service. We had a great time of worship, sharing, prayer, singing the liturgy and lighting the candles. The full liturgy is published at We then stayed and ate early Christmas morning soup together and headed home around 1 am. I ended up in a ditch on the way home and walked the final block or two up the hill home, listening to the Blind Boys of Alabama's Christmas Album from which part of our service had come. Two days later with the help of volunteers at the center I got the truck out of the ditch and home.

So this morning with more stopping by the center gradually and joining us, we handed out candles again and said our prayers again, shared pastoral concerns and prayed the Lord's Prayer again, and sang Silent Night together and shared the light from candle to candle in the darkened room of the center. It was as close to the manger and the spirit of those who might have gathered around it, because of curiousity and having no where else to go and of being stir crazy and of wanting to share life and all its vulnerabilities, as I have been in some time. The homeless vets, the mentally ill, the hungry and the unemployed, the recovering alchoholics and those still struggling with alcohol and other addictions, the ones with family in the hospital still during this season, those estranged from their family, those about to be travelling, those about to go in for medical procedures---we were quite a group in our soft chairs this Sunday morning gathered around candles, one candle each for the weeks of Advent, for peace and joy and love and hope, one candle for Mary, which we had lit for our pastoral prayers throughout Advent, and the central candle lit for the Christ Child.

Then those who could stayed and ate our common meal together as others shared rides back home with those with cars so others wouldn't have to walk as much on their way home as they had to on their way coming in for church earlier. "Never Far From Home" is the title of Carl's book, and it was never so aptly titled for our time together and to be reading from it this morning.

So I just had to share these past few days with you, and especially this morning as we continue in the Christmas season. We won't have worship here next Sunday as most of our leaders will be out of town, or in our case, out of the country. But we know the center will be open most likely by volunteers as it is throughout the week, and whenever that happens church happens; we told all we hope they will take time next Sunday and worship with another church.

We will have a Pancake Breakfast for community residents and leaders on Saturday Jan. 9 from 8 to 10 am, talking about community events and building multi racial multi ethnic multi generational community. We will be walking behind our banner in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Tulsa on Monday Jan. 18 at 11 am. We will be at the Turley area community meeting Tuesday Dec. 29 at 7 pm at OBrien Park. We will be in worship on Sunday Jan. 10 at 10 am again talking about the past present and future of our missional community of faith. We will be meeting with others on all sorts of initiatives in the coming weeks to improve the quality of our community and life of our residents in partnership with folks all over north Tulsa. We will be at the week of programs at Phillips Theological Seminary in mid-Jan. see about joining with us there. We will be holding a Unitarian Universalist history and polity class through PTS and having classes here at the Center on Thursday evenings beginning Feb. 4. We will be hosting our weekly free medical clinic and classes and recovery group and donation room and food pantry and resource center and free computer center, and through it all trying to remember to love our enemies and choose to live the way of Christ and not Caeser, and to be open to so much more that will be given birth through us in the year ahead.

My family and I will leave Monday for Scotland, England and France, helping my youngest daughter get settled in for a year of pastry studies at Le Cordon Bleu. Keep us in your prayers, and keep one another in your prayers, and for all who journey with us here at A Third Place Center. You can follow our trip through

We depend on the contributions of one another. If you haven't exhausted your resources at the end of the year and wish to support this missional community, please send checks made out to A Third Place Community, and mail here to 6514 N. Peoria Ave. Turley OK 74126. It will be just another way you can be a part of "the church" here that is making a real difference by making Jesus visible around us here.

blessings and thanks and so much more soon, Merry continuing Christmas on this third day of Christmas, and soon Happy Hogmanay from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009 Liturgy of Lessons Carols Communion

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
11 pm to Midnight
Lessons and Carols and Communion

The Living Room Church in “A Third Place” Community Center
6514 N. Peoria Ave., Turley, OK 74126 794-4637/691-3223

Ours is a missional community of free faith seeking to make Jesus visible in the world today through small acts of justice and compassion done in great love. Join us in service throughout the week. Our Welcome Table of Worship is open to all who welcome all, regardless of belief or denomination, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, economic status, or political affiliations. We don’t think Jesus would have it any other way.

Greetings, Welcome


from "Christmas Beatitudes" by David Rhys Williams
On this blessed day let us worship at the altar of joy, for to miss the joy of Christmas is to miss its holiest secret. Let us enter into the spiritual delights which are the natural heritage of child-like hearts. Blessed are they who have vision enough to behold a guiding star in the dark mystery which girdles the earth. Blessed are they who have imagination enough to detect the music of celestial voices in the midnight hours of life. Blessed are they who have faith enough to contemplate a world of peace and justice in the midst of present wrongs and strife. Blessed are they who have greatness enough to become at times as a little child.
Blessed are they who have zest enough to take delight in simple things.
Blessed are they who have wisdom enough to know that the kingdom of heaven is very close at hand, and that all may enter who have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand.

Today is the day which God has made: Let us rejoice and be glad therein. What is required of us? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. This is our covenant as we walk together in life: In the light of truth, and the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather in freedom, to worship God, and serve others


O Come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant
O Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem,
Come and behold him, Born the King of angels
O Come, let us adore him, O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Sing choirs of angels, Sing in exultation,
O Sing, all ye citizens, of heaven above
Glory to God, In the highest
O Come let us adore him, O come, let us adore him
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

In Advent each week we have pointed the way to Christmas. Peace, Joy, Love, and Hope, these are the touchstones in our journey preparing our hearts.
We are Grateful for all the days carrying us to this holy night.
And so we come to Christmas once again, as have those before us through the centuries, the mighty cloud of witnesses who have lighted our way with their lives of faith, hope and love against all odds.
May the lights we burn tonight warm us with memories of their inspiration and their aspirations.
Peace and joy and hope and love---which never come easy and are easily lost—all come together in the liberating spirit of God.
May God’s light heal our lives and world.
And may this light, on this special night of birth, remind us that to be in the spirit of Christmas we must be where peace needs to be born,
Where joy needs to be sung,
Where love needs to be shared,
And where hope needs to be found.
We light these candles once again in this Season which reminds us how to live most fully all our days.
We light these candles to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world.
With the coming of this light let there be peace. Blessed are the peacemakers.
With the coming of this light let there be joy. Blessed are those who mourn and who suffer in this special time, that their hearts be lifted.
With the coming of this light let there be love. Such great love helps us to love God and one another, especially our enemies.
With the coming of this light let there be hope, that goodness will prevail in our lives and world, that oppression will end, that what unites us is stronger than what divides us, that we will find our way in the light of God and fear not.
With the coming of this light let there be born once again the simple transforming freedom the Christ Child brings to the world, through which the light of God shines in all, that we may be God’s people every day, and care for one another and for all of God’s Creation, with our hearts, minds, souls, and our hands.
We light these candles to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world.

O God, who hast brought us again to the glad season when we remember the birth of Jesus, grant that his spirit may be born anew in us. Open our ears that we may hear the angel songs, open our lips that we may sing with hearts uplifted, Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward all. Amen. (King's Chapel Book of Common Prayer)

FIRST LESSON: Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. The first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle, till morning is nigh

SECOND LESSON: Luke 2: 8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."


The first Nowell, the angels did say,
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

Third Lesson: Luke 2: 13-20

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o'er the plains
and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strain
Gloria, In excelsis Deo; Gloria, In Excelsis Deo.

Shepherds why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer?
What great brightness did you see? What glad tidings did you hear?
Gloria, In Excelsis Deo; Gloria, In Excelsis Deo.

Come to Bethlehem and see, Him whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria, In Excelsis Deo. Gloria, In Excelsis Deo.

"The Work of Christmas" by Howard Thurman
"When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart."


It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold
Peace on the earth, good-will to all, From heaven's all gracious King.
The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.

But with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long
Beneath the angel strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong
And man, at war with man, hears not, The love song which they bring
O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.

from Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, and from Altars in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

MESSAGE and Holy Conversation
“The Difference Between Mangers and Inns”
Rev. Ron Robinson


O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.

We lift up our hearts in God for the gifts of Life given for all.
Thanks be to God.
As Christmas reminds us of how the Divine came into the world in one so small, young, and fragile, so the Gifts of Life Abundant are in the ordinary made extraordinary, in the bread of the earth and the juice of the grape becoming food of the Spirit, incarnations of the Sacred.
Thanks be to God.
As Christmas calls us to be mindful of all those in need, all without a room, all with grief and fear, and to work for a world more just, so may this token of our daily bread, and this token of our cup of forgiveness which quenches the thirst of the soul, call us to go feed others.
Thanks be to God.
As Christmas offers us peace and light in times of darkness, may the sacred offering of this small meal, one to another, inspire us to acts of lovingkindness, all in the Spirit of the One born upon this night who showed us faithfulness without fear, preparing a welcome table for all.
Thanks be to God.

Prayer of Confession: Gracious and Loving God, we acknowledge to you, to one another, and to ourselves that we are not what you have called us to be. We have stifled our gifts and wasted our time. We have avoided opportunities to offer kindness, but have been quick to take offense. We have pretended that we could make no contribution to peace and justice in our world and have excused ourselves from risk-taking in our own community. Have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and help us to live our lives differently. We long for peace within and without, for harmony in our families, for the well-being of our neighbors, and the love for our enemies. Yet we have too often not made the hard choices that love requires. Show us how to walk in your path of faithfulness, hope, and love. Amen.

Words of Assurance: One fact remains that does not change: God has loved all, loves all now, and will love all now always, for all time. This is the good news that brings new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer of Communion: O God, in the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather at this welcoming table open to all, remembering how Jesus gathered people from all the walks of life, stranger and friend and enemies, gave thanks to you, offered all the bread of life and the cup of blessing and proclaimed a covenant of love for all in your name. We remember too the wonder of his life, as we remember the wonder of all of Creation given unto us and how all are One. We remember the agony of his death, and all the terrors and the tyrannies that oppress people today. And we remember the resurrection, the mystery of faith in the everlasting Spirit, the triumph over fear, as we remember all those who have given Love the ultimate trust and the last word and who have worked to create the beloved community of renewed and abundant life. Help us to remember with this meal especially all those who are hungry, and may we treat all our meals as sacred and to be shared. Take us, bless us, so that even in and with our brokenness we may serve others. Amen.

Jesus said I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. And they said, Lord, when did we do this? And he said, You did this for me when you did it for the least of these.
Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit. Let all who hunger come and eat. Here is the fruit of the vine pressed and poured out for us. Let all who thirst now come and drink. We come to make peace. We come to be restored in the love of God. We come to be made new as an instrument of that love. All are worthy. All are welcome.

And so we join together in saying the prayer Jesus taught to those who would follow in his radically inclusive hospitable and justice-seeking way of the Spirit. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever, and ever. Amen.

All are worthy and all are welcome in this free and open communion. We follow the practice of intinction, or dipping of the bread into the cup before eating.
May we remember that in our times of hunger and brokenness, coming from the body and the spirit, that God provides wholeness and abundant gifts of Creation all around us, among us, and within us all, more than enough to share with others.


Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Al-le-lu-ia
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth, Jesus Lord at thy birth.

Go out into the highways and byways. Give the people something of your new vision. You may possess a small light, but uncover it and let it shine. Use it to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Give them not hell but hope and courage. Give them Christmas all year round. Preach and practice the kindness and everlasting love of God.
(18th century American Universalist minister John Murray, adapted)

Parts of the Liturgy have also come from, and been adapted from, Singing The Living Tradition hymnal, UUA, and from The New Century Hymnal, UCC, and the United Church of Christ Book of Worship

Tonight A New Kind of Birth

Coming in a few hours: I will be posting the order of service for the 11 pm to midnight worship service tonight, especially for those of you homebound due to the snow and ice storm here in the Tulsa area; for others to enjoy; all can join together wherever you are in the world and know you are virtually connected by the internet, and really connected by God.

This is a special night; we know many of those of you will be with family, will be worshipping elsewhere perhaps on this day; we also know snow and bad weather is upon us; but we will be open at that special time not because there is something especially magical and liturgically correct about it, not because it is a long time tradition with us, and certainly not because we have a big turnout (we had three the first year; five last year), but because there is always the possibility that there is someone who needs to worship, to light candles, to sing, to join in communion, and might have missed other opportunities earlier in the day, or didn't feel comfortable doing so elsewhere, or who might just have the impulse in the minutes and hours ahead of time tomorrow evening that it is something and some place they are called to be on this special night and they saw us open or saw our sign in front of our community center which looks very un-church-like; they might have had a big fight with spouse and family; they might be especially depressed; they might have just gotten out of jail or be on their way back to jail; they might have already had too much to drink for the holiday; or they might just want to be with any who might need to be there, they just might want to be a part of holding this service open for those who may never come.

We will also be open at the Center some Christmas Day as well to provide a place for those who need one on that special day, just as we held a wonderful Christmas Party this past Tuesday and sang carols and laughed and watched a Christmas movie and ate with one another, many of whom it might be their only Christmas party of the season. We also will have Christmas Sunday worship and holy conversation and common meal on Sunday Dec. 27 as usual at 10 am. On Sunday Jan. 3, though, we will encourage in our ecumenical way that all go find another place of worship for that week's worship, or go open up at the Center and just be there as hospitality and conversation for any who might come by; regular liturgical worship will resume on Jan. 10. On Sunday, Jan. 17 we will have our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday in the morning and that evening at 5 pm we will march with others together in the candlelight procession for the worship service at Boston Avenue Methodist Church downtown; then on Monday, Jan. 18 in the morning we will walk with our banner in the MLK Jr. parade through the Greenwood historical section.

The homily and holy conversation we will have during the candlelight service is called "The Difference Between Mangers and Inns." It will be about finding the mangers where Hope is born, where God's spirit is born for us to find, and about recreating mangers where we can be with others on their search too. It is about not letting the Inns, the full places, the popular places, the have-it-all-together places, the safe places, draw our time, talents, treasures and spirit away from the mangers.

In her book, Hope in the Dark, author and activist Rebecca Solnit quotes the philosopher Alphonso Lingis in words that seem to capture the radical essence of Advent and Christmas, who says, "Hope arises in a break with the past. There is a kind of cut and the past is let go of. There is a difference between simple expectation and hope. One could say, "because I see this is the way things are going, this is the way things have developed, I expect this to happen: expectation is based on the pattern you see in the past...I think that hope is a kind of birth--it doesn't come out of what went before, it comes out in spite of what went before. Abruptly there is a break and there's an upsurge of hope, something turned toward the future."

God is supposed to be born in Inns, based on expectations, based on all the stories of the powerful civilizations, and it is in the Inns and the palaces that our expectations lead us to. There is always No Room in the Inns for those who carry God with them; the real invitation after that knock on the door and the mother to be and father--refugees strangers--loom in the doorway, the real invitation is from them to those of us who create Inns and live in them instead of in mangers, the invitation to follow them and leave the Inns.

And so in Christmas too we immerse in the past and traditions and nostalgia, but stay there at our peril; we haven't been waiting through Advent for nostalgia, for the realization of our expectations; we have been waiting for an abrupt disrupture of healing and justice, for the overturning of our expectations.

Each Sunday here when we gather for our worship time in our missional community we see our mission statement before us, that we exist to make visible Jesus in the world. That is of course what we celebrate on Christmas, Jesus' life coming into the world. It is why we are always, or strive to be always, a Christmas community. Making visible is another way of phrasing the Gospel of John's depiction of The Word Becoming Flesh. God isn't supposed to do that; God isn't supposed to become fragile, bounded, vulnerable, earthy, poor. But God does and calls us to the same holy ground. God isn't supposed to take shape in a body and call us to such love of bodies and Creation, but this is what Christmas hope is all about, that a different kind of God than our world expects just might show up in the mangers just around the corner and on the edges of our cities and towns.

It is why, more than any other response we get here at our A Third Place Center---from all the things we do and hold during the year, or just from being open for someone---the response we get the most is "I am surprised this is here" and once they find out more about us and how we operate out of radical trust and grace and openness beyond creed or any other divisions among us and a commitment to have zero funds in our bank account at the end of each month, they are even more surprised we are still here.

I leave you then with a different kind of Christmas carol that captures the spirit of this different kind of birth of God, a hymn by Brian Wren, and where he has appropriately used the word Good as a kind of blessing I hope you will also read Good for God, and understand an even deeper sense of the hymn for this season we have been waiting for:

"Good is the flesh that the Word has become; good is the birthing, the milk in the breast, good is the feeding, caressing and rest, good is the body for knowing the world, Good is the flesh that the Word has become. Good is the body for knowing the world, sensing the sunlight, the tug of the ground, feeling, perceiving, within and around, good is the body, from cradle to grave, Good is the flesh that the Word has become. Good is the body from cradle to grave, growing and ageing, arousing, impaired, happy in clothing or lovingly bared, good is the pleasure of God in our flesh. Good is the flesh that the Word has become. Good is the pleasure of God in our flesh, longing in all, as in Jesus, to dwell, glad of embracing, and tasting, and smell, good is the body for good and for God, Good is the flesh that the Word has become."

Amen to all that, thanks for all you do keeping us open and praying for and with us and joining us when you can, blessings, and see you soon somewhere in the flesh, in the Word, in the continuing Christmas spirit, in the intersection of Jesus and Freedom, in Christ,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three New Books: Reviews on the way

Coming soon: excerpts and reviews of three new books on my shelves;
Follow Me To Freedom by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins, a conversation on leadership for communities that seek to change this new world.
The House Church Book by Wolfgang Simson who wrote the classic Houses That Change the World, with foreword by George Barna; disagree about what is biblical, agree with the call for reformation in structures.
The Amost Church Revitalized by Michael Durall, wise words for Unitarian Universalist churches about the oh so needed shift in thinking of church from the private sphere to becoming a public church, what I call missional community. Much of what we do here is reflected in the ideas and spirit of this book though it is geared for more traditional communities and of larger size. go to I was a little surprised and disappointed to see some of the tenor of the negative responses to Durall's book excerpt on public churches that was printed in the UU World; those who think his suggestions are radical won't know what to do with us. lol.
more to come and see below for other new posts.

Turning Your Congregation Inside Out: Growing Missional Communities

The title of this post is also the title of a workshop I just found out I was approved to lead at the UUA General Assembly in Minneapolis this coming June. I will be joined in presenting it and in conversation with colleague Joel Miller of Buffalo, and it is hoped one or two more to be announced later. It will be a chance to present some of what we have been doing here as church, sowing some seeds for others, and a chance to hear how others are moving to missional manifestation of what we call church, a redundancy if there ever was one. More to follow and you all can help me shape the workshop.

Type rest of the post here

Advent's Unapologetic Interruptions: Church Being Christmas

First, I hope this interrupts your day. Lord knows, I have had many interruptions here at our community center/clinic/library/foodpantry/givingroom cafe/kidspace/internet center today as I have tried to write it to you. And I just got back from a several days surprise trip out of town that was one of those pleasant interruptions but an interruption nonetheless. And as I get into hyper-planning mode not only for the holidays, but for a trip to Europe afterwards, interruptions are often just what I have needed.

And today I am looking at interruptions differently. I was just reminded in the new book by Shane Claiborne and civil rights activist John Perkins "Follow Me To Freedom" how the scriptures are all about interruptions, story after story how God interrupts lives, calls us in new directions, or back to the path; story after story about how Jesus was interrupted constantly, and how Jesus's prophetic actions interrupted the status quo and the powerful on behalf of and in league with the vulnerable.

And this time of the year, God how we hate interruptions, delays in our plans, in checking off our to-do lists. God how we hate to wait too. Whole industries have emerged to make sure we don't have to wait, to make our lives as full of convenience as possible. But then the interruption happens, as it always does. Something new gets added to our agenda. You will be hearing very soon about some exciting new ways we have been interrupted here with good ideas, with love and hope and big visions once again, and ways you can help us interrupt our world with our values and our presence.

Advent is the story of the Great Interruption, as God interrupts the life of Mary, certainly of Joseph, interrupting the powers that be with the greater power that another world is not only possible but it is already here, pregnant and growing, about to be born where no one would ever think to look. Advent is about the affirming spirit of waiting on that birth, on the birth of peace and joy and love and hope, waiting and letting it change us from within so we can change the world without, waiting to connect with others on the road to Bethlehem too, and the road to Egypt too, and the road back to Nazareth too, from where nothing good can supposedly come.

Let me interrupt you with the truth that Advent, Christmas, Christ, the Church is not about Metaphysical Truth but about real Trust, and that, in the words of Wolfgang Simson in his newly released The House Church Book, the church is not to "have" a message but to "be" the message. So it was that God didn't write out spiritual truths in the heavens above Israel 2000 years ago in languages all could easily get; God came in the fragile form, the mortal form, the oppressed and cast-off exiled form, of the baby that had to rely on and trust others for its life and its future. The baby had to wait. The baby was also, as all babies are, an interruption.

So how, as a church being the message of that baby, are we helping people to learn to wait and be open to what is growing within them, and how are we helping people to interrupt their lives, and the lives of those around them, with the surprising love and change that God's universal love brings?

....Last Saturday we picked up on doing the monthly community breakfasts for each second Saturday,next one Jan. 9, 8 to 10 am here but we are intentionally recreating the breakfasts to be multiracial multiethnic multigenerational times and leadership breakfasts where all get the chance to cross lines and learn what is happening in our North Tulsa/Turley area around the center. We got off to a great start. Spread the news and come to the next one. Suggested breakfast donation of $5 and we will have pancakes next time besides a range of healthy items.

...This coming Tuesday Dec. 22 at 6:30 pm we will offer our space for the wider community to gather for a Christmas party of carols and food and good times, reflecting the spirit of abundance with those around us who often live in scarcity or have a spirit of scarcity reflected back onto them.

....We have transformed our old clothing donation room into an open kidspace and gameroom cafe space and expanded food pantry space and still clothing area we call The Giving Room. It is where we have been having our Sunday Advent communion worship services. This Sunday at 10 am we will have our Fourth Sunday of Advent: Waiting on Hope worship with holy conversation and a common meal and decorating more for Christmas. We recently had a Christmas tree decorated and one of the residents who hangs out in the Center said it was the first time in his 60 years he had ever been allowed to decorate a Christmas tree.

...We have been working on community projects of public gardening and are hoping to soon own and transform some hilltop property overlooking downtown Tulsa and make it an outdoor A Third Place LivingKitchen Garden Park, a full acre, a whole city block, that ties in our two most low income areas and one incorporated and one unincorporated both multi racial but one predominantly African American and one predominantly White and American Indian. You can see a little more about this project by going to youtube at We need to get 100 people to send us $100 or more to A Third Place Community, our non-profit, at 6514 N. Peoria Ave. Turley OK 74126 so we can help fund the transformation project. Help us launch this and add your name to the list of givers.

...We will be coordinating with OU-Tulsa to hold community leadership skills classes for all residents free of charge on the last two Tuesdays of Feb. Mar. and April here at our Center, creating the kind of skills that will help people build job resumes, grow their own businesses, help out their own churches and associations.

...We will be helping connect another group of OU students with community residents and agencies interested in developing entrepreneurs and turning what others see as weaknesses, such as our infrastructure and abandoned lots and buildings, into assets.

...We are working with North Tulsa Economic Development Inititiative on the McLain High School greenhouse project, on healthy cornerstores developments in our area; with neighborhood association development.

...And again with OU's School of Community Medicine to move toward creating volunteer community health leaders, feeding the hungry with meals, and getting residents information and assessing their health needs; and with local farmers markets to expand our existing community gardens and orchard;

In all we do, we are guided by the spiritual intersection of following Jesus and Freedom. We celebrate this each Sunday and when we gather for our other meetings, and when we share with others the power of what is happening in our lives and community.

It is why, again this year, in case there are any out in need of companionship on Christmas Eve, Thursday, Dec. 24 at 11 pm we will open our doors for a worship of communion and carols and cider and cookies to bring in Christmas morning.

You never know Who will show up when you open up and wait.

blessings, thanks, and more soon,

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Altar in the World: Thanksgiving Message and Mission From Here

Another glimpse into church life here: Locally, beyond the highlights I will mention below about our missional expression of the church here in Turley, you can get a glimpse of some of the range of what's been going on over at and you might also want to check out the updates and various reflections over at And feel free to follow along at

From this community where all money goes into mission, where all our volunteers, and where we are guests in our own created place for others, here in this abandoned place of empire:

Much has been going on. We took over providing a community breakfast; and though we fed 20 last Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day itself, this year, this past Sunday we fed 100 and included a performance for all by Johnny Cervantes and The Oklahomans classic country band; earlier in worship we had our annual Reverse Offering giving back cash to people who will put it into the world in small acts of justice and compassion done with great love to change the world, and then come back on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday to share stories about their decisions, any partnerships they fostered with it, and what an affect it had.

I will relate from last year how one decision is still giving a year later. One family of five pooled their offerings and bought great looking and healthy standard shelves for our fledgling food pantry, which made it more professional looking and spurred on additional donations and then at the UUCF Revival the folks who came out to the Center spruced the pantry up even more, and from it we took on a whole food justice mission as a priority working with our OU graduate school partners, and that has led us to becoming one of the major partners in a whirlwind of relationships and helping coordinate community gardens, new grocery stores, healthy cornerstore initiatives, school sponsored gardens and food growing programs, all in the past couple of months with new grants underway and hope and possibilites to come. Out of this will come this Spring a focus on creating new and varied entrepeurship and micro-investment and other ways to create the gift of work to more and more in our dire economic and underserved area...In many ways this effort was propelled by that family's gift decision, and it of course by our decision to live missionally and do the reverse offering. And that story is one that we could trace because it happened in connection with our community center; think of the stories we can't trace because people's decisions on how to use their gift happened in unseen and unreportable ways at least to us.

We have celebrated All Saints Sunday, and we celebrated with the Turley United Methodist Church its 100th year in the community (I prepared and delivered the story of its history during the centennial worship service; its old building now vacant is one we want to buy and fix up and transform into a larger community center, foodjustice center; better bigger health clinic; and urban monastery with prayer and meditation chapel and even barebones lodging for people who come to volunteer and be renewed missionally; and we are partnering with them on land for one of our community garden sites now, and want to buy a whole city block across from their property for an outdoor A Third Place Center and livingkitchen and pocket park for the area that is a bridge between the two poorest parts of our low income area, and at a juncture for racial demographics as well). And we made special thankfulness cards for our windows, and lit special candles, and have been singing a lot more lately in worship, and more spirited; it is great to see our two year old member halt his roaming when he hears certain songs we sing each Sunday and come to join our circle and hold hands :)...the power of a common liturgy.

This 10 am Sunday, Nov. 29, we will have our First Sunday of Advent Worship Service focusing on Peace, with special litany and also some discussion of the biblical story based on scholars presentations on a DVD (to be followed in Advent on Dec. 6 with focus on Joy, Dec. 13 on Love, and Dec. 20 on Hope; with our Christmas Eve candlelight lessons and carols and communion beginning at 11 pm and ending at midnight).
This Sunday, following our worship and common meal, we will begin remodelling the Giving Room to get ready for expanded food pantry, for consignments, for a healthy eating cafe space, and continued clothing donation room, with a new kidspace inside it, and a new wider opening and welcoming space where Let Turley Bloom will promote itself and its garden projects. Stop by our Project Day and lend a hand. (If you don't see me there all afternoon it's because I will be getting ready for a non-heart related medical procedure early this next morning; keep me as ever in your prayers, thanks).

We will be continuing all the other offerings--a special crafts night for all arts and crafts folks to share and learn and just talk and show their wares and wishes, Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 pm, and the same night we will host another foodjustice meeting; the next Tuesday Dec. 8 at 6:30 pm we will host a fun showing and discussion of the movie Greenfingers (we will have a holiday movie, Joyeaux Noel, later in the month); also in December on the 15th we will offer a program for parents of all ages about how to use the internet to help their children's education, not hinder it; and we will be working on many different local projects and services tied in to our ongoing events and partnerships.

And Right now outside the center on our portable electric sign one side reads: No More Stuff Give Love Instead Celebrate Friday Buy Nothing Day. We do our part by giving stuff away, as a clearinghouse of sorts for stuff, and will be again holding a big free book event for all ages, and encouraging people to spiritually declutter their lives too.

I titled this column An Altar in the World, an homage to the wonderful new book by that name by Barbara Brown Taylor. But it also signifies what we do here in our part of the northernedge of Tulsa, and why. Her previous book was Leaving Church, and we too, as church, have left church as most people have known it; now we take on the task of not only creating an altar in the midst of the world, our community center in which we worship and serve Christ by seeking to be mediocre followers of a first century carpenter, but also finding ways to help people create other alters in their worlds, of work, and of home, and in their relationships of many sorts, in their gardens, along their roads, in their random acts of kindness and beauty and blessings.

And it occurs to me that the titles of her chapters in the book also are touchstones for what we do here, and what, when we fail to do them, at least we know what we are moving toward becoming. Think over this past year's columns and accounts and dreams and surprises and see how they in their essence are reflected by these practices of how one builds an altar in the world: the practice of waking up to God (vision, seeing anew); the practice of paying attention (reverence); the practice of wearing skin (incarnation, perhaps the most important one for the incarnational church, and the most challenging); the practice of walking on the earth (groundedness); the practice of getting lost (wilderness); the practice of encountering others (community); the practice of living with purpose (vocation); the practice of saying no (sabbath); the practice of carrying water (physical labor); the practice of feeling pain (breakthrough); the practice of being present to God (prayer); the practice of pronouncing blessings (benediction).

Local folks, this book will be the annual gift for our study, for our ever hoped-for spiritual retreat away in the new year, as we inspire ourselves into surprising ourselves ever again.

To all, a Thanksgiving full of freedom, of community, of grace, of belovedness, and living for and with others into the fullness of being God's own particular chosenness You.

If you feel called to participate in the mission of the church through us, by the way, especially at this end of the year time when some are looking at end of the year deductions and/or are simply moved by the Spirit they hear stirring within them to do something outlandishly beyond themselves, checks payable to A Third Place Community Foundation, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., Turley, OK 74126 (or Tulsa, same zipcode, gets to us the same) are greatly appreciated. You can make them out to Epiphany Church or The LivingRoom Church but they will just be funnelled over to the Community Center eventually. You can always chat with me at 918-691-3223 or 918-430-1150 or 918-794-4637 too. Join the Experiment in Progressive and Missional church.
blessings, thanks, and of course more soon,

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Location and Cost and Diversity and more about Ministerial Education/Formation

I really like what colleagues Christine Robinson at and Scott Wells at have to say, again, on issues related to the system of ministerial education, and especially with Scott, on wondering about greater options to the "standard seminary approach" to formation for at least most denominational oriented church ministers. My questions run even deeper in questioning the system, I think, and proposing a shift to "seminary congregations" dispersed around the country, say 10 of them.

But let me say, as I work in part for a seminary, that I love seminaries, gained soooo much from them, and can't imagine being the kind of minister I am without them, to a large degree. In fact, my love for the seminary is why I want to see them de-centralize and be re-located missionally so more can be touched by their mission, and they can be touched more by the mission of others. The question that needs to come up for all churches, institutions of all kinds, and seminaries, and especially here for the system of liberal Protestant ministerial formation, is: given the changing new context of religion and ministry and leadership and churches, if we were starting over from virtual scratch, how would we do it? We are the inheritors of much for good and ill now, and we can't undo that even if we wanted to, but we need to at least hold forth the vision of what could be, needs to be, so that we can see what is possible and be surprised by what is more possible than we can imagine.

We are on the path to this already with more and more online courses (so faculty don't always have to be in physical proximity with students), with the plethora of non-UU seminaries educating ministers for UU churches (such as my seminary,, with churches and seminaries moving more toward leadership formation irrespective of ordination outcome, extending their degree programs and non-degree programs, and as churches are looking more at the old model of educating, raising up, from within. And with the great rise in community ministries extra-parish. Collaboration is the new watchword.

So, imagine the seminary libraries online more or completely online for all practical purposes; imagine a scholarship institute that cultivates the research interests of seminary faculty and others related to the work of ministry, either in a setting of its own or that exists as a convocation, perhaps in a retreat center managed by another institution already so that you don't have building costs limiting you; and this institute could be the site of offering intensives where faculty and students from around the country could meet, but it wouldn't be a requirement to do so, much as the situation is now.

And imagine 10 congregations around the country being identified and resourced as seminary congregations, with the UUA getting involved primarily to help initiate the change by setting a deadline for when it will stop its current system, and then as also mentioned at the final fellowship process end, to certify and connect and celebrate associationally the ministries produced. It seems it would connect formation and theological education into the life of the churches in a region in a new way, could help them with leadership, could spur on covenantal lateral relations and even a kind of regional capital campaign to help fund the work.

Hard road to get there, as Scott mentions in his piece, and hard to get even someplace like it I suppose (when so many UU churches reap the theological education funded and endowed by non-UUs; a lot of addiction all around to kick), but with all the changes afoot or on the horizon for UU seminaries and churches and our ministry demographics and desired settings and the economic and cultural changes, this could be the time to have change thrust upon us. And, thinking missionally or publicly, do it all in the framework not of how do we produce new leaders for our own organizations, but how do we do it to produce what our various areas need, and carry it out in collaboration with others not a part of our sphere?

These 10 congregations might enlarge themselves by using the project as a way to engage with other non-UU churches, major non-profits, and for-profits interested in the vision. Not sure but how this might bring costs to students down too in the long run as we shift the locus.

This is connected too with the sometimes stated desire for more entrepeneurial and bi-vocational ministries and how to plant in a multiple of cultures. Many seminaries in the liberal Protestant tradition just have not had the expertise or the focus or the will to engage with ministerial formation and practice in the light of entrepenuerism and church planting and organic and missional callings as the more conservative Protestant seminaries and church-based seminaries have done, not to mention as have the unaccredited non-degree but all important parachurch networks. I think going to a more local, congregation-seminary system can only help that situation by getting theological education more into the needs of the churches and able to draw on expertise beyond itself to help meet the needs.

And I would like to see the 10 congregations picked not only for their passion and mission and resources which could handle a bump in identity and mission, but also for some theological particular depth in orientation besides trying to be able to produce a generic UU minister to a generic anything to anybody UU congregation; at least some might offer to go deeper into leadership in the life of a Christian, humanist, etc. formation. Another reason, lol, besides regionalism, to shoot for ten...

Start with the congregations and what they do well already and have to offer and think how to turn them inside out to expand and grow into having seminary tracks connected to them. All of them will be in places where there are other institutions offering courses such as biblical languages, e.g., and care, and systems dynamics, and many of the other knowledge-based classes that students connected with the church could draw upon.

Let those 10 seminary-churches replace the three regional MFC subcommittees (ministerial fellowship committee); let the one national MFC be focused on the overall work of the 10 and relate with them to the UUA and vice-versa and be advocates and accountability with them, instead of being individual-minister-to-be oriented. Let the internships and student ministries be rolled into the life and work of those 10 seminary-churches. Make sure of course that there are CPE (clinical pastoral education) opportunities in the cities of the 10 sites.

Connected to the mission of this blog, in fact I think the 3Rs of missional church might be a roadmap here too. 1. Relocate the formation (responsibility, authority, and trust for it along with the physical relocations); 2. Redistribute resources (move online with library, and many classes, promoting of course to those pursuing ordination and those not and don't worry too much about that since ordination itself is a matter best left to congregational discernment, and redistribute funds by redirecting local donors and funding to the new sites); and 3. Reconcile (churches and other groups with theological education and leadership, and also promoting cultural reconciliation by creating new leaders for new or underserved areas with new groups).

Since we are just daydreaming our way along to a different kind of church.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New This's and That's: Stringfellow, Volf, new programs; All Saints; progressive Christian DVD

Just got back from a few days retreat in Cleveland OH with the UU Christian Fellowship Board. We stayed in the wonderful RiversEdge Center, hospitality by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. If you need a place with a variety of good programs and resources, up to date, and yet with the touchstones of worship in the ancient styles, check it out. I include it now along with some of my favorite places for retreat: Sisters of Saint Margaret in Boston area, Walker Center in Boston area, Glastonbury Abby in Hingham Mass, Camp Allen near Houston.

Looking forward to a Christmastide to Epiphany vacation to Edinburgh, London, and Paris.

I loved being introduced to the writings of William Stringfellow, Episcopalian, lawyer for the oppressed, back when I was in seminary (thanks Gary Blaine), and on my recent trip I discovered a treasure trove of his writings in the bookstore at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. They have created a good missional sense of place along with, of course, a beautiful worshipping space. The cathedral is open to walk-ins off the street, locals hang out on the steps, there is a common area that looked like it had wifi free and a place to sit and eat, there is a coffeeshop, and the bookstore, and probably much more than we had time to explore. But a good place with friendly people embodying the gospel.

Our church at a third place revolves around those three Rs; relocation, redistribution, reconciliation, and Stringfellow's work reflects those three Rs too; I am enjoying his final book The Politics of Spirituality, good forceful biblical spirituality that grounds the spiritual in the common life of us all, i.e. politics. I wish Stringfellow had lived long enough, as a gay Episcopalian, to have enjoyed the movement of his particular church toward the justice and radical hospitality he lived and wrote about. In this All Saints season he is one of my saints. His version of spirituality is not about individualism and feel goodism, but is one and the same with engaged action. If by chance you haven't experienced Stringfellow it can change your understanding of church, religion, and biblical imperatives.

I also recently attended a seminar at Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa where Miroslav Volf lectured all day on Forgiveness in a culture stripped of grace. Wonderful. I rushed out and bought his book from which the lectures in general came: It is called Free of Charge: giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace. Volf is with the Yale Divinity School and a lot of his work and good resources can be found at Sign up for their email newsletter.

Volf's lectures reminded me of the spirit of radical grace and hospitality that has guided our transformation with The LivingRoom Church into a missional faith community and the opening and operation of our A Third Place Center. He talks about the three modes of human relationships as taking, trading, and giving. So much of our culture is based on taking and trading; it is the dominant mode of living. And yet the gospel call is for life given to others because we have received life abundance, because God is a giving God in great creation and diversity of spirit. How much of our church values though are based on either a model of taking and building up of one's self and one's own community, or especially more and more on the model of trading, where there is a fee and cost for everything, all in the guise of reality. Against all that Jesus says to create relationships and communities of radical giving and forgiving, that it is the surest way toward love and real accountability and justice. Using those principles, in A Third Place we have a place where people receive health care free of charge, computer access free of charge, food and meals free of charge, a library free of charge, can serve others free of charge, create gardens, help school children, find and spread community spirit in a place of neglect and abandonment and where the culture is skewed toward taking and trading.

Finally, in light of the above, a report that this past Saturday night our group of a few "mediocre followers of a first century carpenter" organized a splendid festival party happening on Halloween night for our whole community, with close to 200 people participating. People from all parts of life, races, ages, people just getting out of jail, people struggling in many ways, but for one night pausing to come and be with others, to bring others to the party, free of charge. I know some Christians have this negative thing about Halloween, but if they would allow themselves to experience and to see beneath the surfaces of an event like our Halloween event, they would experience it as a Jesus kind of thing.

Stay tuned for much more about how we are getting involved in new ventures growing our food pantry and food and health programs, partnering with more and more schools (we hosted a great brainstorming and grant planning session a week or so ago; we are hosting a free program for info on weatherization projects for low income housing tomorrow Nov. 4 at 7 pm; we hosted a gathering on the census; we will be showing the documentary "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" Tuesday Nov. 10 at 7 pm with a meal and community gardening planning; and more to come.); partnering more with the park programs; we hosted a great OU social work class looking at how to resource some of our vision plans for our local area. We are truly a church turned inside out and upside down in the spirit of Jesus.

And our worship on Sundays has been spirited. More singing from a variety of traditions; we celebrated and lit candles for All Saints Day on Sunday to remember those famous or known only to us who have meant so much to us; we have had great conversation growing out of watching the brand new DVD on progressive Christianity, geared for young adults especially, Dream by the group. As we head toward the holidays the life of our small band of freely following Jesus folks is strong as we strive to make Jesus visible in the world; much more to come so thanks for walking with us even through cyberspace, or come visit and spend time with us if you are in the area.

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Being Sent: Ways of the Spirit

Hi all. Recuperating from the flu this weekend I have been reading Life of the Beloved; spiritual living in a secular world by Father Henri Nouwen, and it seems to lift up the essence of our vision and mission, or why we seek to do what we do here in our time and place and context. He begins with the love; that we are Beloved, no matter what culture or our own history tries to tell us, and so our whole identity is connected to Love, comes from Love, chosen or taken by Love, and this is a Blessing that to be fully realized must be shared. Being who we are we receive this original blessing through our own brokenness, which is to be transformed in seeing it for what it is, just a part and not the whole of us, and also in its sharing. This is why we are a people sent into the world. And each of these elements or movements of the spiritual life in Nouwen's work also mirror the elements of communion of cup and plate in our weekly practice--taking what we have received, blessing, breaking, giving to others.

"Everything changes radically," he writes, "from the moment you know yourself as being sent into the world." Nouwen was a leading academic theologian at Yale and other universities and who left to find his place of being sent into the world in living in community with people with mental disabilities, but he writes that we all have our places and the radical change he speaks of can happen anyplace once the spiritual vision is understand of being chosen, blessed, broken, and given. I often talk about the three R's of the spiritual life or re-locating, re-distributing, and re-conciling, and these can happen many ways and places. Nouwen says our task is to learn to see the sacred in our daily lives and all the people we come into contact with, even with those who don't speak our language of faith for they will help us know our own faith more deeply.

So it is whenever we find ways to meet others in the world and to come together in worship and service.
Some of these times will be this Monday Oct. 12 at 7 pm at Phillips Theological Seminary, 901 N. Mingo, for Faith Matters lecture on body images and gender and theology by Sarah Morice Brubaker, and during the weekly Tuesday walking club at 5;30 pm at A Third Place, and Wednesday evening for working at the Center to clean it and get it ready for the big Community Visions event which will take place from 10 am to Noon on Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Center when our collaboration with OU Social Work students finishes up this semester with their presentations of grant possibilities for us before a panel of real foundation representatives. And for worship on Sunday, Oct. 18 when we explore our "status update' of our spiritual life. It is also present whenever our Center opens itself in service to others through the Clinic newly expanded and as we seek to expand our food pantry and other projects you have heard about and will hear more about it.
And on our own in our families and at work and other communities, the sacredness is waiting to be seen, and shared.

Blessings and thanks and more soon,

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Our Common Liturgy

Feel free to print out and take with you and use for your own daily reflections, to incorporate into your daily prayer and worship.

Church at A Third Place Center

A missional community of free faith seeking to make Jesus visible in the world through small acts of justice and compassion done in great love. Join us in service throughout the week.

Our Welcome Table of Worship is open to all who welcome all, regardless of belief or denomination, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, economic status, or political affiliations.

Today is the day which God has made: Let us rejoice and be glad therein. What is required of us? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
This is our covenant as we walk together in life: In the light of truth, and the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather in freedom, to worship God, and serve others.

Morning Songs and Morning Prayers
Lift up your voices in celebration; lift up the names of those on your mind and in your heart, followed by the Lord's Prayer; people are free to use the Lord's prayer versions they are most familiar with.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Communion Open To All
Blessed are you poor. The realm of God is yours. Blessed are you who hunger today. You shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep today. You shall laugh. Blessed are the humble. They will inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful. They will find mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called children of God.
Jesus said I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. They asked him, when did we do this Lord? And he replied when you did it to the least of these.
Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit. Let all who hunger come and eat. Here is the fruit of the vine pressed and poured out for us. Let all who thirst now come and drink. We come to make peace. We come to be restored in the love of God. We come to be made new as an instrument of that love. All are worthy. All are welcome.

“Let Us Break Bread Together” “We’re Gonna Sit At The Welcome Table”


“Shalom Havyreem” “Go Now In Peace”

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Gospel of Mark reflections

During this year, between now and Easter, we will be incorporating selections from the Gospel of Mark into our church's holy conversations or our communion words during worship. I will post these or many of them here on the blog.

For example, this coming Sunday I will be lifting up from Mark second chapter, how one of the first evidences of his public ministry after the baptism and time in the wilderness is reflected in the story of Jesus and his disciples eating with tax collectors and sinners. My point is not only that he associated with those who were scorned by other people, meaning that he could find God within them and through their lives and not just taking God to them but also that his eating with them was not like going to a restaurant where there are people different from you eating. In that case you might still be separate from them, just visiting so to speak, and it might be about your own self-righteousness to be seen with those you shouldn't be seen with. But with Jesus and his dinners, they were family affairs; it was about going deeper with those who are endangered, becoming truly relational with them, creating that fictive family and kind of relationship that is opposed to the kind most favored; it is about risk. That is what being in a missional community is and calls us toward. It is what communion every time we worship points us to.

And here are reflections from the lectionary readings from Mark for the past Sunday and the upcoming Sunday. Read more at

First the pivotal passage of Jesus' encounter with the Syro-Phoenician mother; one of the very few times Jesus is verbally one-upped (the other also by a woman, his mother); a Gentile and a woman with an audacious spirit, risking hurt to confront him and when faced with Jesus' dismissal of her, she continues with her prophetic stance of faith that knew no boundaries of ethnicity or gender or any other way of separation and oppression. She holds up the possibility of redemption and mutual transformation to Jesus and his followers themselves; she holds up the mirror to Jesus about his very calling; she models the very way of the disciple, as opposed to so many of his authorized disciples who don't get his message and ministry, in a gospel that is about becoming a disciple of Jesus in dangerous times and ways. For those of us who find our deepest following of Jesus by being in relationship with others who are different from us theologically, culturally and other ways, and with the vulnerable, this is a scripture that highlights our very faithfulness. And then this is further revealed by the wonderful next scene Jesus' healing, our healing, comes through that wonderful word Ephphatha, to be opened, to be in a position of receiving of receiving the healing of love and truth from others, especially from those who we have been taught to turn away from and who so often turn away from us; our way of being a disciple is to live in the spirit of Ephphatha. To create systems that are open, not closed.

Mark 7: 24-37:
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
This Sunday: Mark 8:27-38
But what kind of a Christ, a Messiah, was Jesus to his followers, and to us? Radically, he was seen as the Messiah through his vulnerability, his power-with others, not through his power-over others. Peter's understanding of the Messiah, of God, of the community of followers, was that of the way of the world, of the Roman Empire and temple collaboration way, not the way of the divine Jesus had been demonstrating for them, the divine relationship and compassion for the outcast, and the way that led to but beyond the cross. Jesus is rebuked by Peter for violating the norms of the Messiah and so Jesus rebukes him back, or the Satan he is exhibiting; and certainly religious leaders ever since have still not gotten it and have followed the cultural norms instead of Jesus' way of disrupting the cultural norms. No wonder :) throughout Mark Jesus calls on disciples to be silent about what they see and are told; silence until they are able to get and live it; silence beats the way we so often say and do just the opposite of what Jesus called us to say do and be. What are the crosses that line our lives today, the way the crosses lined the roads Jesus walked upon? Which ones are we called to pick up and transform as we are transformed? It is not that we seek suffering, and judge our selves based on some degree of suffering for the good cause--that is counter to the spirit of Jesus--but that we live, as this following text implies through Jesus' teaching, as if we were already in a state of resurrection and by doing so put all the suffering that may come from the world's crosses into a larger perspective.
27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

These were some of my thoughts this week.

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Community Visions

Here is another updated report on what and how our missional community of faith is doing in our northedge of Tulsa.

Recent sightings of the Spirit here in our community:
we had a wonderful start of Community Visions last Saturday where we worked with OU social work students on turning some of our dreams into grant realitiies and projects in the areas of food and justice, animal justice and safety, neighborhood justice and transforming abandoned buildings and lots into pocket parks and more spaces for community gardening and community events. The overall arc is to continue with our becoming an inside-out incarnational community; we turned our church inside out into A Third Place Center, and now we are looking at decentralizing and spreading out A Third Place into a movement that can be located wherever we are called.

On Saturday Sept. 19 the next round of Community Visions will take place at A Third Place as we hear back from the graduate students on their research since our meeting. We will also on that day have a Community Volunteer Appreciation Lunch in coordination with OU. And the final presentations will take place on Saturday Oct. 17. Come see community in action where people least expect it, and how they least expect it. And Wednesday Sept. 23 at 6:30 pm we will have a planning Board meeting. Much to celebrate.

We had our Plant Rescue church without walls last Sunday; communion service at the Center followed by guerilla gardening at a site that will become a skateboard and soccer complex, rescuing native plants that will be transplanted to our new gardening project at the Cherokee School here. And we have our common meals to round out our time of sharing Sunday together.

This Sunday we will have our monthly time of holy conversation lifting up experiences of the last week or last month that have moved us closer to God, opened us up to Love and Joy and Service, moments perhaps of transformation, and also those things that have caused us to struggle with this walk of faithfulness. Next Sunday, Sept. 20, will be a chance to ask me anything about my odyssey of faith, of this community and visions, and sign up for your chance to do an oddyssey and present those things that sustain you.

The Big Garden Party and free lunch will be held at Cherokee School, 6001 N. Peoria Ave., on Saturday, Sept. 26. Come for all or only a part of it; bring youth groups, friends, the curious, etc. From 8 am we will begin transforming the landscape into a kid-friendly garden vs. a maintenance-worker friendly one. We will also have our semiannual Free Seed and Plant and Garden Exchange; bring to share, take what you find you need. And we will have a lunch at noon and tour of the school where my wife and I met 50 years ago in kindergarden. We will continue planting all afternoon. Right now the art teacher has to keep her blinds down because of the ugly view out the windows; we want to change that with a prairie garden; right now all over our north Tulsa area the landscapes at the elementary schools are abysmal, the grass goes uncut, unsightly utility fixtures are prominent in front, and we wonder why the schools are called at-risk. Neighborhood revitalization can be started at the schools and beginning at Cherokee we want to begin sowing these seeds at our other schools here too.

At worship lately we have been talking about the power of words in our simple common liturgy, how these words help us to live faithfully to a vision broader and more loving than the words we hear so much of the rest of our lives coming from the television, from work, even from our families and friends. Every Sunday we say together words of the ages such as the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, Micah's admonition to live justly, love mercy, walk humbly with our God, and the Psalmist call to know this is the day which God has made so let us rejoice and be glad therein; each Sunday we break the bread and drink of the cup (by intinction) and talk about all the different meanings held for us in the ordinary act, sacrament of communion; sometimes we focus on unity, sometimes forgiveness, sometimes liberation from oppression, sometimes a theology of enough, this past Sunday on what it signifies about being a part of a Body, of Christ, of Creation, of sharing despite our differences and validating our differences and we have many. Many of the words we will be absorbing this year will come from the Gospel of Mark we incorporate into our time together this year, in small doses. I have been and will be doing some longer reflections on Mark in one of my online bible study groups and will also be posting them at Planting God Communities

These words we try to live out all the rest of the week. Sometimes individually, and so we hope that the common songs we sing and will be learning become a part of our daily lives, as do the prayer words and blessings; We try to live them our together too getting together at odd times to hang out, to do small projects, to share life and thanks. And attending community events together like the wider community association meeting Tuesday Sept. 29 at 7 pm, the upcoming Taste of North Tulsa Event at McLain High School on Thursday Oct. 8 that will be free to all, and to see all kinds of opportunities for get-togethers go to

We will have community breakfast and random acts of kindness this Saturday at 9 am beginning with breakfast at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy.

We are starting a walking club called Souls and Soles you will be hearing more about; we are going to explore new transformations of the Center with times for workdays to do it; and through it all every day we offer a place well into the night for people to meet, share, find out information, get and give donations of clothes, food, books, and more. We will be starting a movie and social justice documentary times. The seeds continue to be sown. All that you have read about up to this point happens often with one or two people, sometimes four, sometimes a dozen; that's what it means to be missional minded.

Come see.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Recent report from the church

Posting a few recent reports about how we put a lot of the theories here into action.

It was good to relax this past Sunday as we gathered for conversation, to watch more of the documentary on monastic life Into The Great Silence, share communion and fix and eat a healthy lunch. It is also good to see that the garden we have planted for the community is yielding produce for our center and food pantry, and thanks for other donations of home grown fresh produce for it from others.

Looking ahead: This Sunday and next we will watch and discuss the movie Simon Birch and John Irving's book A Prayer for Owen Meany which "suggested" the movie, both as a way of launching a study and discussion of the Gospel of Mark and radical discipleship in our time, a time when it is both quite easy to be a Christian and extremely hard to be a follower of Jesus.

First Sundays of each month we will pick back up on our Church Without Walls Sundays, doing things together in the community or worshipping with other groups. Second Sundays during our holy conversation time we will de-brief our lives and bring back reports on how we are living as missionaries of love and justice, sharing stories and struggles. On other Sundays we will offer turns at doing Odysseys sharing something special from our life story, or something we have found that inspires and sustains us, or a passion we want to use in the world. Children will continue with lessons from the book Hide and Seek With God.

Special days: Saturday Sept. 26 will be a day of transforming the landscape, and lives, at Cherokee School, with gardening from 8 am to 11 am, with a special lunch and tour of the school as a gift from Bonnie and I in celebration of the day we met 50 years ago in kindergarden at Cherokee; then more gardening in the afternoon. For more and ways to help, in person or with other ways, contact Bonnie at Come be our guest and help us help the school. On Saturday Oct. 31 we will host our annual big community Halloween Party at our A Third Place Center; help us keep making the celebration bigger and better; Sunday, Nov. 15 at 2 pm help Turley United Methodist Church as it celebrates its 100th anniversary; Nov. 22 will be the Thanksgiving Service and the annual Reverse Offering Sunday when we give out money for people to use for acts of random kindness beauty justice or to seed projects and causes that make a diffeerence, then on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday we share stories of how we used the monies; On Nov. 29 we begin Advent sundays leading to Christmas Eve communion.

Stay tuned for other special days of community service through A Third Place and special fund-raisers.

Thanks and blessings and more soon,

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Friday, August 21, 2009

A new way of church for young adults? missionaries in own zip code

The latest Leadership Journal is focused on ministry to twenty-somethings, iGens, and there is one summary of how the seminal megachurch Willow Creek has been changing its generationally focused worship service, finally ending it, in favor of responding to the generation's desire for more missional church: It is a good model for progressive churches to follow: from Collin Hansen's article:

"equip twenty-somethings to go and serve as missionaries in their own zip code [RR: another good reason for relocating to the abandoned places of empire, too]. He launched missional community hubs, where a core group of four to six young adults move into an apartment complex or condominium unit. Meeting three times per month there, the missional community hubs focus on prayer, Scripture, and community. Keeping with Willow Creek's mission, the small group gathers must be accessible to unbelievers. They also serve their neighborhoods with justice and compassion initiatives. Outside these Tuesday night meetings, missional community hubs host social events where Christians can mingle with unbelievers. Those who want to invest even deeper can meet in gender-specific life transformation groups where two to five young adults study scripture and hold each other accountable...."

Everything Axis does today comes back to the need to build tight-knit communities in order to reach the milennial generation. 'the model must be relational. If it is based on the big event with one person teaching, I just don't think it's going to work...

We didnt come up with it but people belong before they believe before they behave.

From the interview with Matt Chandler on the New Reformed and being missional: "some people would think it would be cool if we had a coffee shop. But I don't want people getting their lattes here. I want them getting their lattes at the four Starbucks in our area so they can get to know the barristas and invite them into our body. [RR: it would be more missional if they lived in an area like we do without anything resembling a starbucks, then creating free coffee shops for the community might make sense; getting the young people to see that being cool shouldnt even be about where they live, as well as about where they drink coffee, is what it means to follow Jesus missionally. but his comment is a good first step for institutional churches].

From J.R. Kerr's good piece about open-source activism: tapping into new generation of leaders means letting go of leader having to feel the need to control and be in on everything. Boomer leadership focus on values of excellence and efficiency leads newer leaders to see those values as too corporate, too controlling, too consumerist.

From Chris Armstrong's How Solitude Builds Community: solitude is not removing yourself from service to others; it is the essential preparation for service. that preparation remains necessary today.

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This newest work by Eddie Gibbs, part of the co-author with Ryan Bolger of Emerging Churches, is called "churchmorph: how megatrends are reshaping christian communities." Like Emerging Churches when it came out, this new work is a good basic introduction to why church is being reimagined, and how it is being done so in different ways and places around the globe, especially in Europe, the U.S., and Australia. It is a good companion with Tom Sine's The New Conspirators. Its breadth is more significant than its particular depth, but it would be a great book to share with church leadership if you are introducing organic ways of being church. For depth go to Reggie McNeal's Missional Renaissance (see posts below on it); but for a one book intro to get you going into more depth, start here now. Gibbs and Bolger's three major characteristics of emerging churches continues to be a good guide; 1. identify with the life of Jesus; 2. transform secular space; 3. live as community.

Good Dog-eared sections of ChurchMorph:

A key scriptural text for incarnational theology and churches is Philippians 2, the possibly pre-Pauline hymn where Paul writes about Jesus being in the "morphe" of God. This is key to kenotic Christianity, giving up temptations of power in the world in order to allow God in and to transform the world. As with Jesus, so with the church and our lives. How then are we and our communities morphing to let God in?

Megatrends: a sense of mystery, without superstition, in worship; self-critical churches reflective of the move from modernity to postmodernity; rise of grassroots initiatives reflective of change from industrial culture to information culture; becoming incarnational reflective of shift from christendom to post-christendom era; as culture shifted from production to consumer oriented, he sees church-goers shifting from conformers to consumers (I see the shift coming next with missional church away from church-goers as consumers to them being convertors, agents of change). other megatrends include from religious identity to spiritual exploration, and delayed adulthood.

I resonate with Doug Pagitt of Solomon's Porch who is quoted in the book describing their experience as "kinda liturgical church...kinda like Mennonite church...kinda like Bible church." We often in worship have our blends of elements.

Gibbs uses several markers to decribe a church both emergent and missional, and it pretty well sums up our markers here in Turley too: on his spectrum we fall mostly into his categories--external focus, independent network (vs. inherited denomination), multicultural, theologically liberal, missional, low-profile situational leader (working on that more), and engaging popular culture.

"Traditional denominations on both sides of the Atlantic suffer from a number of drawbacks. First, the model of church they are endeavoring to reproduce is a style of church shaped by and suited for Christendom.[RR: even if they are theologically eclectic oriented UU churches]; it is not a missional model...Second, the new church plants have to meet criteria set by the denomination in order to be considered a full-fledged church. This means that church planting becomes phenomenally expensive, as it is tied to real estate, meeting pay scales for professional clergy, and the purchase of furnishings...Third, traditional denominations suffer from a shortage of trained and passionate church planters. They tend to attract and train leaders who look to the church to provide security and a career in ministry, rather than ground-breaking risk-takers...Fourth, the seminaries that provide their leaders have trained their students in teaching and pastoring existing congregations, rather than in how to birth and reproduce new faith communities."

More good markers of a missionary church: 1. focused on God the Trinity [see my posts on the Trinity in progressive and still powerful understandings, as touchstones of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, how each of these needs to be incarnated in community]. 2. incarnational; 3. transformational; 4. makes disciples; 5. relational, hospitable and welcoming and "its ethos and style are open to change when new members join" [that last one is becoming increasingly important and is a challenge for most to understand that it doesnt mean the DNA changes, as new members come in and are leaders because they get the DNA, but the expression of the DNA in ethos and stlyle reflects continual evolution, and is another reason why multiple small groups helps this happen in a healthy way]. 6. reproducible; 7. globally committed.

Emerging churches are moving in an Anabaptist direction, resistance to ways culture shapes us and churches.

emerging churches reflect emergent systems: 1. open to change from within; 2. dictated by local not global circumstances; 3. learning as self-renewing; 4. distributed knowledge, no key leader seen as fount of all knowledge; 5. servant leadership that changes perception of a situation instead of announcing change.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recovering Rest Renewal

[latest update: start cardiac rehab next week, and an updated sleep study after that; learning how good it feels on low unsaturated fat diet, still resting during day a lot, doing small good things like going to farmers market, catching up on family matters, beginning to think about trip to Europe after Christmas, looking forward to working again in a more balanced way too.]

[update: internist visit yesterday went well; basic vitals good, no effects of all the new medicines, but no extensive tests, those will wait for the cardiologist followup next month, and also I hope to make contact next week with the cardiac rehab program). It felt good to drive myself there across town (not being any hospitals in North Tulsa; whole episode brings home the lack of medical care and the food desert here; I often cite to the media the bottom line of our zip code having a fourteen year lower life expectancy difference than the highest one just eight miles away in south Tulsa, and the life affirming presence of our church here) and I did a few errands at the seminary and visited family in from out of town, but overall a low stress day that was the most "normal".

Below are a series of posts of resources and reflections that came out of leading a workshop on the organic church at summer church camp. I was only able to lead two of the sessions however as I had a heart attack during the early hours on August 5. I never lost consciousness. My wife, some of whom know is a physician, gave me some aspirin and drove me 20 minutes to the nearest hospital where the EKG confirmed the damage and I was lifeflighted to St. Francis in Tulsa. By the time I was there the medicine I had received helped to open back up the closed artery. Later that day I had two stents put in the artery. I came home Friday Aug. 7 evening and have been resting in recovery and getting used to my new medicines and diet. I go to a new internist tomorrow then go back to the cardiologist in mid September for a stress treadmill to see if another stent is needed in an older blocked pathway of the heart from four years ago.

Thanks for all the prayers that have come my way and for my family and community here and through the UU Christian Fellowship. I am on low stress schedule; not checking online much but am some; doing things that are energy boosts but not too stressful. About to drive again. But everything limited until August 26. I am feeling the seeds of renewal, and an overwhelming sense of grace and gratitude. Enjoying just being. Reading. Thinking. Caring for my body, as a part of the Body of Christ.


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