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,

Type rest of the post here


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

These are beautiful stories, Ron, and real inspiration. Thanks for all you do.