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.

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