Saturday, February 27, 2010

UU World Articles; Unitarian Universalism and Change, and What Change A Small Progressive Missional Community of Faith Can Create

There has been a lot of talk again about Unitarian Universalism and change and multi culturalism and multi-class embodying, and reclaiming mission as the owner of the congregation, and how to move from private to public churches. I just had a great and pretty eloquent post on all of this commenting on several of the wonderful articles that have been published in the past couple of issues of the UU World magazine, but I hit the wrong button and lost it all; thank you God for the reminder of who is in charge of the internet and my vanity.

I will try to work up the energy to redo the post, but in the meantime go to and read the articles by Michael Durral on the public church from his great new sequel book on UUism The Almost Church ReVitalized, and from the latest issue Paul Rasor's article and Rosemary McNatt's response, and perhaps even more importantly the article about the Jericho Road project for a kind of start at relocating church mission and ministry, and read Dan Hotchkiss's article on mission driving all things church (rather than churches trying to find and express their mission), and Doug Muder's column on UUism as a message or a culture. I liked them all and they are moving the realm of the important up into the forefront a bit more. But of course they are long on diagnosis and short on prescription. That was going to be the gist of the lost blogpost, and I will come back to it, but if you read this blog you will know the answer; if we want to get out of our head we have to stop analyzing and diagnosing, and start creating new communities in new places in new ways, relocating, redistributing, reconciling. This is how we become multicultural; we live and be the church with the poor. God will take care of the rest. The nuances I will live to when I get up the energy to write it again.

Instead, let me just bring a summary of what's going on here, by a few progressive minded folks commited to a missional community of faith here where we live in the poorest unhealthiest zipcode of our metropolitan area, amidst diversity. I don't blog much or send out email much anymore because it is all so much of a ride we are on. But I will try to do some more often. Enjoy this glimpse of change.

The LivingRoom Church and A Third Place Community Center
History, Mission, Values, Vision

A 501c3 grassroots volunteer-based community development initiative
for Tulsa’s northern-edge neighborhoods

Our Name: “A Third Place” refers to the types of public civic spaces where people used to meet with those who are different in many ways from themselves, for forming community spirit and connections for the greater life of the wider community. The “first place” may be the home; the “second place” may be work or a church or association of like-minded people; the “third place” is truly a diverse, and free, community space.

Our History: In January 2007 a small handful of local residents, having met as Epiphany: The Living Room Church at 6305 N. Peoria Ave. since 2004 in the unincorporated urban-rural-small-town of Turley on the northern edge of Tulsa, decided to transform themselves by moving into a larger rented space at 6514 N. Peoria Ave. and creating that space as a free community center for residents living in a two mile radius, primarily in zip codes 74126, 74130. A Third Place Community Center was born. We began working toward creating a new non-profit community development foundation to sustain the center and its projects and greater mission and vision. Its service area of a two mile radius—from 46th to 86th Sts North, and Highway 75 to Osage County Line---was chosen because it is the area in which our residents primarily shop, go to school, use services, and many work. It is also a bridge area connecting incorporated and unincorporated neighborhoods of great ethnic and age diversity, and one of our core values is working toward reconciliation.

Mission: As a Center, To Change The World Though Small Acts of Justice Done with Great Love. As the Church, to make Jesus visible in the world.

Vision: Creating many diverse kinds of “a third place” centers and connections for the development of community life. As the church, creating an urban new monastic missional setting with many partners participating in different ways.

Values: Welcoming All Who Welcome All. Creating Safe and Civil Space For Building Relationships Across Divides of Race, Age, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Physical Abilities, Economic Conditions, Political Persuasions, Religious Affiliations, and National Origins. Dedicated to Sustainability in our Native, Natural Environment, and in promoting “smart growth”. As a Church, keeping it simple, real, relational, organic, permission-giving, prayerful, mission-driven, sharing leadership.

Guiding “4Rs” Principles: Retaining Residents while developing community life. Re-location (of people, families, services, businesses, etc.) into our currently abandoned, neglected, underserved, low-income areas. Re-Distribution of Justice, Health, Goods, Spirit, Hidden Resources of Strength. Reconciliation among separated people, families, neighborhoods, religions and other groups. The 3rs of relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation come from the Christian Community Development Association standards; the 4th R of retention comes from seeking to avoid gentrification (though that's difficult now to envision) so that current residents can enjoy the creation of new community life and not be forced to leave, even as now they are often penalized from the attitude that if you can move to a "better area" you should and if you can't or don't then you deserved what you get where you are.

Current Projects and more come and go and new ones come all the time:
The Community Center Meeting Space For Making New Friends and Dreaming New Dreams
OU Community Medicine Clinic
Community Resource Information
Our Own Library
Free Internet Center
Food Pantry, including dog food
Giving Room for clothing and other items
Art Gallery
Music Coffeehouse Concerts
Community Meals and Feeding and Nutrition Programs
Children's Area and Library
Television watching and Game Playing
Community Festivals and Holiday Celebrations
Community meetings
Nutrition Class, Diabetes Class, other classes
Sewing Project
Arts and Crafts Gatherings and community Projects
Let Turley Bloom community gardening and community orchard and roadside beauty
12 Step Recovery
Saving Pets of Turley
Community Academy of free classes supporting persons and the wider community

Current Partnerships with:
OU Graduate School of Social Work
OU Community Medicine
Cherokee Elementary School
OBrien Park
Turley Community Association
Healthy Cornerstore Initiatives
McLain High School Initiative
North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative
House District 72 Community Coalitions “from Turley to TU”
TU SEED Law Clinic
OU Tulsa Urban Design Studio
The Living Room Church (as the founding group, we still meet together within the center we created, on Sundays and at other times throughout the week for worship or service or other events)
Turley United Methodist Church
The Lighthouse 12-Step Recovery
North Tulsa Farmers Market

Our Dreams:
1. Purchase ($100,000) and renew the historic but abandoned 10,500 square foot Turley Methodist Church building and additional properties near 59th and N Peoria to expand into and create a Community Center for Body, Mind, Spirit, moving our current projects into this newer better space with room to grow new projects connected with our community gardens and food justice work, expanding the clinic and revolutionizing the concept of health clinic, creating a center for service-learning with campuses and partners, and the buildings would also be the hub for “de-centralizing the center” as we move our mission into public and outdoor spaces as well; The Living Room Church would coordinate the sanctuary space for regular times of prayer and meditation and worship and other spiritual events as an integral part of the new Center.

2. purchase ($25,000) a hilltop acre at 60th and N. Johnstown overlooking downtown, a “city block”, with two abandoned dilapidated homes and transform the space into The LivingKitchen Garden Pocket Park for growing, cooking, teaching, feeding, celebrating, bridging two neighborhoods, one incorporated and one not, with somewhat overlapping but different ethnic groups though sharing a common bond of poverty;

3. create one or more “healthy cornerstores” in our center and in other areas of our service boundary;

4. create additional A Third Place Centers, either in physical buildings of its own such as in the McLain Shopping Center, or existing businesses and groups, and in non-building spaces as part of our community gardens or other public spaces…..

… every neighborhod has a free community center within walking distance, and has volunteer trained neighborhood community health associates and designated resource responders within walking distance.

This is what a group of five to ten mission minded people can set in motion within three years. With no official denominational support. With few finances. With no staff.



Ron said...

Oh I meant to say how much I thank the UU World for its elevation of the topics in this focus lately, facilitating needed conversation. I will try to comment more specifically on many of the fine though so limited articles in future posts not so far off.

Lizard Eater said...

I am following everything y'all do with great interest!