Friday, April 30, 2010

Christian Activists, Conservative Evangelicals, Others, On Immigration Reform

I love being both progressive, i.e. liberal/liberationist, and missional...obviously don't like crowds even though I am an extrovert :), and one of the things I like most is my dialogue with conservative missional brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when we begin to converge to make things happen "in the kin-dom" such as on immigration reform. We here are members of the Christian Community Development Association,, which has many much more conservative theological partners. Recent actions in Arizona have helped move people from many perspectives into prayer and action on these issues. Below is some dialogue about that. I wasn't able to make the phone conference this time, but wanted to share some of the correspondence about it. Especially if you are progressive and think that you are alone in your faithful response. Note some of these partners coming together via the CCDA.

Here is some of the correspondence:

Dave Clark
Chief of Staff

Dear Friends,

I was just in Phoenix, AZ the last two days to support our CCDA ministries working with many immigrant families, and to urge Arizona Governor Brewer to veto a proposed bill that you have most likely heard about on the news, a bill that would give the local police a mandate to round up and deport undocumented residents in their state. One of the most negative aspects of this proposed legislation is the racial profiling that would occur for Latino looking individuals, regardless of their legal status.

At the state capital on Tuesday, many Christians and immigration advocates gathered to protest and to pray that this bill NOT be signed into law, and that a more humane approach of dealing with our current broken immigration system would be pursued--through the passing of comprehensive immigration reform by our federal government.

The leadership of CCDA has made an intentional decision to help our members become more informed and educated regarding what a Biblical and humane immigration policy would look like in our nation, and so I am inviting all of our CCDA family to participate in a conference call with a group of Christian leaders from around the nation, some clergy, and some business leaders who will share their perspectives regarding the need for immigration reform and what we as Christians can do to help bring about this reform.

I will be one of the speakers on this call. I encourage you to rally your constituencies to join the call as well.

With much love and admiration for all you do for the Kingdom,

Noel Castellanos

Evangelical, Business and other Conservative Leaders to Give Update on Divisive Arizona Immigration Law

and Discuss Need for Congress and the President to Act NOW on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

You are invited on Thursday, April 29th at 2:00 PM EDT, to participate in the second strategy call with hundreds of Conservative grassroots advocates from around the country to hear from key business and Evangelical leaders on updates regarding Arizona’s divisive immigration law and plans to push for immigration reform this year. The call will be open to all denominations, businesspeople, political figures and press.

From various major cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Phoenix, Miami, New York and Washington DC, Conservative leaders will pray for a solution to the moral, economic and political crisis that our broken immigration system is causing for millions of families, especially in Arizona, and share strategies for breaking the stalemate in Congress to move immigration reform this year. As tens of thousands of activists prepare to march for immigration reform on May 1, we will share details for a national gathering being organized in Washington DC and discuss work that conservatives can engage in to increase pressure on the President and key Republicans in the Senate to move on immigration reform now.

WHO: Jeff Moseley, President, Houston Partnership, Houston, TX

Carlos Gutierrez, Former Secretary of Commerce Under President George W. Bush, Washington, DC

Rev. Eve Nuñez, Founder and President, Arizona Latino Commission, Phoenix, AZ

Alfonso Aguilar, Former Head of The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, appointed by president George W. Bush and Senior Fellow, Latino Project for Conservative Principles, Washington DC

Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Sacramento, CA

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association, Chicago, Ill

Jim Tolle, Senior Pastor, The Church on the Way, Los Angeles, CA

The Crumbs Under The Welcome Table Church

First, let me say it's been a wonderful and full to overflowing Eastertide here in our church. We have finished our free community academy and have projects underway in nine areas growing out of the grassroots organizing with OU Graduate social work students and our residents, our own strategic planning, have watched and discussed the movies The Blind Side and Man on a Wire and linked them to our missional community here. And we have continued with our efforts at The Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park and more adding new partners every week and conducting more folks around our area and connecting them with our projects, amazing them that so much is being done by so few all volunteers. .

We also had a good sermon written in part about us that inspires me even more. You can see it at under "The Abandoned Places of Empire" and to keep up with some of what is going on, and why, continue to go to and www.progressivechurchplanting.blogspot.

Tomorrow we will be practicing resurrection by putting in a new welcome to turley sign and beautifying it, and working more at Cherokee School and maybe Greeley school gardens we have started, and cleaning up the trash dumped on our streets, and having a giveaway day for books and clothes and more at the center and have a free meal and a free performance of country music by Johnny and the Oklahomans.

Sunday we will have communion, pray the lords prayer as every week, talk about the resurrection and talk about God and Belief and God without Belief et al and why atheists are welcome here at our missional community without their having to feel constantly beseiged to change their minds, and we will see some powerful witnesses about resurrection from the progressive Christian DVD, and if weather permits we might do some of it up at the hilltop site where we are trying to raise funds for The Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park amid the ruins. Come and join us either at the Center 6514 N. Peoria or at the hilltop at 60th and N. Johnstown at 10 am or when you can make it, and stay for our common meal together. Sundays here, as you will read below, are always full of surprises, and as my colleague and friend and mentor Carl Scovel has written, surprise is God's other name, truly, truly.

The title of this homily doesn't refer, necessarily, to the informal and homey way we do communion every Sunday morning, though we often comment how the mess we make of the bread of life everlasting is like how the body of Christ is not neat and orderly, well prepared and sanitarily presented and easy and conveniently consumed, but instead comes to us in fragments, crumbles, and gets all over us even when we try to keep it together.

The title of this homily refers to how the welcome table that is our lives, and our churches and associations, is a place for mutual transformation and conversion, one crumb at a time. The story behind the title is the story of Jesus' encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, from Mark 7. And it is our story, my story, in our missional community of faith here. It is not easy; mistakes happen; I slip back into default mode of scarcity too, and am comforted by this gospel story that it happens to Jesus too. More on that story and then about what happened last Sunday, a little story, that moves me still.

Jesus heads outside his perceived comfort zone, off toward Tyre in an area where the dominant culture is not Jewish but Gentile. He tries to hide, take a break for awhile, find his comfort zone, inside a house so no one would know he was there, but a woman alone, a mother, goes inside to confront him and plead for Jesus to heal her daughter.And Jesus dismissively says no, that the bread of his healing, that God, is only for those of his kind. Instead of letting that stand though, she, who risked much by going to him, risking rejection and shame, but driven by love and justice, says back to Jesus, as if quoting Jesus himself, holding up a mirror for him to see his self, says but even the dogs get the crumbs off the masters table. Even a little bread, even the crumbs, even those unintentionally given or found in surprising and shameful places and people, that will have healing too. And Jesus is caught up, converted, changed, and the woman's daughter is healed, and so too is Jesus.

Last Sunday, I am at the Center scurrying around trying to set up worship space, make copies, get things ready because I want our communion service to be one where the presence of God is experienced in our sharing of our lives, lighting candles, prayers, communion homily about Peter and Tabitha, spirited singing and then our watching the documentary and discussion about how we were a Church on the Wire, creating risky beauty acts in dangerous ways and places in secular society. I am in my zone or trying to get in my zone for worship, and then a woman with a daughter in need of healing slips into the house where I have other plans, am thinking about myself.

But this time the syrophoenician woman is instead an 11 year old boy who often comes to our center to be on the computers during the week and especially on Sunday, sometimes he comes in and out of worship with us, sometimes stays nearby on the computers, sometimes it gets a little distracting especially when it draws the other children away from our circle of worship. And this time, this Sunday, I really wanted worship to be that moving kind of experience. And so scurrying around I find him and tell him that today the community center will be closed and he can stay for worship but not on the computers. He nods and stays glued to the monitor and fortunately for me Bonnie grabs me and pulls me away and holds up the mirror. She says she had been talking with him and found out that the night before his mother had been in a bad accident and was in the hospital and his uncle was coming to get him in a while from the center to take to the hospital, and I remember how his cousin had recently been shot in one of the gang related activities near us, and he himself had been bitten by a pack of wild dogs that have been dumped and roam our community center by the walking trail preventing often our residents from being able to use the trail especially if they are on foot and not on bicycles as many are who come through our community from elsewhere.

God was already present, through this 11 year old, and I was scurrying around ignoring God in my quest for God. I go back and tell him he can stay, ask about his mother, his family, and find out that he wants to be able to buy her a present at the hospital to take to her and he asks if there is some work he can to help us to earn the money for the gift. There always is at our Center of course, and so community and healing is reformed, deeper this time, and I am reminded how easy it is to forget the mission we are on, and the real meaning of this place, and thankful for the opportunity then, and the opportunities I get all the time but sometimes don't recognize, in this way of doing church missionally.

If you read Thom's sermon above, or other things and ever get to thinking that I must be this wonderfully spiritual, dedicated, sacrificial, serving missional leader, I hope this story, and of course my many other similar experiences trying to create a welcome table full of bread for all, will remind you that I am not, and that it means even more that I am not. For it is the crumbs under the table people and moments that truly create the miracles. And once we decide that we can do this anyway, this way of becoming church even when we will make missteps like the one I did and even worse ones, much worse, then maybe we will begin to see that wherever we are and in whatever circumstances we might find ourselves, and no matter how imperfect our leadership, that none of it will keep us from the love of God and that love will be with us as we create our own third places and missional relationships and initiatives in a diversity of ways. The crumbs under the table will sustain you in ways you can't imagine.

Thanks, blessings, see you soon, sorry these epistles don't come out more often, keep me in your prayers and us in your prayers and let us know how we can pray with you and for you; know that any day you can have a candle lit for you here at A Third Place or wherever we end up being in worship.

oh and please find ways to be our ambassadors to others as well.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Church on a Wire

Church on a Wire, all welcome at all gatherings, A Third Place Community, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., 691-3223:

Sunday, April 25, worship 10 am, communion bread picked up at the Cherry Street Farmers Market will be apple cherry pecan from Great Harvest, and showing/discussing/exegeting for our beingness the documentary Man on a Wire; what is your church's destiny? passion? craziness? willingness to risk? and what is the wire where you must be?

Tuesday, organizing community with OU students and area residents free meal and planning and meeting 5:30 to 8 pm;

Thursday, April 29 Standing Against Racism;

Saturday May 1 Beautify Turley Day 8 am to 2 pm, free lunch for volunteer workers picking up trash and planting around the area and live country bluegrass and old time music from Johnny and the Oklahomans;

Sunday, May 2, worship and talking about God;

future sunday gatherings: church without walls blessing sites and tour of turley area, history, current, and visionary; worship cookout at obrien park; worship picnic touring Tallgrass Prairie Park; worship at labyrnth; worship with OpenTable UCC in Owasso, MCC in Dawson, and others through the summer; and of course all the ways we are church with two or more together throughout the week; check back here and

Friday, April 23, 2010

Consider This...Change This

Consider All This:

Our public community centers have been closed down, especially in our lowest income areas... Our state is dead last as the healthiest state…
And our 74126 zip code has the lowest life expectancy in our area, 14 years lower than just 8 miles straight south of us on Peoria Ave. ...
40 percent of the vacant residential properties in our two mile radius have been abandoned, not for rent or for sale, and this doesn't include the abandoned commercial properties…
We live in a healthy food desert…
A third in our area feel insecure about feeding themselves and their families with healthy food… The Tulsa Public Schools are ending the elementary science/nature classes in schools in our area even though our high school, McLain, has magnet science programs, meaning our own children will not be as prepared for the program.

Because of, and in spite of all this….We at A Third Place Community Center believe another way is possible…We believe, with your help, change is possible...

The Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park Project of our A Third Place Community Center in Turley and Tulsa’s northern-edge With University of Oklahoma Design Studio and OU Graduate Social Work

Sustainable Community Development One Block at a Time. Taking a full block with 12 lots with abandoned houses and trash, in an area overlooking downtown Tulsa, bridging two ethnically diverse low income areas….Turning It into An Outdoor Center with Community Gardens, Community Kitchen, Community Classes and Meals, Family area. On an acre at 60th and N. Johnstown Ave.

But first, in order to begin, we are raising from local residents and global citizens $15,000 needed to purchase the property to begin the transformation. WE CAN ONLY DO IT WITH YOU…We need 100 people from around the world to give at least an average $100 to match what we have raised (you can give more; you can give less; we want as many owners as possible). Donate in honor or memory of someone who cared. WE CAN ONLY DO IT WITH YOU NOW, AND WITH YOUR FRIENDS. DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP ALSO?

To Donate Online Go To Use, debit cards or paypal. Or Send checks made out to A Third Place Community Foundation to 6514 N. Peoria Ave., Turley, OK 74126.

We are an all-volunteer grassroots new 501c3 non profit organization but already have a health clinic, library, computer center, food pantry, clothing room, lending library, gardens and orchard, community center with programs and events. We would love to partner with you. Thanks so much.

“Small Acts of Justice Done With Great Love Change The World”
A Third Place Community Foundation, 6514 N. Peoria Ave.
918-794-4637, 691-3223, 430-1150,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ReDiscovering Jesus and Our Communities of Hope: Come to Revival/Retreat

Help us get the word out about this exciting event so people can make their plans now to attend. Spread the word.

Re-Discovering Jesus
and Communities of Hope

Revival/Retreat Sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, a national movement founded 1945

Thurs. Oct. 14 to Sun. Oct. 17, 2010

Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church
1641 W. Hebron Pkwy, Carrollton, TX (972) 492-4940

All Welcome: Christian or not, Unitarian Universalist or not, believers, skeptics, seekers…gathering in the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus
Keynote Speakers…workshops….dynamic varied worship…small groups
service project…community eating…bookstore and more.

Featured Presenters:

“Re-Imagining Jesus along with Peter, Paul, and Mary and the other radical early disciples” by Dr. Brandon Scott

founding fellow of the Jesus Seminar, parables scholar, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, author of “Re-Imagine the World,” “Hear Then The Parable”, “Sound Mapping The New Testament,” “Hollywood Dreams and Biblical Stories” and others; frequent national speaker, and contributor to the DVD curriculums at

“Re-Imagining Our Houses of Hope: Progressive Faith in the 21st Century” by Rev. John Buehrens

pastor at First Parish of Needham, Mass, seminary teacher, past president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, author of “Understanding the Bible,” “A Chosen Faith” with Forrest Church, and “A House For Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion For America” with Rebecca Parker, "The Uses of Memory", historian, frequent guest lecturer.

Schedule and Registration Information:
Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010

1 pm Registration and Book Browsing and Orientation
2 to 5 pm Centering and Contemplative Prayer Workshop and More Activities
Dinners on own or in arranged groups
7 to 8:15 pm Opening Worship with Multi-Church Choir from Dallas Area UU Churches; worship leaders Rev. Dennis Hamilton and area UU ministers.
8:30 to 8:50 pm Evening Prayer of Daily Office—Rev. Sue Spencer, interim minister at UU Church of Danbury, Conn.
9 pm Social Time Out Option or Hospitality suite at host hotel

Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
8:30 to 8:50 am Morning Prayer Daily Office and Registration continues
9 am Welcome and Announcements
9:30 to 10:15 am “Spirit of Life” Small Group Sessions #1—Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger, coordinator
10:30 to 11:30 am Taize Worship—Rev. Jonalu Johnstone, First Unitarian Church, Oklahoma City
Noon Lunch at church offered as part of registration

1:30 to 2:45 pm Workshops:
Buddhist Practice and Christian Faith with Ruben Habito, professor of World Religions and Spirituality at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas
Queer Pirate Jesus Wheels Into Port with Rev. Naomi King, River of Grass UU, Florida
Film and Spirituality with Rev. Thom Belote, Shawnee Mission UU Church, Kansas
Universalist Christianity with Rev. Lillie Mae Henley, Universalist National Memorial Church, Washington, D.C.

3 - 4:30 pm Mission Project and Reflection Time
4:30 to 5:30 Break
5:30 - 6:45 pm Dinner at the church as part of registration cost

7 to 8:30 pm Revival Lecture: “Peter, Paul, and Mary, and other radical early disciples of Jesus” by Dr. Bernard Brandon Scott, author, professor, Jesus Seminar Fellow
8:45 to 9 pm Evening Prayer—Rev. Sue Spencer
9 pm Social Time Out Option or Hospitality suite host hotel near church

Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010
8:30 to 8:50 am Morning Prayer and Registration
9 to 9:45 am “Spirit of Life” Small Group Sessions #2
10 am: Communion and Baptism Worship --- Rev. Tom Wintle, First Parish, Weston MA
If you are interested in participating in a faith formation process leading to baptism contact asap.
Noon Lunch Program as part of registration costs

1:30 to 2:45 pm: Keynote: “Re-imagining our Houses of Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion in the 21st Century” by Rev. John Buehrens, author, pastor, past president of the UUA, former pastor of All Souls Church of New York City, First Unitarian of Dallas, and UU Church of Knoxville, TN.

3 to 4:15 pm: Workshops:
Keynote Talkback with John Buehrens
“Re-Imagine The Resurrection” with Keynoter Brandon Scott
UU Christianity 101 by Rev. Ron Robinson, UUCF Exec. Dir.
“Jesus In India” with Rev. Dennis Hamilton, Horizon UU Church, Texas.
4:30 pm: “Spirit of Life” Small Group Sessions #3
5:30 pm: Prayer and Healing Service—Rev. David Owen O’Quill, Micah’s Porch, Chicago, a new and emergent church; Rev. Owen O'Quill is former minister at the UU Church of Corpus Christi, TX
6:30 pm Dinners Out Together in Area restaurants
9 pm Hospitality Suite at a host hotel near the church

Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010
9 am Closing Worship Circle then Worship at Horizon or area UU churches

Registration will be available Online beginning July at or

register now by mail by contacting or UUCF at PO Box 6702 Turley, OK 74156; 918-691-3223 or 918-794-4637

Many hotels are located close to the church within a five minute drive in nearby Lewisville, Texas; websites will be provided online for these and other lodging options.

Scholarships are available for young adults under 35 years, for seminarians, and possibly for others in need upon request. Contact the office for more information.
Full Time Fee: early discount by Sept. 19: $150; afterwards $175; three meals included if registration by Oct. 7.
Lecture Package Fee: For Friday evening/Saturday All Day, early discount by Sept. 19, $65; afterwards $75; Sat. lunch included if registration by Oct. 7. Cancellations accepted with refund until Oct. 7.

Please Add At least $50 to fee if you are able in order to provide scholarships for others, increasing our diversity and enriching the experience for all, in the spirit of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Homage To Phillips Theological Seminary, or How an Ecumenical "Mainline" Seminary Can Be A Fertile Ground For Missional Organic Incarnational Stuff

A few days ago I was part of a panel at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa comprised of alumni from different years since 2001 and faculty discussing the transition years after graduation, how our ministries developed and how we were prepared or not for them, and what we had learned to pass on to those about to graduate. The bulk of it all is worthwhile but isn't the subject of this post. But it got me thinking about how at root all that we are involved with here in our missional organic incarnational way of being the church I learned at PTS. But bear with me first before I get to the what.

That is surprising because if you go to and I hope you will and I hope you will pass it on to anyone interested not only in ministry but in religious and theological education and spiritual formation, and if there you do a search for terms such as missional church, church planting, incarnational church, organic church, you will get directed to zero pages. In this way, Phillips, as a seminary in the tradition of the "mainline" and "liberal" church, is not unusual, as seminaries often take their lead from the churches they are connected with, and as you probably know, particularly if you have read this blog over the years, such churches in general have not put resources into the cutting edge of being church. The fact that seminaries haven't been leading the churches in this arena, as they have in the "thinking" arena of theology and biblical studies, is also not a post for this post...but, ironically, as you will see, it is especially in the areas of theology and biblical studies of a progressive Christian bent that sowed the seeds of all this in me.

If you go to Fuller Theological Seminary's website, for example, church planting search pops up 52 entries; missional church 127 entries; organic church 10 entries; incarnational church 19. At Southern Baptist Theological in Louisville, church planting entries stopped showing at 256 with more possible. If you go to the Unitarian Universalist seminaries, it is much like at Phillips: church planting search at Meadville led to nothing about church planting, and missional church led to an interesting essay by Michael Hogue about the malaise and promise of liberal religion which of course is, in an absent sort of way, of course about the lack of church planting, but it wasn't anywhere directly "about" what we describe as the missional church; at Starr King same as at Phillips the search turned up nothing; the search engines found nothing about the phrases so they broke up the phrase such as incarnational and church in order to find some pages at all.

Do I think the situation needs to be reversed? Definitely Yes. I would love for the ethos to change so that at PTS and ML and SK etc. a search for those phrases would generate hundreds of links. I think the life of the liberal church depends on it. It should automatically go to courses each semester with those titles, or to how these manifestations of church are being intentionally incorporated into the existing courses be they theological, biblical, pastoral, practical, prophetic. The seminary needs to challenge the church to transform itself by giving its self away in the very form of the church, and needs to comfort the church by providing guidance and support as it does so. And there are seeds at work I know, and am sure; they just need to be watered more and perhaps with a sign pointing to their spot in the garden which is, of course, named seminary for what it seeds and plants and grows.

Having said all the above, here is my homage to Phillips in particular, and if what we do here can be germinated there, back when I was there even, then I believe it can sprout from anywhere through anyone, practically. We have done and are doing what we do because:

1. I learned, through 27 hours of study with Joe Bessler, to think, talk, breathe theology as a lens to see through: to see God, the world, the church, myself, etc. through the lens. Specifically to grasp the inherent and interdependent connections of the constructive theological worldview; to know that one's image of God will result in one's default mode image and purpose, for example, of the church. Somewhere else on this blog I have probably laid it all out; if not, another blog post will be required to show the linkages. But here is what I know: if God is that which makes all things new, that relates all things, that especially relates with those with the least power, if God is about creating, freeing, liberating, renewing, transforming, healing, forming community, if God is not about being some distant principle of abstraction but embodies and incarnates, and if we want to, to use an old wonderful term, obey that God, be in alignment with such a God, in right relationship with such a One, so that God can flow through us and what we open up with God, then we must shape ourselves and our communities in ways that are as in synch with such a God as we humanly can do or try. What would a people do and how would they behave in such an image? Call them a missional community of faithfulness or simply the church, they will turn themselves inside out. Now a lot of folks who follow the Christian Community Development Association's 3Rs of relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation do not have such an image of God, at least not exactly, or wouldn't use my kind of process relational liberationist language, though I think there can be some common ground, but what we do here in Turley and surrounding area is definitely a theological initiative of a certain kind.

2. Related to the more obvious theological understanding, I also got an education at PTS that used such books as the social work students I work with now used, principally John McKnight's Building Communities From the Inside Out. That was in Care in Christian Community class with Roy Steinhoff Smith whose book The Mutuality of Care I have revisited more than once since leaving PTS. His class helped me to look at a community, and the people in the community, from many different lens, which has given me insights in understanding the history and current systems in place and at work that have led this community to becoming so endangered. Speaking of systems, it was at PTS that I learned about family systems and congregational systems and all of those learnings have helped to see and helped to respond as we find the places within our place where we can intervene with a non-anxious presence of generosity amidst so much feelings and so much reality of scarcity. Thanks to Unitarian Universalist minister and former PTS professor and now minister of University Christian Church, independent congregational, in Wichita, Gary Blaine for his church administration and transformational church classes and especially for his ecumenical internship where we not only got to get out and study churches of all sizes and types in the Tulsa area but we put that study into readings of works by people like William Stringfellow, Reinhold Niehbur, and Bill Easum. Immersing myself during seminary in those early books by Easum and Bandy and after them by Leonard Sweet began to show me how church could be, and must become, different. My final seminary class was new techniques in conflict management; there can be no growth without change no change without conflict, so how you embody conflict matters if you want to be a part of something new and growing. And you can best use conflict well if you cultivate a core of non-anxious self-differentiated peaceful generous abundance, i.e. live in the Spirit, let prayer and practices grow in you, and so those classes in spiritual formation by Mady Fraser and Janet Parachin and Leslie Penrose were foundational. Speaking of Leslie, her former church Community of Hope in Tulsa was an early role model of missional church for me with its practice of giving away half of its offerings, and its location serving those abandoned by much of culture, in its case persons with HIV/AIDS and GLBT persons.

3. Finally, all the time in all that we do and dream of doing, I am grounded in what I know of Jesus and Paul. One of our short mission expressions, borrowed from The Simple Way in Philadelphia, is that we seek to make Jesus visible in the world. Well that of course all depends on what your understanding of Jesus is how that visibility will be known. And so to Brandon Scott and Rick Lowery and all the biblical teachers, what we are and do here is because of what you taught. I had started a church before I came to seminary, but I wouldn't have even gone to seminary I think if it hadn't been for a seminary Brandon Scott taught that wove in new understandings of the parables and of film; it wasn't just that I realized PTS could be a seminary home for me after that, but I returned home with a calling toward the "kingdom of God" because of the power of the parables. At PTS I grew in that understanding and calling coming from the parables even more; the parables that are about turning God upside down, Empires upside down, and inside out. And so it is the Jesus of the parables, as best and challenging as I can understand those, that we seek to make visible as best we can. And it was at PTS that I first heard about the new perspective, the original perspective, on and of the Apostle Paul. And about the shape and nature of his communities, and their radically hospitable way. Much of my study of Paul continued after my seminary years, but it started there. Jesus took the kingdom of God to the abandoned places of Empire and its God and to the abandoned people there; Paul took the spirit of that Jesus into the face of and into the shadow of the Empire itself to form communities of the Christ in the heart of the realms of Ceaser; he wrote the book, or letters, on "edge communities" and "shadow communities". And both of them were immersed in the lens of the Hebrew prophets before them, and so my study as a graduate assistant particularly with Rick Lowery in Genesis' creation liberation sabbath spirituality, and Jeremiah, and what it means to live as a resident alien, to be in exile but not completely dominated by that experience, all of that finds its way into envisioning community today.

There were other, post and extra seminary experiences that have shaped my growing understanding of church (time spent with Carl Scovel and the notion of the simplicities of the christian church; my wife Bonnie of course and exposure to ecological organic gardening and life; and the tipping point of a workshop with Reggie McNeal on the calling of mission)...but because I have sometimes written, as above, about the lack of intentionality in addressing some of these ways of being church that are in the more mainline and liberal churches and especially at their seminaries, I wanted to reflect really on what the grounding was that I received there that I go back to much more often than I do my shelves of books in my library (that I adore all about organic missional incarnational emerging etc), or to the online resources even.

It has been nine years since I was graduated from Phillips, and spoke during commencement about the calling toward a new kind of church for a new kind of times, and maybe one of the best things that PTS gave me was that I didn't then have a clear model of what I would be doing, no roadmap except the theological map, unlike some of the more popular church planting places of the more conservative where you might go through the training like becoming the owner of a franchise. Instead, what I had was all that I wrote about in the paragraphs above: time spent at an intersection of theology, culture, and scripture, and an even stronger committment to imitate and initiate the kingdom of God.

If you want to see where it has taken some of us, read below, or follow along at or and the FB page for A Third Place Community. End.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dreamers and Doers: Donate Now Online to our Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Project, and More Below about The Next Huge Thing Here

Resurrection Still Happens!! Pass it on.

When our business culture lacks the moral fiber to invest in areas abandoned by businesses, when realtors continue to steer people away from our area, when most of those who do teach and police and work and do business here don't live here, when churches are locked throughout the week, when local state and federal government thinks so little of our capacities for greatness and community spirit they are afraid to ask us to pay for what we value and need the most, when our zipcode is the unhealthiest in the unhealthiest state in the U.S., when community centers are being closed by the city and neighborhoods are struggling to find ways to be neighborhoods, a small band of faithful dreamers and doers have been taking matters into our own hands and hearts and lives. Still, we need your help. Thank you.

Donate now online to our Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park Project. See for how to do so safely and easily. Show the powers that be that nothing separates even the least of these from the Love of God.

This is being church. And stay tuned for more. When it rains God it pours. We met with bankers in a good visit yesterday at the old and also abandoned rundown 10,500 square foot old Methodist church building we have our eyes and heart set on to transform and expand into for an urban monastery with a progressive bent, with our free health clinic and classes and fitness for the body, the A Third Place Center food pantry and food justice center and community space and library and kitchen and giving space for the mind, and the sanctuary for worship and prayer and meditation and meetings for the heart and soul. And we have space there for a community garden too, and perhaps a community garden office center in the old parsonage.

It was just three years ago our church opened up itself to become A Third Place Center in the spirit of incarnation. I can't believe myself what all has happened since. We weren't sure we'd pull even that first version off. But putting 100 percent into mission provided the right soil for growth. We still end up every month at zero or below in the bank but continue to grow.

Just imagine what might happen in the next three years because of what happens this month. Now envision three hundred years.

It has happened before (see Rodney Starks The Rise of Christianity: How a radical fringe Jesus movement on the margins became the dominant force in the Roman Empire in 300 years, or some such subtitle). It can happen again.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Easter 2010 Worship and Service

See Easter Sunday liturgy below. We will be gathering around one table to begin our Easter Sunday Celebration. Act One is The Last Supper Communion. Then we move to our darkened Giving Room space around another table lit with candles; as people share prayers of concern and sorrows the lights are snuffed for Act Two Crucifixion; then we gather around a third table for Easter Hymn Sing Act Three Resurrection. Bracketed by invocation, covenant of community, benediction and finally a Easter service project to surprise the community.

A Missional Community of Faith at A Third Place Community

“doing small things with great love to change the world”
“we don’t have to think alike to love alike”
“freely following Jesus, in deeds not creeds”

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

Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: "What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?" 17Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit."…Mark 2 (The Message)

“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”
What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms.
What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.

I. At The Welcome Table Celebrating The Last Supper
When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, "You've no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It's the last one I'll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God."Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, "Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I'll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives."Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory."

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 that? And he said, When you did it for the least of these, you did it to me. 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 break bread. We come to drink of the fruit of the vine. We come to make peace. May we never praise God with our mouths while denying in our hearts or by our acts the love that is our common speech. We come to be restored in the love of God where All are welcome and All are worthy. (Robert Eller-Isaacs, based on Matthew 25, alt. Singing The Living Tradition hymnal)
"Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You'd rather eat and be served, right? But I've taken my place among you as the one who serves. ”Luke 22
“Let Us Break Bread Together” #406
Passing the Bread of Life Everlasting and the Cup of Hope Eternal
At the end of his last supper with his disciples, Jesus said: Let me give you a new command. Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciple—when they see the love you have for each other.
Reflection from Barbara Brown Taylor: An Altar in the World
II. At The Table of The Cross
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”….
”It was not about the sixth hour and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, While the sun’s light failed and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice said, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.”

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 for all time. This is the good news that brings new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

A Litany of Atonement, #637

“Precious Lord” #199 and “Dona Nobis Pacem” #388

Sharing Prayers of Sorrows, Cares, Concerns

The Prayer of Jesus: 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

III. The Table of Resurrection
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, "Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?" Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished. He said, "Don't be afraid. I know you're looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He's been raised up; he's here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You'll see him there, exactly as he said." They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone. (Gospel of Mark)

Jesus said [to Thomas], "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing." (Gospel of John)

I Thank You God For Most This Amazing Day #504

Sharing of Blessings and Thanksgivings

Easter Hymn Sing

Jesus Christ Is Risen Today #268

Glory Glory Halleluia #201

Over My Head #30

Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee #29

Some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away. To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, O Glory, I'll fly away. (In the morning) When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye, I'll fly away.
When the shadows of this life are gone, I'll fly away. Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, O Glory, I'll fly away. (In the morning) When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye, I'll fly away.
Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away. To a land where joy shall never end, I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, O Glory, I'll fly away. (In the morning) When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye, I'll fly away

We’re Gonna Sit At The Welcome Table #407


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 Easter all year round. Preach and practice the kindness and everlasting love of God.

“Shalom Havyreem Shalom Havyreem” and “Go Now In Peace” #413

Easter Surprise Service Project In Community

Friday, April 02, 2010

Living As If Hell Had Really Been Emptied: The Easter Sermon

This Sunday at church at a third place center we will begin with communion around one table symbolizing the last supper love feast, then we will move to another table of candles for silence and sharing of cares in community and prayers and candles symbolizing the crucifixion and pains of the world ongoing, then we will gather around another table for Easter Hymn Sing celebration, then we will work on creating a resurrection moment outside our walls as we begin adopting the bus stop near us and making it a place of beauty and rest for those who come and go.

And tomorrow on Holy Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm or so we will hold our party at our house at 563 E. 63rd St. North, 430-1150 or 691-3223, and at noon we will have an Easter Eve blessing. The sermon below is, in part, why we party on this day and invite all to come be with us.

Here is The Annual Easter Sermon I'd Give If We Did Sermons at our missional community of faith:

[Prequel to the sermon: I had just finished this sermon below this morning then went to participate in the Good Friday worship service in Tulsa at All Souls shared by colleagues from each of the four churches in our tradition in the metropolitan area. Right after the service as we are lined up greeting people who attended, a man came to shake my hand, and, as our churches had been identified at the beginning and where we were located, his first question to me was "Why in Hell are you in Turley?" It is a question we get often, of course, many of us who live here. But little did he know I had just been writing the sermon below....]

A part of Christian tradition little dwelt upon, but hotly contested from time to time, is what is known as "the harrowing of hell" or the emptying of hell, and is expressed in part in the Apostles Creed section of Jesus Christ "descending into hell" after his death and burial and before Resurrection appearances to those living.

We often make much of Palm Sunday, of the growing contest with religious and Empire authorities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and we celebrate Maundy Thursday and the last supper and the commandment to love one another (especially when one another is understood as those who oppose us the most), and we have Tennebrae for the arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday. And we sing sing sing alleluia alleluia alleluia on Easter or Resurrection Sunday.

But of Holy Saturday? Little at all in the church consciousness even of many Christian churches of a more dogmatic bent, let alone progressive Christian or progressive churches or the wider culture's.

Maybe an Easter Eve vigil, a time of silence and the beginning of the return of light after the darkness of Good Friday, preparing us for the burst of hope and assurance of Easter. And this is good and a tradition it would be good to enter into more often, perhaps a time of deep reflection at the days of Holy Week leading up to this moment, and on our actions throughout Lent, and even of the past year Easter to Easter. For church leaders and all those who are so active with everything in particular who find little renewal and resurrection spirit in preparations and programs et al, a day of silent Saturday might indeed be a good model to set. We need to feel ourselves buried in the spirit, not just buried under by things to do, and resting at peace, and emptying of our selves, and preparing ourselves for what we do not and can not do, but waiting on God's action to raise us up. For remember the original Greek scripture makes clear even Jesus did not raise himself up, but the grammatical tense is clear--he was raised up by God.

All well and good, but I want to say something more, and deeper, about Holy Saturday and that part of the tradition that has Christ in Hell, emptying it. There is nothing of silence and solitude in that. It is more to me like a jubilant liberation. I know there are all sorts of theological interpretations of this part of the Great Story, and one of the reasons why it is little dwelt upon is probably because Hollywood hasn't figured out a way to popularize it as they seek to popularize the truly unpopular gospel, and so theologians and a few artists have been the main arena for making meaning of Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell.

There has been a good bit of controversy of late throughout Catholic and evangelical circles about this part of the Apostles Creed and what it might signify (and of course I know many of you, of us, have little commitment to creeds and doctrinal debates and so you are content to let others delve into such things as this, but bear with me, for if you seek at all in a myriad of ways metaphorical or otherwise to let the Story help write your story, then this can be as powerful as any of those other events we lift up during Holy Week; and in fact if Easter is going a little stale for you, and it is NOT heretical to admit to that, then journey with me a bit longer and see if Holy Saturday might help resurrect Easter spirit within you again).

The questions theological or speculative are of course many and I don't necessarily want to dismiss them: You can google the controversy yourself. It is going to seem like counting the angels dancing on the head of a pin, but again there is still something wonderful about that image too if you think of it: a reminder of joy and of the impossible becoming possible. And let me say up front that I don't believe or trust in a God and universe with a medieval or fundamentalist understanding of Hell, and if there is one like that then I want to be sent there for reasons you will see below.

Holy Saturday debates touch upon Was it Hell or Hades, some wonder? Was it only the "saints" in Hell to whom Christ descended and liberated, leaving others behind, or was it in more universalist salvation spirit all of those whom were there? Was it the complete ending of Hell itself, or of eternal Hell leaving a little room for purgatory and limbo and purification of souls which eventually will be united with all and fully resurrected? Even moreso, to what degree was Christ Christ, you might say, in the descent to Hell?; was Christ already resurrected fully as disciples would experience or was Christ still in a sense mortal and so in Hell in a way in keeping with the finitude of human life itself, in which case perhaps was it God reaching into Hell to resurrect Christ Jesus and all there with him? There are overtones of Trinitarian theology at work here which is why hackles get raised the more questions get pondered. And I have only scratched the surface of the questions theologians have asked on these matters.

But all of that is not really what draws me to Holy Saturday and the emptying of Hell, not mainly anyway. So I am not going to go there. You can draw your own ideas of my ideas on all that, and believe me they will probably be mixed and conflicting.

I am moved by both of these things:

First, that Jesus, fully human, becoming one with all in our most commons state---that we will be dead; present with all in our most time outside of time, in our very absence of life itself. One of us completely on this one day, a sabbath day at that for Jesus and those following him then. And in that extension of Good Friday, Holy Saturday reveals that there is no place, no condition that is beyond God's realm. There are monstrous places, and monstrous people, and monstrous conditions, and monstrous events (and Good Friday is a good time to break ourselves with the consciousness of the vast evil within and without and especially among the goodness folks, for there is so much we pass over as we flip the pages of the newspaper or quickly click the remote control or let the phone by us ring or turn our eye away from our neighbor), but none of this, people places events situations, none are outside of Miracle.

Second, that Christ, the anointed spirit of life itself and love and liberation that lives beyond the cross, that Christ in this sense becomes adopted by God, becomes Christ most fully and most divinely, most powerfully out of that place of no power, out of that realm of the most vulnerable and most finished. That resurrection comes first to those in Hell. The glory of Easter is that Christ appeared not to emperors and the powerful and said your time is up (that it was believed would come later), but to the women and the fearful in their faith and to the doubters and confused. Those like us who will get it wrong and screw it up. But Holy Saturday lifts up to us that even those, who would become the saints of the church later, were not the first to experience and participate in the resurrection of Christ.

It was to those in Hell. It was Hell itself that was changed. And that is worth celebrating and remembering and reimagining for our own times and places and people.

We are a Holy Saturday people. We live in between monster and miracle most days. In some theologies, this in-between is cause for much angst but also in some theologies, especially those of a relational bent, this in-betweenness can be embraced as the way we participate with God in creating a bit more of thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven...We are a people who seek to both imitate and initiate as we can the welcome table of God's everlasting banquet of life abundance. We fail in our imitation over and over again, and yet also in our seeking to do so we are initiating that very eternal table for all. Holy Saturday, that meeting place of Heaven and Hell, is ours to make visible around us.

Okay, so Here it comes: We are a people with a purpose: To Go to Hell, and Empty it.

To go to hellish places, within us for transformation for sure, but also to the very real otherthanus places, and to go to hellish people, and to go to hellish events and situations that are truly beyond our control to fix or save; to go to hell and live there as if hell wasn't real, to go to hell and throw a party. to go to hell and plant a garden, a Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park atop a hill with abandoned buildings for the sake of community renewal at a time when all around us in schools and parks and centers and neighborhoods are being closed [by the way have you become a part of this movement by sending in a check to A Third Place Community to help us make this project a reality; send to 6514 N. Peoria Ave. Turley OK 74126; be a part of a resurrection event and pass this opportunity on to others you know; for more go to]

To go to hell and open a community center of safety. To go to hell and dream together. To go to hell and feed the hungry. To go to hell and do something for the children there like open a library, like help their teachers, like go to hell and make it a place of art. To go to hell and start a free health clinic. To go to hell and not just be content to get someone out of there, to save someone from hell, but to stay there all together, one more person, one more party all the time, until in the fullness of time we empty Hell by crowding it out. Relocate to hell, redistribute love within it, reconcile it with Heaven, and heaven with it, transforming both.

Go to what others at any rate believe would be hell and find there within it the seeds of heaven in ways possible no where else. The old joke says I will go to Heaven for the climate and Hell for the company, and that's more true than you know. For Hell, that place known for utter isolation (or for Sartre how hell is other people is just another way of expressing that alienation), truly becomes a place for company, a certain kind of company committed to lives beyond themselves, until the company changes the climate.

You know where I am going to end up: You have been following what all we seek to do in our missional community of faith here. You have heard me cite the statistics of this zip code and all the absences that are fully present here. You here, or places like here, have lived with the stereotypes. You know also the ways we commit ourselves to something More than all this. To the Stories. To the Strengths which come in what others find as weaknesses. To the Spirit Above All that draws us here, and draws us to one another. And you know we have so much more to do together. We need to find more corners of Hell right here to end up in.

There you have it: The one sentence guide to the Spiritual Life: Go to hell and live like it is Easter Sunday every day.

All that we do, all that is written about the rest of the year and reported on and all the many many many things that never make it online or known by others from here, it all comes down to this Holy Saturday start to Easter: We live as if hell were really emptied, and act as if the Christ of Love and Justice had begun the great change we are now called to rejoice in and participate in, and trust that what we do is enough because it isn't us doing it.

So a man walked up to me a few hours ago and said, incredulously, "why in hell are you in Turley?" No preachers license here; those were his exact words. At first you know my mind kicks in to high gear and I wonder if I can say what I am thinking to him, here in this pastoral setting, that it is where I find and follow Jesus, and I realize I am feeling more than a bit defensive and so I don't say that, and it turns out there is more to him and his question than I had first thought; that he had grown up on the northside, that even though he didn't live here anymore, that he had been waiting in some sense to see a resurrection here, and he said he knew that the restoration or resurrection of our part of town would be necessary for it to truly happen where the "cool" people live, and that he wants to come and see us, come and see "what in hell we are doing in Turley" literally and metaphorically.

I think Hell just got a little more crowded, and a little more empty, both at the same time.

And the church said.....

(blessings, thanks, and more soon, Ron)
Type your summary here

Type rest of the post here

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Easter Resources For You From UUCF

Hi all.

An email from the UU Christian Fellowship with links to various Easter 2010 Good News periodical articles just went out to those for whom I have current active email addresses. If you did not receive it and would like to do so, and I hope you do, please send a preferred email address to We will forward the commentaries on to you. Please also pass this information on to others in your email networks who might be interested and might not yet be receiving our resources but who might be interested.

Also on the home page of you will find special links on the right hand side to click on to go to a page full of recent Easter material plus others for different seasons, as well as the full Good News issue for Easter, and for the weekly Virtual Monastery reflection from UU ministers that follows the church year and lectionary. The Easter Sunday meditation will be posted soon so check back as well as for all the weeks of Eastertide and beyond.

You can also now go to for a Good Friday and Easter themed review of the new ground breaking scholarly book by Dr. Brandon Scott, Sound Mapping The New Testament; he will be one of our keynote lecturers, along with the Rev. John Buehrens, at our Revival/Retreat 2010 in Dallas Oct. 14-17.

Current information on Revival and on General Assembly programming and presence is also up on the website and will be updated as we near the events.

Have a transforming weekend and Eastertide,

Thanks, and blessings,
Rev. Ron Robinson
Executive Director UUCF
freely following Jesus since 1945