Monday, June 28, 2010

An Update On Current Dreams Becoming Reality

We have a new extended deadline of July 30 to try to raise the still needed $100 from 80 people, or $50 from 160 people, etc. goal to make the Miracle Among the Ruins happen. Become a part of this groundbreaking, literally, community renewal project here where both community and hope is much needed. Removing the abandoned properties, transforming a full city block overlooking downtown Tulsa, into a community garden and kitchen and green space, here where we have the lowest income lowest life expectancy will have ripple effects not only here but elsewhere. The Welcome Table Community Kitchen Garden project is worthy of your investment, and passing it on to others so they too can experience the miracle. Go to for all the links and to easily and safely Donate, Don't Wait.

Below is an additional update on all the news lately about this project, about our group, and about our upcoming activities.

Hi all from Minneapolis where I have been working this past week.

Our A Third Place Community Center has been much in the news lately. See below. Many good things happening, but our current major project is stalled and needs your help. But, first some inspiring news from here.

Had a fascinating talk, among all the other good things here, with a community renewal group Hope Community here that was very inspiring; of course they have been around for 30 years and for the first 20 years they said they were operating out of one place, doing good work, but then all at once things began to happen exponentially for them and they have been buying and renovating housing expecially for those without and building social services and community into the fabric of the housing in this lowest income area of Minneapolis. So I am reminded to take the long perspective, to see setbacks as new opportunities for connecting deeper, and to live in all the blessings of so much wonderful healing stuff that is going on in our small abandoned part of the Empire all with volunteers. I also presented a couple of workshops and discussions here in Minneapolis about our transformational work and the feedback was very positive and seeds were sown as others were talking about attempting similar projects in their areas and about forming a Missional and Progressive Network to help support one another.

Now back to the local front and our media stories.

If you haven't already seen our television news story that was done about us and our specific Welcome Table transformational project here, you can see the video on our blog at Watch and please pass it on to others. That blogpost also has links to all the other documents and videos about this project to reclaim one block of abandoned rundown property turning it into community space here in the zipcode with the lowest life expectancy lowest income and a shooting every day. I had a conversation with a woman at our Turley Free Festival we threw for the whole community back before I left; she at first was reluctant to support the project because of the very reason it is needed where it is needed; she said she would be scared to take her children there to use it. That is one of the many catch 22s from the folks here and about our neighborhood. But I told her it would be as safe as any place can be made safe, and that we have to start somewhere or else, as history has shown us, the unsafe places will continue to take over more and more area block by block. We can reverse it only block by block. This block, overlooking downtown Tulsa, and bridging two diverse equally endangered neighborhoods, is both a symbolic block to start with, and a practical one. We can get it for a relatively inexpensive price of $15,000 for the 12 city lots, an acre, and we have the volunteer support and other resources to get the project growing once we are able to buy it and get it going.

After the local tv news show aired, one evening and most of the rest of the next day, we still did not get a single contribution online in response to it. In fact the only contribution we got after it, and throughout the Turley Free Festival, was $40 that actually came from the very woman who had expressed those safety concerns about taking her family to the park; she came around, and I believe others can also.

We also had a good article in the Tulsa World on Sunday, June 20, about our community renewal efforts as a grassroots dedicated group of local missional minded folks who have formed a partnership between campus and community with various departments at the University of Oklahoma which have been so meaningful to our residents. You can read that article here

And we have launched our foodjustice program into a new realm with the start of our partnership with the Food Bank, augmenting our local donations and local home grown donations. We have had some 1300 pounds of food for our residents just in the past week and a half. Not to mention feeding the community with our community meals during the Free Festival, and with our Sunday common meals after worship.

Still after the Tulsa World article about us, we still received not a single contribution online. Since I have been away I am not sure, and am hopeful, about some contributions that might have come in by mail.

We applied for the Gardens For Good contest grant through and promoted it online but didn't get enough votes for our project to make it into the finals of the contest.

We do have a means now to handle stock donations toward us and our project, so if you would like to join with one who is doing that please contact me for details.

This coming month we will have partnership work with OU medical students today, and on Fridays July 9 and 16 and we will be partnering with OU social work students on projects in the community again this coming weekend on July 2 and 3; and also we are helping to do a big anti poverty education program at OBrien Park with OU on July 23. We are also meeting during the month to begin partnerships with the Y in racial justice work. And we are continuing to work during the summer toward ways to be a helping presence with McLain High School and the other schools in our area. The bookmobile will continue its return to our area thanks to our presence here....And we will soon be the only OU community health clinic north of Admiral due to cutbacks; our own contract with them has been reduced to one year, but we are ever hopeful that funding will be found so we can continue offering health care so needed here in our zipcodes of much need. The fact that we are here and providing space to allow the clinic to be here says a lot about our vision and our mission.

So the work goes on, and we still have about a week left, unless there are some changes that will extend our deadline, to simply (!) find 80 more people who will give $100 (or something equivalent to it; maybe your churches can take up a collection?) so we can buy that land and change the landscape. Thank you so much to those of you who have made a donation, and who have even gone without eating out once or twice or more during the month so they could send that money to us, or you who have passed my emails or blog links here or on facebook on to others with a note that you have given and you hope they will too. It makes all the difference. Donations are easy to make online at

I will give more updates upon my return back to Oklahoma. Keep us all in your prayers, as we keep you in ours, blessings, thanks, and more soon, Ron

If you are finding this website after the General Assembly Missional Workshop...

...Welcome. The workshop just barely scratched the surface of challenging our thinking about how our images and ideas of church limit our transformational possibilities. Hope you will browse the titles on the right and dip into the exciting world of being both missional and progressive.

Also on the handout that I gave out, on the back there was a chance to support our group and our work here in one very important project, the Miracle Among the Ruins project. Please consider contributing to this and becoming a part of our work here. Go to www.turleyok.blogspot for more and to contribute easily and safely.

And above all, be ready to respond when we put out our calling to form the Missional and Progressive Network; in the meantime, pass on in this space your own dreams, your plans, your questions, and carrying on the conversation.

If you didn't go to GA, you can read the handout below that went with it; I just augmented it with the Small Talk essays which have been linked to here, plus some of the latest updates on our work in this part of Tulsa, and an order of service for our common worship liturgy.

Thanks and blessings and more soon, Ron

PS. You can also order a CD of the GA workshop by going to the site and looking for Friday program 3014, Turning Your Congregation Inside Out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Handout for The Growing Missional Communities GA Workshop

Turning Your Congregation Inside Out: Growing Missional Communities
GA 2010, Minneapolis
Ron Robinson,

I. Introduction of Speakers and Workshop
II. The Big Picture: Joel Miller and Michael Durall
III. A Third Place Community in TulsaNorth/Turley, OK: Ron Robinson
IV. Responses from Panelists and Questions from Audience

See Handouts on Resources in General, and Sample Materials from the Oklahoma church

Understanding Difference of Terms: Missionary, Missions, Mission, Missional
Missio: Greek for sending.
Missionary: traditional frame connotes one who is sent to claim someone else and make them like oneself.
Missions: traditional frame connotes what is done for others often at a distance.
Mission: traditional frame is another word for purpose or reason for one’s existence, as in mission statement.
Missional: Being Sent as a people into the world in order to serve with others especially for those in need in order to meet one’s own needs for growth and transformation from encountering and learning from others. It is NOT another community outreach program.
The Church Does Not Have A Mission. The Mission Has A Church. Church is Created in Response to Mission. The mission doesn’t change. The church changes to bring itself into better right relationship with the Mission that is responsible for its creation. Mission is not to “attend a church” but to “become the church wherever you, and at least another, live out the mission”.
“If your church disappeared, would the average person in your community even notice, much less be affected in their daily life?”
Telling Story of Church at A Third Place by Seeing Shifting Along The Spectrums From:
“Come to us” to “Go to them”, Attractional to Incarnational
Internal to External, Program to People, Church to Community Leadership
Anxious to Abundant, the “Enough Church”
Organizational to Organic, Fixed to Flexible
“a church” to “the church”, institution to movement
Service with others for others precedes and takes priority over the Worship Service as central act, and worship becomes a still vital gathering to refresh for service, to deepen spirit of leaders, focused more for leaders than visitors whose primary contact is work in the community. Renewing historic congregationalist relationship of church and parish.
Growing Smaller To Do Bigger Things
Complex to Simple: Gather for Conversation, Launch Experiments, Plot Goodness
Members to “Participants/Partners/Leaders”
Building/Budget/Bylaws/ to DNA Mission Culture
Paid Staff to Volunteer, bi/tri vocational ministry
One group to many groups, regional to very local focus
Denominational to Missional Networked
Believe/Belong/Behave to Belong/Behave/Believe
Spectator Spirituality to Life Transformation Group
One Hour Together to “New Monasticism”
Shift From Places Wealthy in “Affluence, Appearance and Achievement” to “The Abandoned Places of Empire” For 3Rs of Relocation, Redistribution, Reconciliation
No/Low Commitment to Covenanted Discipline of daily prayer/blessing and random acts of kindness and beauty, weekly worship, monthly accountability check, annual retreat, lifetime pilgrimage; goal to work toward of 80 percent of finances going to others, 10 percent savings, 10 percent to live on personally.

Tensions We Face As Missional Community: strengths can become weaknesses
Relationship of Church Planter/Minister and Church: strong planter creates mission-focused group, but can become still clergy/starting leader –focused.
Bi/tri-vocational minister, no paid minister, accountability issues?
How to transition as we grow as a core group? How reproduce?
Focus on missional activities with others is spiritual development, but intentional personal and community spiritual practice can be out of balance.

Missional Communities Come In Different Manifestations and Possibilities:
1. Starting New Groups As a Strategy of Planting Church-Planting Churches, for the survival of the Association
2. Taking Established “Church” dividing into smaller “churches” and seeding into different areas, strength and health spreading
3. Transforming a Struggling Anxious Church by Redefining its “smallness” as strength and blessing in order to begin the process of shifting and becoming something different
4. Existing Sending Church Remains Virtually the same but equips and sends out “mission teams” of 5-7 people to begin serving/living/worshipping in different areas, ways.
5. Designating part of your existing space/programs/staff for the needs of wider community
6. Find ways to relocate central worship on a regular basis, start new worship in a different location
7. Eat together more often and with other groups more often and in other spaces more often. Potluck in Parks and Places with Those who are Hungry.
8. Partner with other churches who also are doing or wanting to experiment going missional
9. Combinations of the Above.

Missional Communities Resources: A Sample List
Books: The Almost Church Revitalized by Michael Durall; Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal; The Shaping of Things To Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch; Exiles by Michael Frost; The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, ReJesus by Frost and Hirsch, Jesus The Fool by Michael Frost; Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan (most of the books on this list are very contemporary; Donovan’s pivotal book is from the 70s); Welcoming Justice by John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins, Follow Me To Freedom by John Perkins and Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, Houses That Change The World, Wolfgang Simson, Emerging Church by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs, The Organic Church and Search and Rescue, both by Neil Cole, Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, The New Conspirators by Tom Sine, The New Friars by Scott Bessenecker, The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay; The New Monasticism and School(s) for Conversion, both by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Church Morph by Eddie Gibbs, Reimagine The World by Bernard Brandon Scott, Revolution by George Barna, Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, UnChristian by David Kinnamon; The Secret Message of Jesus, especially appendix, by Brian McLaren, Under The Radar by Bill Easum, An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer, Inside The Organic Church by Bob Whitesel. Lyle Schaller’s books especially The New Contexts For Ministry, and What We Have Learned, and From Geography to Affinity, and for cultural work see the work Postmodern Pilgrims by Leonard Sweet and his other books, and the other books by Bill Easum and Tom Bandy, and The House Church Manual by William Tenny-Brittain, and The Small Church At Large by Robin Trebilcock.

Films: Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day story; Romero; The Least of These; Briars in the Cotton Patch: Koinonia; Places in the Heart, The Spitfire Grill, Chocolat, Babette’s Feast, Man on Wire, The Blind Side, The Shawshank Redemption, The Blues Brothers


Monday, June 14, 2010

The Blessings of Going Small To Do Great Things

Such a privilege to be doing church with a great small group. Yesterday we had one of our most numerous Sunday worship gatherings and we were still, by the time you count everyone who was there for worship, conversation, or common meal or one part of those (we say worship is a party not a program), close but under 20. That's fewer then the number we had at our very first Easter worship in a hotel room in Owasso in 2003. But oh how we have grown.

Yesterday also we used the UUCF Revival hymnbook for morning song time during worship and talked about the depth of the old hymns and how to find meaning and comfort there and new understandings of the old words by tapping into the experience that gave rise to the hymns and their power over time.

Communion was all about companionship, being with bread literally, and being a church that is "put together" and puts people together, candle time and prayers touched on so many, especially for the tragedy in Arkansas.

Then we had Spiritual Stump The Chump, apologies to the Car Talk brothers; I gave an introduction to the construcive theological map and general terms or touchstones on it, then they paired up and chose one of the theological terms, or bible or praxis as a possible subject, and came up with questions for me to field.

Like...How does God keep His people safe in the world of real hazards? Did God create life on other planets, and if so what would their religion be like? What about the inconsistencies between the image of God and the attributes of the universe? Is there an ultimate authority on ethical matters of human conduct or is everything simply social constructs? What does it mean to be saved? Can everyone be saved? Can non-Christians be saved? And I think memory is missing a few of them.

We will definitely be revisiting some of these, as I like to turn the tables on them and ask questions like these and others back.

We didn't get the whole theological map covered in the questions, of course; everyone of them is a seminary semester course, but it is fun to field them on the fly and, as one of our running mottos was yesterday, embrace our "chumpiness" embrace our suckiness, embrace what we don't know or can't know for sure.

That and they seemed to like the shorthand tagline for us as "a christian church where you don't have to be christian" because it gets people to thinking and seeing so many things in a new light, but of course it raises up its whole new set of questions, which we will take up as we continue our holy conversations each week in one place or another.

Then we had our common meal and planned our Juneteenth Turley and Area Fourth Annual Free Festival for this coming Friday and Saturday, and scheduled a worktime for Wednesday at 6 pm to set up.

What a blessing, and what energy I get from being with the folks who come companion with one another and create a place for those we don't yet know. Hope to see you sometime with us too, especially in mission first and then--in gratitude for being called into mission, and for sustanenance for the missional life--in worship.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

TV News Story on Us, and Putting that "story" into the bigger perspective of "The Story" Above is the link to a Channel 6 in Tulsa news story about our missional center and one of the latest big project we have going on, our miracle among the ruins, The Welcome Table Community Kitchen Garden Park project.

That link above also has all the other links about the project, some corrections from the news report, updates, and posts that put it into the bigger picture of what we are doing in community renewal and why.

But I want here to say a short word that also puts even the TV news story into perspective, into missional perspective. As I was telling a seminarian colleague, you know, in the missional way, the segment on the news itself is the seed that may count the most. Most people who watch the clip from around here will shake their head in wise cynicism or find some way to complain, etc., that's just the way it is with folks hurting. But somewhere there was one person watching it who said to themselves or a partner or their kid, I or we can help, or we can do that, or we can do that even better, and that makes all the rest worthwhile.

That mission thing again: it is not even about how much it, the news story, brings to our missional project but about how much the project itself can spur on mission elsewhere in ways we will never know. That is the most important thing of all. Hard to always remember, because we do so much want to see this project and all of our efforts bear fruit as intended. But we lose our way if we forget that it is not even about this or that project, but it is about The Mission, and that is always making Jesus visible in the world. And, and, the beauty of a God-thing is that while something might not be visible to us (and in fact what might be visible to us is something that fails), it is helping something even grander to become visible to someone else somewhere else. This I do believe.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Church of Reconciliation", celebrating three years of missional community

Three years ago in June of 2007 we held our Grand Opening of A Third Place Community Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., beginning the transformation of being "a church" into being "a missional community of faith expression of 'the church'" and creating the new non-profit foundation to guide our wider community work; in other words three years ago this month we turned ourselves inside out and we gave ourselves away for others. We launched into being the Church of the Three R's, affirming the need for relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation.

In June of 2010, here are a few of the new or ongoing ways we live into this vision, living as if the world were already changed in order to help make it so:

---Today, Saturday, June 12, from 8 to 10 am we will hold a community Pancake Breakfast, all you care to eat for $5, benefit to the Center. We have picked up this monthly event inheriting it from the local Odd Fellows who had been doing it for several years but decided to stop after they had inherited it originally from the Lions Club who had done it for several years before they closed. We seek to make it a time of renewal for community leaders who do so much during the month, a chance to share what is going on in their lives and organizations, and to connect with one another, a nod to the history of our area and with an eye to new partners in the future. We follow the breakfast with our monthly Random Acts of Kindness, Justice, and Beauty. Tomorrow we will be brainstorming and planning how to address the transportation needs of our most vulnerable neighbors, with one of our new emerging partners, Sarah's Residential Living Center located in the neighborhood just north of Tulsa McLain High School. Come commune with us.

---Today also Saturday, watch the news shows on Channel Six in Tulsa to see the news story about us and our Miracle Among the Ruins fundraising drive to turn a city block of abandoned homes and neglected properties into a community kitchen garden park in our area. Our July 2 deadline of raising a final almost $8,500 is getting closer and we hope the news show will help motivate enough people to help us make it a reality; all it takes is 85 people, or groups of people going in together, giving $100 each; but every $5 or $50 or $500 counts; some are forgoing going out during the month, or even for one week, in order to fit it into their budget....And you can also vote for our project, and help get others to do so, in the Gardens For Good contest for a $50,000 grant by going to Voting Ends June 15.

---Thursday, June 17, at 3 pm we will hold a Celebration and Blessing Ceremony for our Food Pantry. Although we have created and maintained it for some time now with our own contributions and those of our neighbors themelves, we will be marking the arrival that day of our first food to distribute from the area Food Bank. We will be unloading and stocking the pantry with almost 1000 pounds of food, and we know it will go quickly, but we are excited about growing this part of our overall food justice work. Come celebrate with us.

---Friday, June 18 and Saturday June 19, we will hold our Fourth Annual Turley and Area Free Community Festival, this year for Juneteenth and for Local/Whole Foods Week, where we offer free live music from a diversity of groups, free food, programs on our past, present and future as a healthy community, art and tye-dye, board games and wii games and great book and clothing giveaway, children's activities, the arrival of the bookmobile into our community after a generation of being away, and community and volunteer opportunity information. Free swimming will be offered at O'Brien Park for all who bring at least two cans for our food pantry. For all the details see We are working with OU Social Work this summer and at the Festival weekend to do quality of life community health surveys of residents in our area in order to better focus our own future work.

---Saturday June 19 at 2 pm at the Center during the Festival we will pause to hold a ceremony to honor the partnership between A Third Place, the Turley and Far North Tulsa area, and OU. State Rep. Seneca Scott will present an official proclamation from the State House of Representatives to OU for their work with us over the past three years especially in community health, social work, and design. We will also be presenting community residents with certificates of completion of the Community Academy program at the Center this spring.

---Recently we have helped with others to launch the first ever Tulsa McLain High School Foundation. We are coordinating the summer free feeding lunch program at Cherokee School. We are continuing our Let Turley Bloom projects; the roadside wildflowers in our area which were one of our first projects are looking good. We showed the "One Peace At A Time" movie and discussion as part of our sustainability monthly movies. We have hosted the federal Census workers gathering daily. And we continue to operate our ongoing projects and partnerships that have sprung up in the past three years with their daily surprises and new beginnings.

---Through it all "the church" has continued to worship and work and play together as well. Last Sunday we held communion on the lakeside at Skiatook Lake. We will be going other places for communion in the summer months as well. This Sunday we will be at the Center for a kind of "Spiritual Stump The Chump" conversation coming up with questions for me to respond to and lead conversation about. Come participate at 10 am. We will be in the coming weeks visiting with other progressive Christian churches in our area, going to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and other spots around the state, cookouts at the lake and park, going on the road the way Jesus did, sharing meal and prayers and blessings with whomever was close at hand. Follow more on some of the worship life at and feel free to follow me on

And all by putting all our resources as an all volunteer group into mission, into the 3R's.

We have done a great job the past three years in relocating ourselves to be with others, helping others to relocate their services and spirit here with us and others in our endangered area, and we have done a good job of redistributing things for the body mind and soul to those most in need. But we aren't complete without the sometimes more difficult task of reconciliation, especially among racial and ethnic cultures changing around us, among people divided in so many ways in our world today. Especially with the emancipation liberation theme of Juneteenth, and with the recent launch of the John Hope Franklin Center For Reconciliation near us in the Greenwood area of Tulsa North, we need to intentionally become a Church of The Third R, of Reconciliation, and this coming year will be the year to do so. We will be partnering with others of our neighbors, especially the YWCA, and with OU and the O'Brien Park and the Tulsa Schools and will be sponsoring our own programs to weave this into all we do and to make it a special focus. Stay tuned and better still, come bring your ideas and passions for this. It is hard work but none more important, and no matter what we accomplish with the other two R's even our small group won't be living "as if the world were changed in order to make it so" if we don't.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Hear. Pray. Affirm. Three Essentials For Liberal Christians. The Decalogue. The Lord's Prayer. The Apostles' Creed. Newest issue of "UU Christian"

Go to the link above for the full first look inside at the newest issue of The UU Christian Journal, vol. 62 of our 65 year old organization. The complete table of contents, the foreword by the Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, the Introduction by the Rev. Tom Wintle.

Go to to join to receive the issue for free plus the Good News periodical and more.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Almost Church Revitalized, and a digression on the word missional

Good stuff through and through. His term public church is pretty much what we use for missional community.

Reminds me that I had a conversation with a friend and colleague about the word "missional" and "mission" and they were saying they had been warned by seminary faculty member against using the term because it evokes colonial imperialism and all that bad stuff that missionaries did/do. They wondered if I ever thought about things like that in using the term.

I vaguely remember having a second thought about it once upon a time; but immersed in the language just didn't give it much of a second thought. And then I was at a meeting where a minister said pretty much the same thing that she was American Indian and couldn't stand the word mission because of all that baggage it carried with it.

I guess coming from Oklahoma I just don't think about the word that way because being in and around the American Indian culture for so long it seems like someone else's issue, though I can certainly see an alternative phrase like the serving church or community, etc. since that is the way the term missional has come to be used in the movement; it is in fact the opposite of the old way of doing mission work; see Vincent Donovan's Christianity Reconsidered for a classic text on all this back in the day before the missional church became a thing unto itself.

Mostly though when I speak the word missional I am thinking first and foremost of its Greek roots; that is what comes to mind. Missio. To be sent. It is not the church of come to us, but the church of being sent into the world, to love the world, and help unleash the transformation of love and justice in the world. Missio, going forth without staff to serve, to be a holy fool, to make good things happen wherever and whenever you are.

I guess the word missional might scare some progressives for another, perhaps deeper reason, than imperialism though; it might evoke serious committment to the world right outside your comfort zone; evoke depth of purpose, mission and missional echoing back to the core that it is The Mission that calls the church into being itself, not the other way around with the church trying to find and name and proclaim its own mission.

The good thing is that we can help words heal themselves. The best way to undo the damage of the word, if damage there is in the word missional, is to so use the word until its original and truer sense is the one most thought of again. It is like how I say that the best way to help someone heal who has been hurt in the name of Jesus is for a healing understanding relationship from someone else in the name of Jesus.

What does all this have to do with the wonderful work by Michael Durall? Not much I suppose. I will try to blog later on his 5 Heresies. Or go to the link and check it out there and elsewhere. And though it is geared to the UU culture; my friends in mainline churches will find much to resonate with them as well.