Saturday, July 31, 2010

Versions of the Lord's Prayer

This Week during my seminar on "The Way of Jesus", one of the days we will be focusing on the Prayer of Jesus. The other days we will focus on The Parables or Unconventional Wisdom of Jesus; the church/mission community of Jesus; and the meal of Jesus or communion and worship ala Jesus.

Found this link below I will be sharing with some great and radical versions of the Prayer or in the spirit of the Prayer. be sure to check out the bloggers version and the Kitchen Mother version. We will also be singing the Our Father in new and revised version by Susan Werner, which you can see at

Here are the alternative versions of different stripes.

Also below are some excerpts I will be sharing on The Lord's Prayer from Amy-Jill Levine from her book The Misunderstood Jew. I will also be sharing from the sermon series on The Lord's Prayer that is part of the new book of writings by the Rev. Thomas D. Wintle, Hear Pray Affirm, being sold by the UU Christian Fellowship. See the link at

And I will be showing a wonderful video clip out of the movie The Soloist where one of the main characters, based on a true story, of Nathaniel Ayers, mentally ill and homeless, is reciting the Lord's Prayer before going to sleep on the streets.

Here are excerpts from Levine:

From Amy-Jill Levine:
Lord's Prayer ... (Matthew 6:9-13) .. In Jewish thought, the designation of
the deity as "Father" develops substantially during the Second Temple
period, that is after the return from the Babylonian exile in 538 BCE. ...
Malachi 2:10 ... This understanding of God as father continues in synagogues today, where Jews speak of and to Av ha-rachamim ("Merciful Father") as well as Avinu malkenu "Our Father, our King") and proclaim, Hu avinu ("He is our Father). pp. 41-43

... the translation "Daddy" is incorrect. The term means "father", and is
not an expression associated primarily with little children. ... Even
Joachim Jeremias, the scholar who first proposed rthe translation "Daddy"
along with its unique attribution to Jesus, retracted his thesis and called
it "A piece of inadmissable naivete." p. 43

By speaking of the "Father in heaven," Jesus thus insists that Rome is not
the "true" father. p. 45

"Hallowed be your name," is a component of most Jewish prayers. p. 45

"Your Kingdomn come" correlates in Jewish tradition with the expression olam ha-bah, "the world to come." The "world to come" is the messianic age. a time distinguished from and infinitely better than "this world" (olam
ha-zeh). Jesus's plea for a divine kingdom to come has a conspicuous
political edge. The prayer seeks the divine kingdom, not the one of Caesar
or his lackeys ... p. 46

Perhaps the best translatiopm, then, would be, "Give us tomorrow's bread
today." for that makes the most sense in a first-century Jewish setting.
Jewish texts speak of the olam ha-bah, the world to come, as a glorious
banquet. Isaiah 25:6 .... In the church, taste of the messianic age is what
should be encountered at the Eucharist (Communion), at the "Lord's table."
"Give us tomorrow's bread today" therefore means "Bring about your rule,
when we can eat at the messianic banquet." p. 48

As for "Forgive us our trespasses," the original was most likely "Forgive us
our debts" ... It goes directly to the pocketbook; it says "Don't hold a
debt. if someone needs, give." This is a call for economic justice. p. 49

The Greek phrase usually translated "Lead us not into temptation" ios
better rendered "Do not bring us to the test." .... thus means "Do not put
us in a situation where we might be tempted to deny our faith or morals."
... "Evil" in the line "but rescue us from evil" is more precisely "the evil
one" ... on the colloquial level, the couplet may be seen as saying "Look,
God, I don't need testing from you, and I certainly don't need being brought
to the test by Satan." pp.50-51

The prayer is not "to Jesus"; it says nothing uniquely Christian; and it
fits neatly within Jewish piety. p. 51

Friday, July 30, 2010

Come let us reason together...

Wise words from my colleague and friend Tom Schade:

It is useful to remember that being in the United States without having gone through the proper immigration procedures is NOT a crime. It is a civil offense, handled outside the criminal justice system, which is why deportation rather than a jail sentence is called for. The undocumented person has been found guilty of nothing. Calling them "illegal" is a deliberate obfuscation.

An undocumented person who is accused of committing a crime deserves not deportation but appropriate legal sanctions -- arrested, indicted, arraigned and tried before a jury. If found guilty, sent to prison or fined.

What to do with an undocumented person who is accused of no crime? There are all sorts of suggested procedures for this and they are the subject of immigration reform legislation. That legislation is stalled because the GOP will let nothing move forward that has any suggestion of "amnesty" in it.

Further, "amnesty" is a useful political club, not to be used against immigrants, because everyone knows that we cannot deport 11-12 million people without igniting civil unrest, but against the real objects of conservative anger: liberals and liberalism. The immediate motivation behind SB1070 is the belief that the reason why there is "illegal immigration" is because "liberals won't get tough enough to enforce the law." Hence REQUIRING police to check immigration status, criminalizing assisting undocumented workers, banning 'sanctuary' cities. The law is a wedge issue to split the white population and isolate liberals. Maintaining white unity in the midst of the demographic changes of the country is the key to maintaining the status quo; and so, liberals must be isolated and demonized.

As religious liberals, we have a duty to defend our essential points of view: that political and policy problems like immigration and labor, are just that: problems that are to be solved through creative conversation and compromise; that everyone has worth and dignity, that racially based policies and procedures are immoral, as well as ineffective, and that scapegoating the innocent for the sins of all is the oldest form of religious malpractice that there is. We can no more fix our immigration system by punishing the immigrant than we can promote healthy sexual practices by punishing unmarried mothers than we can stabilize marriage by denying to gays and lesbians.

Every complex problem has many proposed solutions, and in this country, at least one of them involves scapegoating, demonization and some sort of oppression. That solution is always wrong and somebody has to say so. I am proud that we have enough sense of ourselves and our mission to say so in this circumstance.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Church of Sighs and Broken Alleluias and Mustard Seeds: Read When Your Heart Is Ready

Make sure, if you are interested in missional church and community renewing living, and I hope you are and will be, that you read this.

There I was this evening, at dusk, following one of those instinctual hunches, driving a different way home so I could go by our newly made just the night before Welcome Table Nature Trail, Exploration and Discovery Area, Butterfly and More Preserve here in our area where so little new has happened, here, well you know the statistics and the stories and the stereotypes...I was following a hunch. ...A few minutes later I was sitting on the ground by the trail we had just made, in tears; a moment later lying on the ground looking at the sky, thinking, reminding myself, that missional and community renewing work, especially grassroots and guerilla gardening style work, like so much, is not always easy for sure and full of hope. Sometimes, even to the most hope-filled among us, you get your wind knocked out.

For all of you who have followed my reports from the field here, this will be a different sort, not yet the followup I was intending to write today, the second part of what we told the medical students who have been out with us this month, the more hopeful part, after laying out all the little things that add up to big difficulties, I was, and still am, going to write about "Why We Wouldn't Be Anyway Else, Doing Anything Else" because that might have been the most radical part of what we shared with them during their time with us. But I am not writing that. Yet. Now when I do it will mean even more.

But let me back up to yesterday and today. Because it is all related and all connected to my lying on the ground this evening.

As part of the conversation with residents and medical students this month we have faced them with that stark opposition I wrote about before, that we are in the area with the greatest health needs and lowest life expectancy AND we have the fewest health care resources, that OU which has been so good working with us and we are so glad that they have brought a clinic here with us, has had cutbacks from funders and have had to cut personnel and, this is the real story, all the clinics except ours on the northside were closed and ours was put on a years notice, and ours was only mornings twice a week instead of Monday through Friday all day as in the OU clinics at other parts of town. Helping the medical students to analyze why all that is the case, and what the effects are, and how it is not really an issue with the university as much as it is about overall policy and history and people and institutions of all kinds turning a blind eye, was actually a spiritually uplifting encounter for all. And then yesterday we found out that although the clinic will still be here, it will have its already reduced time with us reduced even further, down to just one morning a week. The only one of its clinic on the whole northside now too.

Needless to say, it was a downer, but it spurred me on to contact partners and to begin figuring out responses for how we can become proactive and try to not only get the clinic funding from other sources but also to use it to spur on our emerging plans to create a revolutionary new way of providing health care and thinking of it, through creating a network of neighborhood health care associates working in their own blocks, decentralizing the whole notion of clinic and preventive care. And in other news yesterday we were in fact getting somewhere and working with OU on a grant to help us do just that, an idea that some of you who have been following our life here know dates back to our work with OU toward a ten million dollar X Prize. You can go to our and find the old posts on it.

And then yesterday evening, as we began to make plans for the Party Among the Ruins to support our dream of the Miracle Among The Ruins community garden kitchen park space, we also put together on our own in the prairie area across the street, near where we have our existing community garden plot, the Nature Trail and Preservation Area. We left late last night on a high seeing what we had accomplished making the trails, making a pleasant space right next to all the abandoned properties, right where people walk more than a mile to the elementary school and stores, where they push grocery carts of food and supplies up the hill back to their homes. Plants were in bloom, native grasses were beautiful, I posted some of the wonderful photos on We picked veggies and envisioned the line of folks coming to our Party Among the Ruins walking across the street and going through the trails. After the early bad news about the clinic, it was good to end the way we did.

All we had to do was get some signs and put them up directing people along the paths, and a big sign to let the public know what it was, and then eventually individual plant and grass signs to help them identify and learn from the area, especialy the school children we would bring for outdoor classrooms.

Then today sometime during the day the mower for the church property next door who had mowed an area next to the prairie area already but left it alone, and who might have been different from what we thought we had an agreement not to mow this beautiful area, did of course come in and mow it all down, over the trails we had made the night before. I had been planning to double check, I had been planning to get the signs, but all the other issues with the clinic and the school feeding program and with all the promotional work I sent out yesterday and especially today for the Party Among the Ruins and for that new trails area itself, working on the news released probably as the trails were being mowed down, plus my paid work, because all the local missional work is all done by volunteers, me included, it all took precedence. And so I turned to drive by it tonight on a hunch, that old hunch in the gut that says, I wonder if...

So there I sat and laid on the ground by all the mowed down beautiful native plant and grass area, and I thought of course about the disparities in health care and life expectancy and the disparity in the clinic hours and the cuts, and about the way the county officials had done the same thing to our transformational gardening work and beautification at the 66th and N. Lewis intersection that is routinely neglected and trash filled until we worked on it only to have them come by lately and mow down the plants; and how the work we had done beautifying the entrance with plants at O'Brien Park Center, the real center for the community at that park and not the ballfields for people in other areas, had been killed by workers salting the garden during the winter, and there was the bed we did for the barbecue restaurant that is now closed and the bed we did for the hamburger restaurant, two of the few, and how it had to move, and how the plantings we did at one of the welcome signs was mown down in the peak of its beauty, and how the Dept of Transportation had taken our match money and not seeded wildflowers along Highway 75 as planned in a grant we received and how even the ones that came up on their own had been frequently mowed down instead of letting them bloom and spread, and I thought again in a flash about all those little eat away at your soul things I had so recently written about....and how I had just come from a couple of meetings with OU this very evening where we were making such good and necessary plans for producing seeds of hope, and how we have to focus on them and not the seeds of despair, and bam I had to practice what I had just been preaching, and it is never easy to do that...

And so I finally got up, worried someone was going to call 911 if they drove by and saw me sprawled out on the ground in the middle of a field just mowed looking up at the sky as it darkened, especially worried if they recognized me and knew it was just a year ago I had a heart attack :)...and so I got up and looked at the area a little closer...I saw where the trails we made could still be made out through the cutdown parts made by the tractor...I knew that this beautiful area had been mowed before, year after year, pointlessly, but it had been and each year most of what had been there managed to come back up and bloom and attract all the butterflies that we had seen there just the night before that aren't there tonight...I knew, I know, that it will all come back again...And I decided that come the morning, and I have already contacted a few of the folks who worked on the trails the night before, we would go to Cullison's Hardware Store, our gem on North Peoria Ave., and we would buy metal stakes and nylon rope, and we will mark out the paths, and we will look for signs, and we will try to find the money to get the signs made (the one made before was wiped out by a car coming around the curve) and we would identify the area and we will even save some of the seeds that have been scattered and sweep them into the places we want them to ideally be, and we will wait for everything to grow back. And we will work again, and take time again, to make sure we have everyone on board and hope again.

Next Wednesday during the Party Among The Ruins, instead of walking across the street and going through the trails and marvelling at the beauty that is right in our midst, even here in the midst of abandoned neglected properties and violence and scarcity, there is so much abundance; instead of looking at all of that and what we can see all around us, we will walk through the trails marked off and we will know that the path of hope truly does come through despair and that our experiences are just a small glimpse of the huge despairs and tremendous hope that we live in and through in our lives and what our neighbors here, with homes and without homes, go through. And it will be a symbol, for those who read this especially and know the story or glimpse it from what they do see, a symbol of faith, of hope, and of love that can't stay dead. And I know that applies to for our clinic's future, too, and to our whole Four Directions Initiative, and to whatever happens with the Miracle Among the Ruins, and with our dreams to get the old church building to expand and grow and transform into.

I lay on that ground and then walked through the mown area, tracing the paths we had made that are now only marks on the ground of a different color, and I remembered, and maybe some of you will too, that our whole Let Turley Bloom project grew out of an Easter morning experience back in 2005 when we had prepared and placed beautiful flowers in big pots and during the night of Easter Eve we put them up and down along North Peoria Ave., hoping to surprise people the next morning, Easter morning, with the bits of beauty right next to the ugly abandoned and neglected areas of our main street; only to find, when we awoke, that vandals or others had dumped out the dirt and flowers on the ground and taken the big flower pots. Where we had wanted to surprise people on their way to church on Easter with beauty, we showed them only new mounds of dirt and debris along their route. We decided then to begin our guerilla garden planting in the ground in our beautification projects. And out of that has come so much from so few for so many.

Tomorrow afternoon also because we are here there will be a poverty awareness workshop for incoming OU social work graduate students that will actually involve local community residents as teachers and will be held away from campus here in our community; what the students will experience will of course be only symbolic for them, but it will be a seed that will help them see others in a different light just a little. And what the Welcome Table Nature Trail and Exploration and Discovery Area Butterfly and More Preserve will also show, both to those who see it even now and in a few days, and when they see it once everything grows back and is even more beautiful than yesterday, will also be a symbol. A symbol of how God works in the world, in our hearts and communities, always like a mustard seed, one that shouldn't be there in the eyes of many, but that can't be stopped. Symbols of a very real life, for all those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to break open so they can hold even more.

Sighs and Alleluias all at the same time.

Meanwhile, :) if you can donate for signs for the Trails, or of course the miracle among the ruins project, or all the center endeavors, there is a button for it at, and if you really can't donate funds please keep us in your prayers and pass along our stories, even this one, and come see us when you can. And stay tuned...I still have that followup coming on the rest of the story of what we told to the medical students about why we sold our big new house in the new subdivision in the fast growing suburb and moved here with our teenage daughter.

blessings, thanks, and more soon,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Party Among The Ruins: Wed. July 28, 7-9 pm

Your Invitation, and Please Invite Others

What: "Party Among The Ruins"
Make real the Miracle Among the Ruins project to turn a block of abandoned properties here in TulsaNorth/Turley into The Welcome Table Community Kitchen Garden Park. Come tour the proposed site and area and discuss the plans; even consider ways you might replicate such a project in your own part of town if you live elsewhere. See the video produced by the OU Graduate Design Studio of what it can look like and be even as we are partying amid what it is now. Beverages and ice cream social and watermelon and refreshments provided for freewill donations. Beat the heat with a water balloon fight. Listen to music. Meet others committed to community renewal, health, food justice, one block at a time.

When: Wednesday, July 28, 7 to 9 pm. We have a July 30 deadline to finish raising the funds to buy the property. Come celebrate and let us say thanks for all your donations. Bring friends who haven't donated yet, or take this opportunity to have fun and bring your own donation, or in the spirit of generosity and abundance give again if you have donated already. Surprise yourself as we surprise our community, so often seen as powerless and struggling and stereotyped, with this venture so needed here, and now.

Where: 6025 N. Johnstown Ave., between Peoria and Cincinnati, due west up the hill from Cherokee School. Enter the property off Johnstown. Park along the street or in the parking lot across the street at the nearby Methodist Church. This hilltop neighborhood has outstanding views of downtown Tulsa and out east toward the horizon of the Bird Creek bottomland; to the north rises Turley Hill. The party will take place in the center of the property on abandoned foundations between run down buildings. You will also get a chance to see the infamous resident-made walking trail people use going to school and stores on foot, some of the area we have raised a few experimental gardens already, and walk the paths in a native grass and plant area. Also tour our A Third Place Community Center at 6514 N. Peoria Ave. while you are in the area.

How: Just come, or if you can help by donating beverages or refreshments such as ice cream for an ice cream social part of the event; or come help fill up water balloons for those who want to "stay cool",. We are a grassroots group and we like our events to grow from the grassroots as well.

RSVP and also pass this invitation on by email, in announcements at church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or your civic group this weekend, pass it through social networking sites, to family, friends, colleagues and coworkers.

In case of rain, say a prayer of thanks and a halleluia and come drive by the area and stop for the Party at A Third Place Center, 6514 N. Peoria where we will move the event. If you haven't seen our unique approach to community renewal, this is a great time to visit, and to bring others who might not have been here yet. In fact, this past few weeks talking with medical students, we found out again that many of them have grown up in Tulsa but never been to the northside or been this far into the northside. If you know of anyone like that, use this opportunity to expand their horizons.

And be one of the folks who push us over our fundraising goal to purchase this property. We can't do it with just you alone (unless of course you can donate or arrange for a donation of $7,000), but we also can't do it without you. And we mean that. True, we have a ways to go still and a short amount of time to do it in, but we wouldn't call it a "miracle among the ruins" if it had been easy to do. We do have a commitment from Tulsa County to remove and clear the property for us once we purchase it, and we have volunteers ready to transform it; all we need is to own the land. Find out all the wonderful plans and donate now at or send checks made out to A Third Place Community Foundation at 6514 N. Peoria Ave, Turley, OK 74126.

At the website for A Third Place Community you will also see the multitude of other ways we are giving back to our neighborhoods in our area between 46th St. N. and 86th St. N. and Highway 75 and Osage County Line. All of these need support. The Miracle Among The Ruins project is a vital one for us here in the zipcode of Tulsa with the lowest life expectancy and a fourteen year gap between us and mid town just a few miles away, but the kitchengarden project is part of a bigger picture connecting the dots in what we call "The Four Directions Initiative" for TulsaNorth/Turley; a true "TNT" vision explosion for renewal.

Thanks and blessings and see you for a "party among the ruins." Don't forget to share this with all others.

Ron Robinson
430-1150 home; 6913223 cell, 7944637 office
A Third Place Community, a 501c3 grassroots, 100 percent into mission, neighborhood movement
"Small acts of justice done with great love change the world."

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Church of Small Blessings (or a Report on What We Told The Medical Students)

Hi all. First, Upcoming events:
This Friday, poverty education workshop at O'Brien Recreation Center from noon to four pm between our community residents and incoming OU graduate social work students. Lunch and training provided to residents at noon. RSVP if you can be a part of this fun and important event. We still need a handful of folks to take part.
Also health Clinic Monday and Friday mornings.
Lunch daily at Cherokee School for any 18 and under from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
Cooling station open at the center daily with water and more available.
Food Pantry open.
Community Health and Life surveys being taken at the center.
Stay tuned for update as we are planning an event on the site of our proposed Miracle Among the Ruins project to transform a city block here of abandoned properties into community garden, kitchen, greenspace. We still are halfway to our goal and need just $6.900 by July 30; be a part of the final 69 people, or churches, or groups of friends, who give $100 to make it happen. Go to for more details. Read the message below to understand how vital this project is for our community.
This month we have started important conversations and partnerships on racial reconciliation and our community, and will be making plans soon for a year of intentional events along these lines as well as weaving the concerns into our regular events. Of our guiding 3Rs of relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation, it is often reconciliation that gets the least attention, and yet without it the work of the other two Rs can not be sustained, just as without either one of them the other two suffer.

The Message:
We have often quoted the statistics: Our part of the Tulsa community on North Peoria has a fourteen year lower life expectancy than just six or so miles south of us on the same Peoria Ave.

Lately we have been not only trying to address the disparity in our small ways, but to talk with people about why this is the case, since the disparity has not always been true, but like the gap between the incomes of the people on both ends of the spectrum, the differences in health have been accelerating too. (We just watched the movie Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story this morning in worship, and Dorothy's comment there hit home: everyone likes it when she is feeding people, but no one likes it when she talks about why people need to be fed in the first place).

The situation, and the deeper history and reason for it, has been brought into sharp focus this month. Our health clinic at the community center is now the only OU community health clinic open on the northside, and we have been put on a one year notice if funding they receive doesn't turn around and grow, and our clinic here on the northside is only open on Monday and Friday mornings whereas the clinics on the south, east, and west sides are open Monday through Friday and are open all day. We are extremely glad and proud to have the clinic here, but the facts of the situation and the effects of funding cutbacks are revealing, and prophetic and don't reflect on the university but on the wider community local, state, and federal.

Why, then, is the area where there is the greatest need for health care the exact place where the least resources are provided? Answering that question, and putting it into perspective, puts many other things in perspective as well as why it is vital we are here, doing what we are doing, and asking for your support.

One of our mottos in our community here is that we believe small acts done in great love can change the world, borrowing a line from Mother Teresa. Since we are a small group, with few resources and put them all into mission each month so that we zero out, what we do by necessity are small acts---planting guerrilla gardens here or there, delivering bottles of cold water to those during our heat alert, simply keeping our center and its ministries open and going so a whole host of small healing encounters can take place.

But also we know, as Shane Claiborne wrote in The Irresistible Revolution, that growing smaller, and more local, enables you to do bigger things; and so we have made the kind of partnerships in the past three years that have allowed us to create the kind of life-changers that we have. The Miracle Among the Ruins project, the Four Directions Initiative, Food Justice, School Partners, and the Urban Missional Monastic community with clinic, center, and chapel in the old Turley Methodist church building are some of the big projects that happen because of small acts not only by those of us living here, but by those of you who support us. Check all those big and small acts out at or and know that your support is crucial. Thank you. We need your donations, your prayers, your spreading of our story. Small acts and big acts of support all go directly and 100 percent into our mission. We are all volunteers. It is easy and safe to donate online at the blog or send checks to A Third Place Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., Turley, OK 74126.

This past month we have been a community health education site for medical and premed students through OU, connecting them with residents to raise awareness about real life issues faced in health care here. Bonnie and I led two afternoon discussions and short tours with them in our area. Much of the talk focused on that disparity in life expectancy and the history of how it got that way. We told them about the joint issues of racism (segregation that led to white flight and redlining) and neglect and economic disintegration of the middle and working class that led to community fragmentation and the emptying out of community assets.

Over and over again we kept coming back to the growing list of what we call "the little things that add up" to making life a little harder for those most vulnerable. And as that list grew it dawned on me why we focus so much on the healing small acts of love and justice, not only because that is all the resources we have to focus on, but because it is at heart the creation of lots and lots of little good things creating community that work into the soul the same way and with the same influence as those little community-defeating things that take on such a big significance.

We told the medical students that we have the biggest need for health care here but the least resources directed to it because:
---our folks are sicker and so it costs more to care for them and those costs are not being paid for.
---they are sicker in part because they don't have the multigenerational experience with preventive care, or the means to access it, and their default mode is that they can't afford it so they neglect it and go into crisis to crisis mode for their health the same way so much of their life is, like going from job to no job to job, but all those jobs are without health benefits; and our society setting up health insurance based on employment punishes the most vulnerable the most. It is not, however, a lack of people and numbers coming to the clinic; the walkins were eliminated because there were too many; appointment schedules such as they are are full. But, for cost purposes, they are full with the "wrong" kinds of people.
---our clinic can accept and needs to accept health insurance to help offset the extra costs and the lack of any income coming from those we see, but our area doesn't have the population with health insurance to draw from, and those with health insurance are often the older folks who have long established connections with seeking health care on the south side and they don't shift to our clinic even though it is closer, and our clinic doesn't look like what they are used to a clinic looking like in the normal doctor's office environment.
---We just hope we can hold on until federal health insurance reform kicks in and some income streams might offset what are not here now, or that foundations who support the clinic might see their resources growing in a better economy than happened recently.
---people put up with more here that hurts them because they have too often followed the script others have repeated that their lives would be better off if they lived elsewhere, and so since they don't live elsewhere, then there must be something wrong with them; they are neglected by others so they neglect themselves. The same way a crying newborn will stop crying if not held.
---stresses act as triggers for addictions of all kinds which lead to shorter lives, and stress of employment, of family health, of not having transportation, of low performing schools, of violence, of depression all take their toll. People turn inward into themselves at the very time and in the very place that for their survival they need to be turning outward toward others.

What are some of those little things that we try to counter with our small acts? The list of little things that create attitudes that work against community health keep growing and create a culture which feeds into all those elements listed above.
---No pizza delivery to homes north of Apache, just two miles from downtown. affects community building among youth, and families. I always say it is such a small thing, but every time I mention it to groups there is an awareness of the way it is taken for granted in privileged communities. People are always shocked by the mere fact of it.
---Taking away family and community oriented space and shelter at OBrien Park and replacing it with ballparks and golf courses that often almost always benefit those who live elsewhere and are individual rather than group oriented. A little thing that signifies a lot is the new placement of a sign that reads "overflow parking" placed in front of the recreation center of the park that is used mostly by people in the area and is anything but an overflow area for the local community, but who now understand the priority that others place on the park assets.
---The pending loss of the post office, here where many of our elderly residents don't have the means to get to or use the other public or private postal offices, and where there are no fedex or ups anyway, as to get copies made or faxes done you have to go to the southside (or use our center when supplies are handy). If the postal service needs to cut funds and operations it should do so precisely in those areas where people have alternatives and the means to access them.
---The sign up at Home Depot on the south side of downtown that thanks shoppers for coming to North Tulsa; when you can claim an area south of downtown is North Tulsa you can ignore the real North Tulsa and don't have to address it;
-- The removal this coming academic year of the science teachers and gifted programs from our elementary schools on the north side, programs that were put into place here in order so our children would be able to be prepared for the science oriented magnet programs that went into our local high school. Now that has been lost. That high school, McLain, was one of the first integrated schools in Tulsa but suffered when Washington was made a magnet school, in order to fix Tulsa's segregated schools problem, because students with good grades then shifted from it to Washington, and McLain became the new old Washington in many ways in people's eyes without the strong sense of community Washington had and has. McLain is turning around more now with great staff, great students, good magnet school programs being launched, and with the birth of a new community foundation we are a part of, but it has continued to struggle from constant shuffling of administrative leadership this past year in particular, and of course its students struggle because of the lack of health in their neighborhoods.
---and in our immediate area the lack of sidewalks and infrastructure around Cherokee School, where a hit and run occurred before school was out, and where just today during the hottest part of the day I saw a family with a man in a wheelchair and a woman with three preteen and preschool aged children walking in one of the lanes of Peoria Ave toward the grocery store because there were no sidewalks.
---Across from the local school and in neighborhoods throughout the region the high percentage (40 percent of vacant residences abandoned, not for sale or rent) of abandoned rundown houses and overgrown yards showing neglect for decades, as the paperwork stacks up at the health department for the one person for the whole county in charge of trying to handle the health code violations for these neighborhoods outside the city limits.
---Once upon a time, our teachers and business people and ministers and law enforcement and even doctors lived in our neighborhoods where they worked; today the bulk of those who teach and have businesses and preach and enforce the laws and provide what little health care there is provided all live outside of our community. The students went to the local schools; now they are scattered to schools both in and elsewhere in the wider community, so that neighboring children don't attend the same schools.

All of that destroys community which destroys health. It happens drop by drop. The inverse is also true. Drop by drop as we build community we create health. And as these changes didn't happen overnight, neither will the healing, but it does seem to be harder to build up than to destroy, so it takes more intentional generosity to make it happen.

I suppose in my reports, homilies, sermons, essays, from here I have tended to lift up the small acts of love and justice that people are doing or helping others to do, and that is vital for our spirits, but we must also teach the hard facts of what got us here, and so often keeps us here stuck in the statistics and stereotypes and old stories. Ironically, it is by going through despair that deeper hope sustains us; it is by knowing our weaknesses that we can vision ways to turn them into strengths. For example, we also told the medical students, that it is the very lack of infrastructure and not having health care provided as other places do, that gives us the edge in developing revolutionary new ways and experiments to making a community better; we don't have anything to undo, so we can start from scratch better, and our vision of developing networks of trained lay health care associates within walking distance in every neighborhood, of turning the clinic inside out, of taking health care outdoors and into group clinic settings, is possible in large part because of what is not here now.

What is not here now then opens our eyes, our hearts, our minds, and our hands to what is here now and what can become from it. That in itself is a spiritual calling, and a mission worth spending your life on and in.

blessings, thanks, and more soon, Ron
ps. check into the facebook page at for worship updates and plans for Sunday mornings or other times, and to the church planting blog for more in depth on the spirituality behind all we do. And yes, I did tell the medical students that for me, when asked why we were here and not somewhere else, my main answer is because it is where I best meet Jesus.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Emergent links; read especially Annie Bullock's Real Austin


+ A Time To Reconstruct
+ Real Austin: Theology on a Downtown Bus
+ Unstudying God: Finding God in the Barren Land
Resources from
Around the Village...


New Church Leadership Institute
August 9-13
Atlanta, GA

The Power of Words
September 23-26
Plainfield, VT

Radical Theology, Emerging Christianity & the Future of the Church
October 15-16
Springfield, MO

Creating Liberated Spaces in a Postcolonial World
November 1-3
Atlanta, GA

a missional community formation network

Doug Pagitt Radio
religious radio that's not quite right
Upcoming Guests on DPR!


Here at the Village, we are excitedly preparing for the fall conference season, particularly the Emergent Village Theological Conversation be held in Atlanta, GA November 1-3, right on the heels of the American Academy of Religion's annual conference in Atlanta. In case you missed the announcement email, registration for this event is now open. We're also continuing to post our podcasts of last year's Theological Conversation featuring Jurgen Moltmann.

In the spirit of theological conversation, you'll notice that the next few issues of Emergent/C will intentionally feature a variety of theological ideas that are meant to spark discussion. In this issue, Jonathan Brink proposes a new way of seeing atonement, Annie Bullock urges consensus between right and left-leaning Christians as they serve the most vulnerable, and George Elerick proposes leaving theology entirely in order to find God.

As always, we appreciate your ideas and feedback and urge you to get involved.

Peace to you all, and we wish you the best in all of your theological conversations!

- your friends at EV

a time to reconstruct
by Jonathan Brink

Over the last decade, many of us who have participated in what some call "the conversation" have been engaging a deconstruction process of our faith. In many ways this leaving was liberation from an old story. The traditional way of seeing the story in the Gospel just didn't work anymore. The conversation became a place to share our fears, our stories, and our liberation.

One of the real, valid criticisms of this process is that much of the conversation was a deconstruction process. In other words, we were tearing down an old story but nothing new was offered to take its place. I get that concern. It's easy to criticize what's wrong with something and never offer something different. But I would also offer that the removing the old story was necessary for us to see something new.

The primary concern for me within this space was our historical understanding of the Gospel. I could no longer ignore the inherent conflicts with our traditional stories, specifically in terms of the atonement. The atonement captured my attention in the conversation because it is the linchpin in the story. It informs us of both the problem and the solution.

Read the entirety of the article here.

Read more of Jonathan's writing at his blog.

real austin
Theology On A Downtown Bus
by Annie Bullock

Since moving to Austin just two years ago, I've had my share of encounters with Leslie Cochran, almost all of them on the 1L/1M bus through downtown. Leslie is a homeless transvestite and a beloved Austin institution. I saw him for the first time on my very first visit to Austin. He was standing on the curb looking bewildered in a purple mini-skirt and pumps. He crossed the street halfway, paused, and then abruptly returned to the curb he'd just left, slinging his skirt over his hips as he went, revealing a leopard print thong. Between his flamboyant fashion sense and his proclivity for public semi-nudity, he's hard to miss if you spend any time downtown.

Leslie is a one of a kind weird guy and yet in many ways, he's emblematic of the Austin homeless community: harmless, eccentric, and not looking for a way back into ordinary society...

Read the entirety of the article here.

unstudying god
Finding God In The Barren Land
by George Elerick

Theology is the study of God... more specifically of any deity. It is a place where we come and try to understand God, where we attempt to bring our scalpels and scientifically assess if God makes sense to us. We bring our history, environments, fears and dreams all to this one place to find the God that exists beyond God. We are affected by all of our past, present and future when we step into the realm of studying God.

Studying God presupposes that God desires us to deconstruct Him. That somehow God wants to be found. In our studying, deep down where the subconscious lies, we want to save God from those around us. Theology has evolved into a practice where we get to be the demi-gods of development. Theology has deformed itself into something that deforms its followers irreparably into people who desire to only make sense of a being beyond our senses. What we have come to understand about God has been formed by thousands of years of interpretations. We tend to align ourselves alongside these interpretations and deem them as theology.

Theology is the practice and study of God as share above, but our discoveries are the fruit of that study. Fruit can rot, get old and die. We need new fruit, at the risk of leaving some of the old fruit behind...

Read the entirety of the article here.

Read more of George's writing at his blog.


About Emergent Village
Emergent Village is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Come to Poverty Education Experience Workshop Friday July 23

We still need a few more folks to sign up to help us in the poverty education workshop Friday July 23 at O'Brien Park, 6147 N. Lewis, with OU Graduate Social Work students. Helpers will get free lunch at noon during an hour of easy training for the workshop which then takes place from 1 to 4 pm in the gym. See the flyer attached. Pass it on to those you know who might be interested in the program. RSVP to me.

Helpers, community residents and activists, will take on roles of staff from health clinic, law, social services, school, bank, etc. as the incoming graduate students take on different roles of residents and try to access necessities. Play money is used but it is not a game; it is a way to begin raising understanding.

Thanks, blessings, and more soon,
430-1150, 691-3223, 794-4637

Monday, July 12, 2010

In the way of Jesus

SWUUSI 2010 WORKSHOP, Aug. 2 - 5, afternoons
Western Hills Lodge, Sequoyah State Park, near Wagoner OK

Monday: The Parables of Jesus
DVD episode from Living The Questions curriculums…“Kingdom of God”…Leaven, Mustard Seed, Empty Jar, Prodigal Family, Samaritan…The Passion as Parable

Tuesday: Jesus’ Prayer For Followers
Scene from “The Soloist”…Amy Jill Levine from The Misunderstood Jew…James Mulholland from Praying Like Jesus…Tom Wintle from Hear, Pray, Affirm, UU Christian Journal 2010

Wednesday: The Missional Communities of Jesus
Dorothy Day from “Entertaining Angels”…Clarence Jordan from “Koinonia Community and Briars in the Cotton Patch”…Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way…Church At A Third Place Center in TulsaNorth/Turley, OK

Thursday: The Jesus Meal and Worship
Scenes from “Places in the Heart” and “Romero”…Communion Service

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Words For The Fourth

Turley is a particularly wild place on the days celebrating the Fourth of July. Because we are an urban/smalltown/rural mix and unincorporated section of the Tulsa Northside, we have become the mecca for selling and exploding fireworks, all day and all night. We are also in a valley and by the Fourth's end the smoke hovers over the streets as in a battlefield. Driving through the streets becomes difficult especially in the evenings. Every time the massive amounts of fireworks explode above the houses and the treetops, it provides spectacular sights, but also I keep thinking of the massive amounts of dollars being spent by the folks here who are in the lowest income section of our area; of course there are no movie houses or entertainment places on the northside of Tulsa and so for a few days or weeks of the year we become one of the "places to be" for people to get what they are looking for in the Entertainment Empire.

Which is the opposite of what the Fourth of July celebration should be about. We may light the skies for a celebration of freedom, but the freedom we celebrate is not the freedom to have no laws and no limits, to outdo our neighbors in firepower, to find ways to retreat into our own boundary lines of property and family, to gorge on unhealthy food, and to crash out in couch potatodom, or to mouth yet again the platitudes of freedom and liberty and go on perpetuating injustice and its twin of isolation. Is this what the signers of the Declaration of Independence died for and set into motion? In part, yes; the right to lose our way, but moreso, no, it was for the creation of beloved community with its twin markers of lovingkindness and responsivefreedom.

It must be said and repeated year after year: Freedom is inherently relational; it only has meaning as a component of community, where we together as a community grant and entrust it to one another as persons within community. It is part of and contributes to and is created by our covenants with one another. Individual freedom in itself is not ultimate (and is in fact more of an oxymoron); that is not liberty but license and aloneness. Freedom as an expression and sign of Beloved Community is inherently Transcendent and points us to our deepest being outside of own own personal egos and needs and lives, even our lives as national citizens. It is an aspect of the image of the One who is at heart relational and freeing. Therefore, our celebrations of freedom should be in this spirit, should draw us closer to one another in service to one another, especially with those in need of lovingkindness and liberation.

This is why this rainy weekend our Community Center was a site and a departure point, as it always is, for community work, working with OU graduate students contacting people to find out about their neighborhood's health in order to help guide our response in the future. Offering free meal. Working on gardens in local schools. Talking with people who came by. Creating space for addictions recovery. All in a day at A Third Place, 6514 N. Peoria Ave.

It is why this Sunday during our gathering to be the church here that we will watch part of the opening episode of the HBO miniseries on John Adams where the future revoluntionary war leader and President puts his life and reputation on the line first by defending in court unpopularly the British soldiers accused of murdering colonists during an altercation. His personal sympathies are with the colonists, but his deeper allegiance is to both law and justice and to "living and acting as if the beloved community of freedom were a reality" in order to help make it so, in order to remind people that freedom is not about winning, nor about sides and personal triumphs, but about what kind of community their struggle and their winning was for in the first place. The United States of America was not a reality yet when that event occurred, but for John Adams it existed as a vision that he would live into reality, then and over time. It is a vision we must keep casting, and how we celebrate that vision, how we spend our time and talents and treasure uplifting it, is a way to make it become closer to reality.

And what motivated John Adams into that kind of response to a higher calling than popularity or the desires of the citizens of his land was his faith (he was a Christian of the Unitarian persuasion by the way) in a particular kind of God and Christ that sends one, even reluctantly like him, into service for the good of others different from him, though sharing with him a common thread of being children of that God.

This is why the Fourth of July is a kind of high holy day for our missional community that is part of the free church tradition and progressive Christian. Our communion celebrated on this day will stress the act of the feeding of one another symbolized by our passing the plate and cup to one another, as a way to uphold our bonds with one another, and our vision of beloved community that requires us to create freedom for one another, particularly for those different from us, because it is the mark of love and the path of liberation.

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," wrote the Apostle Paul. As a well studied Jew, he knew the connection deep in the story of the Hebrew Bible that it is in community, in response to God's calling, that liberation happens and people as collections of individuals become "a people." The early Universalists likewise used to talk of the connection and the primacy of what they called "gospel liberty." The gospel leads to liberty, and liberty is necessary as the soil for truth and justice to grow. It is so easy to get out of balance. We focus on freedom from instead of balancing it with freedom to; we make an idol of our way of knowing God but forget we came to that understanding through the freedom to do so granted by others, and so don't work to extend that same ground of freedom and equality to others.

So this Fourth feel free to light up the skies, to come to Turley and experience the wildness, but do so after serving to build up community and justice. Do it where you live. But I also invite you to do it with us, especially by donating to our Miracle Among the Ruins project, the Welcome Table Community Kitchen Garden Park, where we seek to create community space in a place that now stresses neglect and isolation and violence. Go to to read more about this vital initiative of hope in an area of despair, and see more and to donate there simply and easily the price of fireworks or even what one might spend on themselves during the holiday. It is a great way to remind one another that what we really celebrate is Interdependence Day, for that is the ground from which our own independence sprouts and develops fully. And we now have a new July 30 deadline to raise the final $8,000; there is no better time than the Fourth for you to become one of the hoped for 150 people from here and around the world who make this happen, and who let others know about it and that you have helped us reach that goal.

Thanks and blessings and more soon; you can follow along during the week each day at


Friday, July 02, 2010

Emergent Theological Conversation: Creating Liberated Spaces in a Postcolonial World

Theological Conversation - Creating Liberated Spaces in a Postcolonial World

November 01, 2010 at 02:00 PM
November 03, 2010 at 12:30 PM

First Presbyterian Church, Atlanta
1328 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA 30309

Greetings! We're thrilled to invite you to the 11th Annual Emergent Village Theological Conversation, scheduled for early November in Atlanta.

This year's Conversation will feature a global panel of three theologians from diverse theological backgrounds , each of whom will share stories, processes and theological reflections to engage our imaginations as we attempt to create liberated spaces in a postcolonial world. New Testament Professor and Christian feminist scholar Musa Dube joins us from Botswana, Richard Twiss shares what it means to walk the way of Jesus among First Nations peoples, and U.K.-based Colin Greene, Director of Metavista Consultancy ( and Visiting Fellow of Bible, Theology and Culture at St John's College, Durham University, presents his reflections on theology and cultural engagement.

Following on the heels of the American Academy of Religion's annual conference, the Conversation offers a unique opportunity to engage with leading theologians in a highly interpersonal context. As in years past, this gathering is intentionally designed to foster relational interaction with both speakers and fellow participants.

You won't want to miss what promises to be a landmark year in Emergent Village's signature event.

Register Now!

For additional information, please visit the 2010 Theological Conversation website. If you find you still have questions, feel free to e-mail us at

Space is limited, so register promptly if you want to reserve your space. This is an opportunity you won't want to miss!

Looking forward to our time together this fall!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Christian Fellowship at General Assembly 2010

Our UUCF communion service featuring the preaching of the Rev. Alma Faith Crawford was powerful and moving on a Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis. It is for some the only time of the year they take Christian communion with other Unitarian Universalists; for some it is the first time they have done so in years; and for some it is always a first time; transformational. We also distributed free a packet of UUCF communion resources, both contemporary and historical, and we held a discussion on diverse ways of Christian communion in UU congregations. More pics will follow here or at the UUCF website from our other activities and presence. Support this historic and still unfolding way of walking in freedom with Jesus. You can donate online.

You can order a CD of the communion service at this link:

Photos by Nancy Pierce