Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011: The Welcome Table Year (2011 will find us with a new website, stay tuned) Please share the following report with others on your email, social networks, or groups. Thanks especially for all your help this year.

Well, we are saying goodbye to 2010 and as I wrote last time it has been an amazing year for us here with many pieces falling together in our mission of renewing community, empowering residents, and growing healthy lives and neighborhoods, all through small acts of justice done with great love. We go out of the year being a presence in three places of our own--current center, new gardenpark, and new center building where we held our midnight Christmas Eve candlelight communion service for the community--as well as all those spaces like Cherokee and Greeley schools, O'Brien Recreation Center, 66th and N. Lewis intersection, and many others around here we are helping to turn into sites of beauty and sustainability. We plant rescue, we seed bomb, we pick up trash dumped on us, we light areas of darkness, we throw parties, we feed people, we host a health clinic, we give away clothes, and internet space.

All of this done by volunteers; I don't know of another place like it that has done so much on such a scale in so short a time all without paid staff in the greater Tulsa area for sure. Not always smoothly, not able to do all we hope and plan to do, but this past year has showed us so much is possible when you set out to show that another world, another way of doing things, being community, is possible. This coming month we won't have a lot of our usual stuff as we are shutting things down for the move, but we will have a great Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Farewell to our Space event (stay tuned for day and time) and also a Big Moving Sale Giveaway to help us in the move, also stay tuned for day and time.

We are going to be closing down the current center next month, moving into the new building, reorganizing, relaunching and beginning new projects and partnerships, creating a community hub with a vision of many spokes from it all over our part of far north Tulsa. There is some loss in every change, though, and it will be hard to transition and shut things down for awhile as we get ready to do a relaunch and grand opening later in Spring or Summer; but the metamorphosis will be worth it, as it was when we moved into the current space from our smaller original spot here on North Peoria back in 2007, and the same uncertainty and loss when we left our birthplace in the Owasso suburb and moved here in 2004; and there is a lot of cost; don't get me started on the exorbitant gas deposit we are trying to raise ($1,000 it turns out), plus the major plumbing in this big historic to our area building that has been abandoned for several years, plus paying more for insurance than planned, plus having rent still and utilities in the current space while we phase it out, plus the work we have been doing to secure the building from the vandalism to the stained glass windows, walls, and doors....(if you would like to help volunteer to paint over grafitti or help clean and prepare the space drop me a line and we will set a date). And we are moving ahead to with the transformation and creation of the GardenKitchenPark with two major grants in the works and much volunteer efforts to coordinate to begin its transformation this Spring too...

Did I mention where you can make end of the year donations easily safely and don't have to have a paypal account to do so?

We continue to be a presence for the common good though even as we are focusing much energy on this particular part of our own transformation...we are still working on projects with Cherokee School for community sidewalks in our area, and with OU Tisdale Specialty Health Clinic to set up community forums, and with OU Social Work and OU Community Health to shape the revolutionary new health hub at our new building to be a center for the Community Health Worker project to pay neighborhood leaders here to work with medical professionals on true community health projects to keep people from needing to go to the emergency rooms and even primary care clinics themselves so much; just as the clinics are being phased out fully soon, we are hoping to launch this new initiative by then to set up networks of health literacy and mentoring care. We continue to work with McLain High School on its initiatives. And the fun part--we will again be in the Martin Luther King, Jr. candlelight march Sunday night Jan. 16 and the Monday morning parade Jan. 17. And we work with the Turley Community Association and O'Brien Park Advisory Board.

Do you have a group we can partner with, to help bring your mission into our area? Let us know.

What will the end of 2011 look like here? It is truly mind boggling to envision it, based on this past year...In our new space at 5920 N. Owasso just off Peoria Ave--the grounds will be hosting vegetable and flower beds and outdoor resting space with community art, beautifying this area (oh I forgot to mention Friday March 25 we will host a Community Art Day in our new space, working with broken glass and other items from the vandalism, turning into healing restorative welcoming art)...The building could have its three prong focus of Community Health Hub (health library, classes, workshops, support groups, fitness, etc); the Community Center Wing could have its food justice center and library including tool lending library and community space and giveaway space and computer center space and community resources kiosk and art gallery and who knows what as we find new partners to bring their mission into our space; and the Community Chapel could be offering a quiet meditative personal and special prayer time several times a day as people of many faiths and churches offer centering and contemplative and communal daily office prayer and meditation services. And the old rundown parsonage on the property might be housing a Garden Center....I think it will take us a few more years to get the basement rooms ready for people to come stay and serve with us or find respite but we need to keep that vision alive. We might have a green remodeling effort underway. We might have Ty Pennington coming to transform us, who knows? lol feel free to write him and his extreme makeover; we certainly are hoping to do that to our whole area.

2011 should see us having our Building Dedication Service and our Groundbreaking Groundblessing service up on the hill at the community garden park. stay tuned and come celebrate. donate toward it at

But what we haven't envisioned is the most exciting of all. In five years I would love to have spokes from our hub going out throughout our area; community space in the rundown McLain Center and/or the adjacent Northridge Shopping Center where the new North Tulsa Leadership School is taking it on as a project, and in every neighborhood around McLain we would have taken over or been given an abandoned house to transform and turn over to a neighborhood association for their use; connecting mentors with McLain students and employing them in projects to plant new seeds of hope...But we thought it would take five years, not nine months, to get to where we are now from where we were just one year ago, so who knows? Part of relaunching will be working on the partnerships and the funding to help make the connections that make all the miracles possible....and the most revolutionary vision is perhaps, as always, the simplest....

Imagine in the next year, in 2011, we are able to help people become a part of the 3R Renewal movement here: Simple Visions are the Most Radical and Most Rewarding. 1. we lift the spirits and empower those who are Remainers, and who have kept alive the presence of hope through the years of its abandonment and economic disinvestment; 2. we find ways to help those who used to live here but who have moved away to become Returners, most importantly by physically moving back here, but until that is possible connecting their presence with their gifts and talents and passions to our needs here; and 3. inspiring Relocaters, those who will choose to sell their more expensive homes or quit renting their more expensive apartments and homes in the cool comfortable parts of town and in groups preferably will move here for the first time and become a part of the wider community, finding their own economic health improved and finding they have so much more opportunity to make an impact and even have more money to put into other things. It is so simple, so transformative. Imagine. Every big church of 1000 or more, for example, encouraging just five to 10 of its folks or families to look at moving here and buying up some of the abandoned homes in one block so they can live near each other, supporting one another, building up the one block with gardens and parties and connections working with those who have remained, living more simply so others may simply live, here as others are doing around the world in the New Friars Movement, see a renewal for their whole church's mission as well. We would be glad to help cast that vision with anyone.

Here where even two days before Christmas two young children, age two and five, were shot by stray bullets in a drive by shooting in the middle of the afternoon at a convenience store just four blocks from our new community where that is supposed to be more proof and the final nail on the coffin of the image of our area that it instead becomes the catalyst for small groups of ordinary radicals and revolutionaries and the new pioneers to return or relocate to this very area, reinvesting our money and our presence right here.

The vision is so simple. But so was Jesus'. Something about the rich and the young and the impressive selling what owns them and being owned by the poor instead (my interpretation :) ). The poor you will always have with you, Jesus said to his followers, because, because, if you are a follower of where I am you will always be with the poor. So simple. It is not about numbers, anonymity, feelings, major productions and programs. All those things are complicated. Following Jesus is simple. (reminds me that there has been a thing going around on Facebook where you put your so called elevator speech or essence of your church up on a church sign you can mock up: mine would be this following the name of the church..."Life. It isn't about You. Come and join and be reminded of this saving grace."

Speaking of which, we will bring in 2011 with the final video session of our series from Sojourners, Justice For the Poor, this Sunday, Jan. 2, with the episode "From Serial Charity to A Just Society." We decided last Sunday to close out the series by doing two things of a "glocal" nature. Of course so much of the programs is geared to those living in suburbia and not in our area doing what we are already doing, but we too can do so much more: we are going to pick a project to support from Heifer International to support a poor village in another country, and we are going to plan a retreat that will include a visit to the Heifer Headquarters in Little Rock, and ranch, to help us continue to dream sustainably for our new building and new incarnation. An apt way to keep the spirit of the dynamic new DVD series going after we end it. Even if you haven't watched any of the episodes, plan to come eat with us and/or watch with us this Sunday at 12:30 pm at our current space 6514 N. Peoria Ave. And we will have our celebration of the Second Sunday of Christmas and the coming of Epiphany with communion at 11 am... did I mention we are broker than broke going into our move this next month? Back to the way we have been these past four years putting it all into mission, trusting that there will be enough to go around, that there always is, if we all share, if we all take no more than we need, and if we look for ways to surprise ourselves and others with small acts of justice done with great love.

Our new gardenpark is The Welcome Table Community GardenKitchenPark. Our new center will be tied in by being named The Welcome Table Community Center. These and our other projects are still coordinated by the A Third Place Community Foundation we started in 2009. But our little band of organic radical free Jesus followers will have another name change to match what we have helped inspire (something nice about finally finding your name created out of the mission you have been doing, rather than the usual other way) and are becoming The Welcome Table Free Universalist Missional Community. See more on that at We have overlapping circles of community here; some who are leaders in the Center and Park go to other churches or none at all; some go to other churches and our own on a regular basis; some are leaders in all three; and some come to the worshipping community but not to the missional side of things so much. Such an abundance of approaches we are growing to cherish and nurture.

Help us make 2011 truly A Welcome Table Year... or contribute and surprise us yourselves and the world at this vital time of the year, and crucial for us, by sending payable to A Third Place Community Foundation, new address, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., Turley, OK 74126.

blessings of the continuing Christmastide, the turning of the new year, new life, new hearts...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tonight Christmas Eve 11 pm Candlelighting Service Liturgy in New Building

2010 Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Lessons and Carols and Communion
The Welcome Table
Free Universalist Missional Community
5920 N. Owasso Ave. Turley, OK 74126

from "Christmas Beatitudes" by David Rhys Williams


O Come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant
O Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem,
Come and behold him, Born the King of angels
O Come, let us adore him, O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Sing choirs of angels, Sing in exultation,
O Sing, all ye citizens, of heaven above
Glory to God, In the highest
O Come let us adore him, O come, let us adore him
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

In Advent season each week we have pointed the way to Christmas. Peace, Joy, Love, and Hope, these are the touchstones in our journey preparing our hearts for this holy night when we begin again in the spirit of the Child. And so we come to Christmas once again, as have those before us through the centuries, the mighty cloud of witnesses who have lighted our way with their lives of faith, hope and unconditional love.
May the lights we burn tonight warm us with memories of their inspiration and their aspirations.
In miracle and mystery, Jesus was born, light shining in the darkness. In miracle and mystery, all are born, new lights of life full of hope.
May our lives be the Light of this Good News.
Peace and joy and hope and love---which never come easy and are easily lost—all come together in the liberating spirit of God.
May God’s light heal our lives and world.
And may this light, on this special night of birth, remind us that to be in the spirit of Christmas we must be where peace needs to be born,
Where joy needs to be sung,
Where hope needs to be found,
And where love needs to be shared.
We light these candles once again in this Season which reminds us how to live most fully all our days.
We light these candles to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world.
With the coming of this light let there be peace. Blessed are the peacemakers. With the coming of this light let there be joy. Blessed are those who mourn and who suffer in this special time, that their hearts be lifted. With the coming of this light let there be love. Such great love helps us to love God and one another, especially our enemies. With the coming of this light let there be hope, that goodness will prevail in our lives and world, that oppression will end, that what unites us is stronger than what divides us, that we will find our way in the light of God and fear not.
With the coming of this light let there be born once again the simple transforming freedom the Christ Child brings to the world, through which the light of God shines in all, that we may be God’s people every day, and care for one another and for all of God’s Creation, with our hearts, minds, souls, and our hands.
We light these candles to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world.

O God, who hast brought us again to the glad season when we remember the birth of Jesus, grant that his spirit may be born anew in us. Open our ears that we may hear the angel songs, open our lips that we may sing with hearts uplifted, Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward all. Amen. (King's Chapel Book of Common Prayer)

FIRST LESSON: Luke 2:1-7


Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle, till morning is nigh

SECOND LESSON: Luke 2: 8-12


The first Nowell, the angels did say,
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
Born is the king of Israel.

Third Lesson: Luke 2: 13-20


Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o'er the plains
and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strain
Gloria, In excelsis Deo; Gloria, In Excelsis Deo.

Shepherds why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer?
What great brightness did you see? What glad tidings did you hear?
Gloria, In Excelsis Deo; Gloria, In Excelsis Deo.

Come to Bethlehem and see, Him whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria, In Excelsis Deo. Gloria, In Excelsis Deo.

"The Work of Christmas" by Howard Thurman

After each prayer is mentioned, say in unison: O Light that shines in our darkness: come and free us with your love.

It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold
Peace on the earth, good-will to all, From heaven's all gracious King.
The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.

But with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long
Beneath the angel strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong
And man, at war with man, hears not, The love song which they bring
O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.


“The Glory Shone Around Them”
Rev. Ron Robinson


O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.

We lift up our hearts in God for the gifts of Life given for all.
Thanks be to God.
As Christmas reminds us of how the Divine came into the world in one so small, young, and fragile, so the Gifts of Life Abundant are in the ordinary made extraordinary, in the bread of the earth and the juice of the grape becoming food of the Spirit, incarnations of the Sacred.
Thanks be to God.
As Christmas calls us to be mindful of all those in need, all without a room, all with grief and fear, and to work for a world more just, so may this token of our daily bread, and this token of our cup of forgiveness which quenches the thirst of the soul, call us to go feed others.
Thanks be to God.
As Christmas offers us peace and light in times of darkness, may the sacred offering of this small meal, one to another, inspire us to acts of lovingkindness, all in the Spirit of the One born upon this night who showed us faithfulness without fear, preparing a welcome table for all.
Thanks be to God.
And so we join together in saying the prayer Jesus taught to those who would follow in his radically inclusive hospitable and justice-seeking way of the Spirit. 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, the power, and the glory, forever, and ever. Amen.

All are worthy and all are welcome in this free and open communion. We follow the practice of intinction, or dipping of the bread into the cup before eating.
May we remember that in our times of hunger and brokenness, of sadness even in holiday season, that God provides wholeness and abundant gifts of Creation all around us, among us, and within us all, more than enough to share with others. There is always enough of what all need if we all share and take no more than we need. That is the way it is in God’s inn, God’s welcome table, open to all regardless of who they are, what they believed, especially for those who are suffering, and oppressed. Come let us celebrate at the table the birth of the one who would make table gatherings in the midst of strangers and enemies, in the abandoned places of the Empire, reminding all there of God‘s healing presence.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Al-le-lu-ia
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth, Jesus Lord at thy birth.

This is a Day which God has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad therein (Psalm 118).
And let us treat it as the gift it is--with surprise, delight, care, and attention, and look for ways to share this holy day and all Life’s gifts with others.
For what does the Eternal ask from us?
To live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6).
Go now in peace, and may the peace of God go with you all the days of your life.
Go now in joy, finding the deepest spirit in the simplest of things.
Go now in love, dedicated to making it visible as justice for all.
Go now in hope, the spirit of the Christ Child bringing light into your life and world.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The road to Bethlehem detours through Tulsa northside

Hi. We have a lot that is being born right now in our area. Often through the past year I have written about the challenges, the slights, the abandonments of our area needs by those in power be they in the government or marketplace or even social services and churches, the setbacks, the continuing bad choices our neighbors make, the persistent crime and creation of a culture of punishment and scarcity that cycles through  generations...but...
Now I am moved to take you on a tour, or a detour, of a different sort during these Advent days leading up to Christmas and then the turning of the year. This time of the year is about celebrating new birth in unlikely places, new incarnations of salvation in unfamiliar people, about the manifestation of peace, joy, love, and hope where most people believe there must not be any. We have had a lot of it in just this past year. It is truly amazing, what some might call miracle...
Let's start at 6514 N. Peoria Ave. where we continue to create a welcome space for connections, for recovery, for food for the hungry, health for the sick, knowledge for the yearning, get togethers for the lonely and isolated, clothing and more for those in need, and art and music, and worship, all for free, all by volunteers. That continues to be a miracle in and of itself. [Here we will be having a movie, Powwow Highway, Tuesday Dec. 14 at 6:30 pm as part of our diversity movie nights; then Tuesday Dec. 21 we will have our community Christmas Party with live music and more, caroling, Christmas classics, etc.; then Friday, Dec. 24 we will have at 11 pm our Christmas Candlelight Communion Service; and each Sunday at 12:30 pm through Jan. 2 we are watching and discussing the wonderful new DVD program Justice For the Poor from Sojourners.]...Then let's go to out front where we have a guerilla gardening wildflower plot up an abandoned pole...then let's go to...
63rd St. by the Osage Prairie Trail crossing for the guerilla gardening wildflower plot we started this year...Then to 66th and N. Lewis for the guerilla gardening takeover of the intersection that had been a trashdump where we are transforming it into a multi year project of a garden itself...then over to O'Brien Park where we help with landscaping around the center, with gardens, and on the advisory committee to help the center grow its programs for the community, struggling to keep it rooted in serving those in the immediate area and not just those who come in from the suburbs...then over to 56th and Highway 75 where there is the new Skatepark just opened with soccer complexes to come, where we did plant rescue before the bulldozers started....Then down to Peoria by the Turley sign where this year we planted a new welcome flower bed and upgraded the sign to show our area cares how it looks, and along the streets where we continually pick up trash and more dumped on us...the down to the old Cullison store building where we have another wildflower plot...Down to the daylight donut store on Peoria where we planted a welcoming bed...Then to 6001 N. Peoria and Cherokee School where we have transformed the landscape and continue lately by planting with the Boy Scouts a new park of trees for birds and children on the southside of the school in keeping with our plans to create a circle of beauty and outdoor learning for the children as they enter the school so often coming from homes with none of this...then let's go to....
5920 N. Owasso just off Peoria Ave. where this past week we realized our outlandish dream of buying the 11,000 square foot building to house our expanded community center, community academy, community chapel, health hub and more. Already we have begun to decorate on the outside for the season to signal its comeback, even as we are working on getting utilities set up and the slow process of reclaiming and remodeling and cleaning from the vandalism. What just nine months ago was a dream for a five year vision has come true already, and we are excited about putting our resources into our own space and community and taking something old and abandoned, but beautiful, and giving it life again so it can give back life to the community as it first did 90 years ago. So many changes, not all of them easy, await us. We will be discerning and renewing in a way to serve more people, just as we did four years ago when we moved from our small church incarnation and opened ourselves up as a community center for all....then let's go to...
6005 N. Johnstown just blocks up the hill from our new building and from Cherokee, to where we have bought the acre of abandoned homes, had them torn down, and are now working toward clearing and preparing the rest of the land getting it ready for raised beds, for parkspace, and more here on a bridge space between neighborhoods overlooking downtown.....then let's go on west to 'Greeley School at 63rd and N. Cincinnati where we planted flower beds to beautify the entrance and begin relationships that will grow...then let's go to....
56th and N. Cincinnati where the ground is broken and work is going on for the new Health Dept. Wellness Center. We are partnering with the Health Dept. to work on a new grant for schools in our area to show how hydroponics work, to teach to families of the children, and interest the children in urban agriculture....Across the street is Gilcrease Middle School where an important school community forum process was held recently we participated in to help develop the priorities needed to break the low achievement scores....then to McLain High School on 49th and N. Peoria where this year saw new pride and new school uniforms and the school administration is bringing new life and the new foundation we have helped start will help them continue the transformation as we continue to increase the support from alumni and community partners and families. We look forward to finding ways to connect McLain students with all of our new projects and in our new space....then let's go right to the north of McLain where the mostly abandoned Northridge shopping center has been picked to be a focus of work by the also new this year North Tulsa Leadership School; there have been excellent articles in a series written by one of the participants, Tulsa World business columnist John Stancavage..then let's go to...a few blocks away near 54th and just off N. Peoria where the YWCA continues to work to bring families and women and communities into better health and connections and to fight racism and to provide quality child care....Next let's go see what's happening at...
36th and N. Hartford where the ground has been broken, the foundation will be laid soon on the new Wayman Tisdale Specialty Health Center from OU Medicine, providing not only specialists in our area but also some of the needed economic renewal in the area. We are working on the advisory committee for the Center and will be working to hold community forums in north and west and east tulsa to promote the center.....then on to Pine and Peoria where the new Gateway Market that also started this year continues to grow, to provide good healthy produce and other items.
That is a lot of new things being born just in the past year here, but of course it only scratches the surface of the work going on through churches, schools, organizations like the North Tulsa Community Coalitons and the From TU to Turley coalitions group monthly meetings organized by State Rep. Seneca Scott, and the neighborhood associations made up of a few dedicated people in places like Turley and Lakeview and the new one in the McLain area, in Suburban Hills, in Park Meadows Estates, in Carriage Trails and a new one near Berry Park; in the places like the Dream Center that is working on a new community garden, through the churches like Antioch Baptist that are working on the youth ranch just over the county line, and also not far from us on the northside in osage county is the new Oklahoma Botanical Garden, and so much personal work with families in the persistent work of the 100 Black Men of Tulsa and the women's group helping their mission of gang intervention, and the work of the Christian Ministers Alliance in supporting religious connections as well as the goal of a new youth center at Apache and Lewis, and in that area is the growth and outreach of the Tulsa Community College Northeast campus that hosted the North Tulsa Farmers Market and the important work being done by Newsome Community Farms out here, and that campus will continue to find ways to connect their students coming from all over Tulsa with the needs of the local area. So many more projects and people, like at Sarah's Residential Center near McLain, a nonprofit serving those in need, and of course in our area we have four prison re-entry programs such as the Turley Residential Center, the Tulsa Women's Center, Centerpoint, and Fitting Back In, all doing their part trying to take care in a healthy way of the huge problem of sending too many women, mothers, to prison in this state; probably no other area like ours has so many such programs. And there is the Community Services Council's work in this area such as the initiative to stem the too high proportion of minority youth in the juvenile justice system; it affects all areas, but ours in particular.
So, with all that going on, and just scratching the surface (so many long established groups and projects to thank too) and so much of it being very new, still each time there is a crime and a killing in North Tulsa, the readers comments in the online version of the Tulsa World are full of those, from outside the area, who can't wait to cast their cynicism about any changes being made north of Admiral; I suppose it is their way of distancing themselves from being responsible for helping; they see only the crime and say that anyone still living here must deserve the violence or be a part of it. What's worse is that even when stories are written about some of these new projects, so many voices are heard putting them down; and of course what is especially hard is when some of those voices come from within our area itself.
Such was the culture and climate of the first century, when another Empire's peace was brought at a great cost to those with the least in society, when it was said that "nothing good can come from Nazareth" and yet when the spirit of God brought hope through a young, outcast unmarried family who became illegal immigrants journeying among strangers, being on the ground, being present, being vulnerable, making mistakes, starting over, right where they happen to be, waiting with peace even though all around them there was crime and military might, waiting with joy even though poverty and hunger and despair of being occupied for generations was all around them, waiting with love for one another and for God, living in the love of God, even though the dominant voices were telling them there were people to be feared, to be hated, that there were the "us" and the "them", waiting with hope even though false messiahs were beckoning and betraying, even though those with the safety of stoicism and cynicism were the loudest, safe back on their side of the Empire.
But like that young different from the norm kind of family, there are today, as the list above reveals, so many who are doing the 3Rs of community renewal; so many who have remained here through the years when they could have left for easier lives, so many who have returned here, bringing back their lives and skills to this area, so many who are relocating here from other parts of town and looking for ways to help, so many who are relocating through giving of their time, their talents in volunteering, and their treasure to support us and others, so many who are working on redistribution of goods and the Good, of love and justice in small acts, all for the sake of reconciliation.
Through it all the problems continue, the life expectancy suffers, the neighborhoods continue to be abandoned, despite all the grassroots ministry. As the Rev. Gordon Cosby of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. used to point out about his area after forty years of tremendous ministry, the decline continues because so many issues on a macro-level that affected his local area were going unaddressed; the inequity in where the nation's resources were directed continued to starve the groups on the ground making a difference. Or, as Catholic Social Worker Dorothy Day said, when she feeds the poor they call her a saint, when she asks why there are the poor they call her a communist. But, knowing that, and working on those public prophetic issues, did not prevent her or him from still continuing to be present among the poor, because, as Jesus said, if you are with me, you will always be among the poor and they will always be among you, for there is no other way to be with me.
This season we celebrate in many ways many things, and we so often let many good things grab our attention---family, friends, our own groups and meetings---but remember the story that should grab our attention, of how God's Annointed One was found in only one place, the feeding trough of animals where no one else wanted to be, and in only one form, a vulnerable fragile human baby, and for only one purpose, to show us what God is like and likes, and how that upends Empires of all kinds. May that be our hope and our salvation and our own story too.
If you are so moved to be a part of this by helping us at this particularly tough financial time, as we have again emptied our bank account to be able to do all we do, it is easy to do online at through the donate button. You don't have to use paypal; any credit or debit card will work. Or you can send end of the year deductible donations to A Third Place Community, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., Turley, OK 74126. Thank you to those who have helped in bringing about this amazing 2010 accomplishments. Your surprising gifts to us will allow us to make 2011 an even bigger surprise for our neirghborhoods here too.  
blessings, thanks, and more soon

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Some things that set us apart from other churches

The world needs all kinds of churches, or varying manifestations of the church. One can find healthy spirituality in many different churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and various kinds of community. We also think the world needs our kind too. Here is a quick handle on what makes us different.

The Welcome Table means...

Following the radical Jesus in deeds not creeds.
While both gathering in worship and scattering into the neighborhood in mission are important, we choose to place our resources first in mission and invite people to partner with us and join us in service first to our community throughout the week at our special events or at our community center.
Our Welcome Table of Worship is open to all, though, who welcome all, regardless of belief or denomination, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, economic status, or political affiliations. We don’t think Jesus would have it any other way. We don't mind being a small, real, relational group; it allows us to be big dreamers and doers.

A Free Universalist Christian Missional Community means....

Free because we are non-creedal. We don’t give theological tests for admission, but encourage you to test us and try us to see if this way is for you.
Universalist because we believe God is Love and All who abide in Love abide in God for all time (1 John 4:16).
Christian because the generous compassionate way and story of Jesus, while not exclusively so, is our primary pathway opening up to God. We are a Christian church where you don't have to be Christian to be welcome and affirmed.
Missional because we are sent to serve others more than ourselves.
Community because we are made not to be autonomous individuals but to be a people of God.

For more see,,,,,,

Advent Lives of Ordinary Radicals: A Communion homily you can take with you this week

For second Sunday of Advent, peace Sunday, at 11 am worship gathering at A Third Place, 6514 N. Peoria Ave. We gather and we scatter and we gather again for the spiritual restoration so we can scatter again and be the church apart as we are together.

Advent Lives: Communion homily with people to remember each day of Advent. We will do these for all the days of Advent this year.

Last week, the first Sunday of Advent, we discussed where our lives are located, part of the Advent theme that God locates or takes up residence with the suffering, and so should we to be in the presence of God most fully. The communion meal is one of the ways that week in and week out we remind ourselves of the need to do this and that it can come through sharing our meals with one another and with those in need, that we have enough for our own needs and so can focus on those of others be they hungry, sick, oppressed, in jail.

This Sunday's focus picks up that theme and says what lives do we lift up as our models and examples during this season? We know so much of our consumer society wants us to follow some perfect fake person that doesn't to buy what they want, look like what they want, have perfectly obedient and happy children, and they can make us that way if we will just buy what they are sending. Or our celebrity culture wants us to spend time following the ins and outs and ups and downs of those who have become famous or infamous. But God always dwelled with nobodies, at least nobodies in the eyes of those in power, with those who are seen as numbers and statistics, who learn that in God they are always somebody, always full of worth and potential. So, what lives will we follow this season, as the Magi followed the star to Bethlehem in Matthew's Christmas story? Or another way to put it is who will sit with us at our welcome table in these days ahead?

In the new book Common Prayer: a liturgy for ordinary radicals, Shane Claiborne and others add in little stories about ordinary people across the ages doing extraordinary things, often at great cost to themselves. Each day there is someone to think about and remember, especially on the days of their deaths. In the liturgies for this past week and coming week, the lives for us to eat with this week have included:

For Nov. 29, Dorothy Day who died on Nov. 29, 1980....radical socialist journalist unwed mother who became a Christian and started the Catholic Social Worker movement and houses of hospitality with the poor, creating “a new society within the shell of the old, a new monasticism combining piety and practice, charity and justice.

For Nov. 30 Wendell Berry, still alive as poet and farmer and community activist, was quoted for his words: "Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world's beauty and abundance."

For Dec. 1, Charles de Foucauld who died on that day in 1916. “While working in the North African desert after a dishonorable discharge from military service, he was impressed by the piety of Muslims and experienced a dramatic recovery of his Christian faith. He spent a number of years in a Trappist monastery before hearing the call to a new monasticism among the working poor. “I no longer want a monastery which is too secure,” he wrote. “I want a small monastery, like the house of a poor workman who is not sure if tomorrow he will find work and bread, who with all his being shares the suffering of the world.” Though Foucauld died in solitude, the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, inspired by his life and witness, have started communities of service among the poor and outcast around the world.

On Dec. 2, 1980, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan were murdered by officers of the Salvadoran military. Missionaries serving among the poor during El Salvador's civil war, these women knew, as Ita Ford said the night before she died, that "one who is committed to the poor must risk the same fate as the poor." Their deaths affected the North American church deeply, galvanizing opposition to US support for the Salvadoran government's repression of its people. Ita Ford wrote: "The reasons why so many people are being killed are quite complicated, yet there are some clear, simple strands.One is that people have found a meaning to live, to sacrifice, struggle, and even die. And whether their life spans sixteen years, sixty, or ninety, for them their life has had a purpose. In many ways, they are fortunate people."

For Dec. 3, Justin Martyr, an early follower of Jesus who was beheaded by Rome, is quoted: "He called Abraham and commanded him to go out from the country where he was living. With this call he has roused us all, and now we have renounced all the things the world offers, even unto death."

For Dec. 4, they quote the Roman emperor Julian who said, about the divine nobodies, "The godless Galileans feed our poor in addition to their own."

For Dec. 5, they quote Sojourner Truth, 19th century black woman and abolitionist, who said, "I'm not going to die, honey. I'm going home like a shooting star."

For this coming week, Dec. 6, is St.Nicholas day, for he died on this day in 346...when his parents died he gave all his possessions to the poor. While serving as bishop he heard of three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by their father. Moved to use the church's wealth to ransom the lives of these little ones, he tossed three bags of gold through the family's window....recall him as St. Nick, and also the 1.2 million children trafficked each year in the global sex trade today.

Dec. 7 lifts up Ambrose of Milan, from fourth century who gave up his possessions, became bishop, began strict schedule of daily prayer and study of scripture. he had been a governor but gave up to serve the church, spoke truth to power, and said, "the emperor is in the church, not over it."

Dec. 8 quotes Jean Vanier, founder of communities, who said "To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude: ' You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself." We all know well that we can do thing for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them."

Dec. 9 was the birthday of Martin de Porres in 1579, a Dominican brother who is often celebrated by mixed race people and those committed to ending racism and segregation. He was born in Lima, Peru, the son of a Spanish nobleman and a former slave from Panama. Having grown up familiar with poverty and prejudice, he became a passionate advocate for those on the margins, establishing an orphanage and hospital for children, and becoming well known for his compassion. Martin is often depicted with a broom because he considered all work to be sacred and was committed to service and sacrifice.

Dec. 10 celebrates the contemporary monk and author and activist Thomas Merton who died on this day in 1968. He gave up a life of pleasure for a life of silence and prayer as a Trappist monk. His own writings for peace and nonviolence were censored by his own order. He was an influence for an engaged comtemplative spiritual life, of action and prayer. He prepared the way for a new monasticism. He wrote: "The monk does not come to the monastery to get something which the ordinary Christian cannot have. On the contrary he comes there in order to realize and to appreciate all that any good Christian already has. He comes to live his Christian life, and thus to appreciate to the full his heritage as a son of God. He comes in order that he might see and understand that he already possesses everything."

And, Dec. 11, we remember the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador on that day in 1980 when US trained soldiers killed up to 1000 men, women and children in the largest massacre in Latin American history. The inscription on a memorial in the town square reads: "They did not die, they are with us, with you, and with all humanity."

In Advent, when we are journeying with a pregnant, unmarried young woman through occupied land where the Roman military could do anything it wanted to the most vulnerable, we are dwelling and waiting for the new life to be born into the world. But at the same time Advent calls us to remember the world of much violence and death and injustice that new life comes into, and in our preparation for Christmas we should do all we can to prepare our world as a place of more peace and more joy and more hope and more love for those being born. In doing so we will become born again in the ways it most counts.

Take these lives with you this week.