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...

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