Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reconciliation and Community...The Opposite of Poverty Is...and Missional Events

Several quick commentaries below on reconciliation and community and reports, and I draw your attention to for all our coming events, but especially to the fun fundraiser at Joe Momma's Pizza Thursday night 8 to 10 pm during Live Trivia Game Night. Get there a bit early, eat and party and we receive some of the proceeds plus direct donations during the trivia game.

Also this Saturday at what has become one of our major outreaches, our annual old-fashioned Halloween Free Party for the community, all ages, 6 to 8 pm, moved up a day from Halloween because Sunday is a school night.
Other focuses will be our Veterans mission this month, a movie and free pizza, and a dinner the next night to help connect veterans in our area regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. If you know of leaders of Veterans groups, especially on the northside, or interested veterans, pass this on to them and have them contact us.
Finally, it is our Free Thanksgiving Meal on Thursday, Nov. 25 at noon. If you can't make these events but can support us, you can make donations through the website link above. Consider us for your end of the tax year contributions. Every little bit goes such a long long long way through us.

Also, if you would like to read the full paper from which my keynote lecture at OU was drawn, you can go to

1. Today was the dedication of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in near northside Tulsa, commemorating the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, and renewing our commitment to working for a more just community. A reminder that we here seek to follow the 3Rs of Relocation, Redistribution, Reconciliation in order to live our values. It was a good uplifting event; a privilege to be there, truly a privilege because I was conscious of so many who could not be there who would have wanted to be there, but were working, were ill, and of the many survivors who died before this day.

I was also conscious of one major absence, that I believe will be eventually necessary for true reconciliation: the visible and vocal presence of descendants of those who were in the white mob, or who might have been encouraging them on. It seems as if Tulsa as a whole, well its leaders anyway, are taking this on, but not really since in some ways doing so collectively isn't quite the same, but how powerful it would be to hear stories from the other descendants, to move past the shame and silence that preserves the deep status quo, and moves us toward collaborations and becoming allies of one another. I don't remember much work being done in our area on this, but hope someone can point me to it. In all places where major reconciliation work has been done, from Europe to South Africa, to our own American south, to the personal cases of individuals and families of victims and perpetrators to build relationships, this has been truly liberating.

Each time that I work here with others of different ethnic backgrounds, I do so conscious of parts of my own family history with the Klan (and we were around the area at the same time in 1921, and how it just shows how deep and mainstream the Klan was in Oklahoma during the 1920s) but how the family in large part transformed over the years, how the commitment to remaining in the northside and to help with integration back in the early days and continuing, is all a part of the work of Christian faith and making room for redemption. How breaking the cycle is ongoing work, and how blessed I have been with those in my family who were models to begin to show how to do it. How there is more than one way to do it. I believe we need more stories from this sphere of reconciliation work, and I so look forward to taking children and many others to the Franklin Park and what a future it will have of showing how hostility and humiliation can be risen above with hope, from all those who share a history, whether like me they have family that date back before then in this area, or if they are new and inheriting our history.

There is always more than we can do in this part of the struggle of life for life, but on days like this it is good to pause and to look around and to see others in the struggle too; it was, in a way, something akin to worship.

Community and Poverty

How do we begin taking the two steps forward one step back of the 3Rs? I have been guided lately by this quote from the theologian of hope, Jorgen Moltmann, who was a young teenage drafted German soldier, coming from a purely secular family, in the last years of World War Two, who witnessed and survived the firebombing of the German cities and residential areas that killed scores of thousands overnight, and who was taken prisoner of war in England for years afterwards, and once there received the gift of grace from Christians who came to simply help and serve and give hope to the prisoners from Germany. That led him into his new faithfulness to the way of Jesus and into the power of liberating community dedicated to others.

Moltmann writes, in The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life: "The ideology of “there is never enough for everyone” makes people lonely. It isolates them and robs them of relationships. The opposite of poverty isn’t property. The opposite of both poverty and property is community. For in community we become rich: rich in friends, in neighbours, in colleagues, in comrades, in brothers and sisters. Together, as a community, we can help ourselves in most of our difficulties. For after all, there are enough people and enough ideas, capabilities and energies to be had. They are only lying fallow, or are stunted and suppressed. So let us discover our wealth; let us discover our solidarity; let us build up communities; let us take our lives into our own hands and at long last out of the hands of the people who want to dominate and exploit us."

That is the spirit of A Third Place, and of our gatherings in the spirit for worship on Sundays here to celebrate what we do in mission the rest of the week. I read that passage during communion and the common meal this past Sunday; it is as good a homily on the eucharist, the lord's meal, as I have found lately too. From 10 am to noon, or 1 or 2 pm (you never know; worship is more a party than a program so people come and people go and the spirit grows) we gather together. This past Sunday we had Sermon on the Road and took a foray into our neighborhoods to see more closely, and to see together, which is key, what is happening. Our mission is not to take God to others, but to go see where God of love and liberation is working in and through others, and to ally ourselves as best we can with the nurture of seeds and sprouts of change and justice we see. If you ever show up on Sunday and find us not in the building just call 691-3223; we won't be too far away and you are always welcome to join us wherever we are.

We will keep all of you, and your places and your missions, in thought and prayer; keep us in yours. We are getting closer and closer to the final ownership of our new space, the original Turley Methodist Church building, one of the oldest remaining in the northside dating back to the mid 1920s, and we will have to do all of the vandalism cleanup and repair ourselves, but we did get a price reduction out of it. Our new address soon will be 5920 N. Owasso Ave. Let the transformation, the good times and the good news, begin. And anyday now we expect the wrecking crews to tear down the abandoned homes on the block we purchased so we can begin the work of preparing it for a groundbreaking ceremony and the beginning of The Welcome Table GardenKitchenPark on North Johnstown Ave. We have a lot of transition work to do, both with A Third Place Community, and with the missional church as its spiritual heartbeat (speaking of transitions, check out one of our templates, besides, see

But both of these places above we have or are purchasing are not far from the escape route that many of the survivors of the massacre took from Greenwood as they fled north. They are the site of contemporary escape routes too, from poverty, helplessness, addictions, oppressions, and toward second chances and the kind of community Moltmann described., and

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Church Planting 101

This round up of posts from the blog over the past four years relates not to missional organic incarnational church per se, or what we are still becoming here, especially as we begin conversation and discernment on a new manifestation of our mission connected to moving, it is hoped, into the risk of our own bigger space that is in fact an old church building. But simply relates to the new contexts for those seeking to plant churches that are in the basic mode of church as it was in the 1960 to 2000 era. Pretty much it boils down to the one question: what outcome are you seeking to create?

Recreating new churches that are pretty similar to existing churches is not wrong; you meet people where they are, in many ways, and missional organic church isn't where a lot of people are who want to start a new church (though the process of trying to do that, lol, might turn a lot of them into missional organic church folks), but with the alignment of leadership, culture, and resources obviously it is still being done and can be done. Just know what you are up against, and what outcome you are seeking to create. In other words, is your goal to increase the number of church members by a certain amount in a given area over the next five, ten, twenty years, and have a paid minister? And how much are you willing to spend to achieve that? Or is it another outcome that will shape what you do?

At the General Assembly 2010 in Minneapolis, there were three of us church planters in a workshop: Joel Miller who had been with two plants and is in Buffalo now; myself with two plants including the current one; and David Owen-O'Quill who is planting at and through Micah's Porch in Chicago. You can order the CD of that workshop by going to the site and looking for Friday program 3014, Turning Your Congregation Inside Out: Growing Missional Communities.

From 2008, a post on what I ask people who ask me about church planting.

More questions from an earlier post, from 2006, along with responses I gave from back then, but gets to the heart of what questions to first ask before beginning church planting, from a conversation I had with a church that was starting up (It has since folded, due to the default mode of church it chose and the difficulty aligning leadership, culture, and resources.)

Above is the link from way back in 2006 about what I had learned by trial and error back then, having tried to start a modern church in a postmodern culture, a grassroots parachute drop into a fast growing suburb, thinking that having a theological niche would triumph. The link explains all the reasons it doesn't.

It is all about the alignment of Leadership, Culture, and Resources, as described in the post and others over the years here.

Here is wisdom gleaned over the years from Bill Easum put into one good long powerpoint. especially for denominational officials or anyone trying to do an attractional traditional church start. You can get to it and commentary at

And more from Easum on one of the two great movements within churches growing today, circa 2008 when I wrote this post: Church Planting Centers within Churches, and multi site congregations. This post focuses on church planting centers within churches.

Related to church planting but more widespread, creating a culture perhaps in which church planting might grow more organically among us, is the subject of these link in the post above that capture the UU church growth conversations in May in Denver.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Church of the Tallgrass, and more

Hi all.

News and Views From Around Here...

First, here is the link to the magazine article on our missional community that was published online at: Thanks for it. Thanks for all who have been working here over the years to prepare the soil for what we do, as we are doing the same for those who will come after us, keeping it from ever being fully abandoned, and reminding the world that God has not abandoned Turley/NorthTulsa even if the American Empire of Consumerism has, and even if so many in so many ways turn away. Thanks to author Don Skinner, and all at UU World, thanks to the Tulsa area UU churches, Hope and All Souls and Restoration for helping us in different ways to realize our vision and keep dreaming, and to the Massachusetts Evangelical and Missionary Society, and to Christian colleagues and churches of many denominations or none, for inspiration and support as we try to plant missional seeds of hope and real change where so many others are pulling out, and for the Zarrow Foundation drawing on the Jewish tradition for its transformational partnerships and giving back. So much still to do; hope you will find ways to partner with us.

This past weekend...

We had a great Sunday, (after a great Saturday in mission work here with residents and with OU social work students and State Rep. Seneca Scott, exploring and teaching how communities rise and fall and can rise again in new ways), as we took a trip up to Pawhuska to view the Cathedral of the Osage, and go through the meditation garden there, and then on to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Sharing about it later we mentioned how our missional community of faithfulness is similar to the Tallgrass Preserve; like it we are a small part witnessing to what once was, preserving a way of walking freely with Jesus in service to others and with others that once in the early days as the church was forming was the mainstream way. We are a small group in a time of bigness, turning inside out in a time when people are turning in among themselves and in to themselves, and away from those who are different from them.

Like the Tallgrass Prairie we are a Church on the Edge; the tallgrass preserve is where the plains and the eastern woodlands meet and where such diversity grows; we are here in an urban, rural, small town edge, located just across from the city limits where so many services and grant possibilities end; we are on the edge of both religious freedom and the particular path of Jesus. We aren't like most churches whether they are Christian or not; we aren't like most UU churches; not like most UU Christian churches; not like most Christian missional churches which are more creedal based. But we also, because of all this, can find ourselves connected in some way to so many communities. Like the Tallgrass Preserve, we have a mission to be sustainable, to be a home for a wide diversity of life, and to be a beacon to others of how they can do something similar in their own yards, and neighborhoods. Like the prairie, we know that fires of change are healthy and necessary; we need to periodically burn away the invasive species that have taken hold and would destroy the native Tallgrass if left unchecked, in order to grow more diversely; and so we will be re-envisioning much and need all the dreams of many especially as we begin to make the changes into our new environment at the new building. What shape will we take, to continue shaping our lives and our community? Nothing new to report on the building, just doing all the legal real estate closing work, and on all the vandalism that hit it, but stay tuned for when we will be able to close the purchase, and begin the work of cleaning and transforming it. Same goes for the work underway at our Welcome Table Garden Kitchen Park; waiting for the old structures to be cleared then we will begin holding great volunteer service mission days, and community parties, to celebrate and to construct and plant.

coming events:

This Tuesday, at 6:30 pm, we will be having a free diversity monthly movie and pizza night in honor of the National Coming Out Day today, and especially in light of all the recent suicides by teenagers who are gay and lesbian and the victims of bullying and hate. These are not always easy conversations and presentations to have, especially in public common spaces like ours in areas where few support the struggle for affirmation regardless of sexual orientation. We are usually the only North Tulsa area organization reflected in the annual Gay Rights Parade downtown. On nights like tomorrow night we want to show that this is a part of how we welcome all of our community that welcomes all, and that it is part of our core value of reconciliation, one of our 3Rs along with relocation and redistribution. We aren't sure exactly what the movie will be, but it will be on this theme.

Sunday Oct. 17 I will still be in Dallas for the UU Christian Fellowship Revival. Come support our worship time, see how it happens even without me there, and how you will be inspired and refreshed by God's spirit for God's service.

It isn't too late to come join in Revival and Retreat either for the full Thursday through Sunday events or just for Friday and/or Saturday events at Horizon UU Church in Carrollton, Texas. Go to for all the Revival news and updates...

On Friday, Oct. 22 at 8:40 am I will be giving the keynote speech at Social Work Day held at the University of Oklahoma in Norman at the Weather Center building, a talk on the "pragmatics of collaboration" in our story here, which means the miracles and the failures, the seeds and struggles, the steep learning curve of working with others of many backgrounds to renew community, empower residents, grow healthy lives and neighborhoods.

On Saturday, Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 pm our Annual Halloween Community Festival and Celebration at A Third Place Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave.

Oh and keep up with things at, and

Thanks and blessings and more soon,

Article on our Missional Community of Faithfulness

Cultivating Abandoned Places

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"The Trouble With Resurrection"

The following excerpts are from the recently released book "The Trouble With Resurrection: From Paul to the Fourth Gospel" by Bernard Brandon Scott, Darbeth Distinquished Professor of New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary, and one of our keynote lecturers at Revival/Retreat 2010 Oct. 14-17 in Carrollton, TX at Horizon UU Church.

He talks about why resurrection is the wrong English word to describe what words the writers of the gospels, and Paul, meant when referring to the events following Jesus' crucifixion. At the end of the book he describes "four models" for how early believers referred to those events: "raised up" "he has been seen for" "taken up" and "exalted." Each of these has precedent in the Hebrew scriptures.

Where to start seems obvious, he says. First: Jesus was crucified by Rome. The second point is "more contentious and involves an inference". Second is: They did not know where the body was.

"A hypothesis. Before Jesus' crucifixion the group with him had experienced healings, exorcisms, common meals, parables and aphorisms, and the empire (kingdom) of God. Following Jesus' crucifixion they continued to experience healings, exorcisms, common meals, parables and aphorisms. But most important: they continued to experience the empire of God. Rome crucified the prophet of God's empire. She crushed him. Yet God's empire was still present, so God must have acted.

"The parables and aphorisms of Jesus do provide a ground for a conviction that God will act. The parables prepare their listeners for the empire of God as a re-imagined world...There is a double pivot. Rome crucified Jesus and the experience of the empire of God continues. Jesus then must be a prophet or a martyr whom Rome had killed like Antiochus Epiphanes had killed those Jews faithful to God's Torah. After Rome's apparent victory, when the group that had gathered around the parables and aphorisms, the healings and exorcisms, the common meals came together they discovered that the re-imagined world of the empire continued to exist. The empire of God was still present. To explain this, they turned to their tradition--to the stories of their ancestors....

"We need not imagine this happening all at once, on the third day, so to speak. Nor need we imagine it as unified. At different times and in different places it took place along different paths. It is a myth that all early followers of Jesus believed in the resurrection, that Jesus had been raised up. That is simply not the case. The Q-gospel makes that point. Very likely there is no oldest resurrection tradition, but a variety of traditions. They employed a variety of metaphors to explain their conviction that Rome had not triumphed; God had acted....(He then summarizes much of the book that looks at how this is drawn out of Paul, Peter, Mary.)

"Since the dramatic, big bang type stories are all later, post 85 CE, I am driven back to my original hypothesis. Rome crucified Jesus, and Jesus' group still continued to experience the empire of God...These stories make the same point. Jesus remains present in the community's activity. This is a part of the empire of God...To say that God raised Jesus from the dead, that he is at the right hand of the father, that he has been seen for, are all ways to confess that the empire of God proclaimed and present in Jesus' healings and exorcisms, parables and aphorisms, the meals shared together is still effective. It is also a profound political statement against the Roman empire and all imperial authority...

"I would argue that rebirth, new life, resurrection is a fundamental theme and need of human life and the effort to reclaim and restore it is worthwhile. On the one hand the experience that underlies resurrection is always trying to come to language, to find expression in words and story. On the other hand many of the metaphors in which this experience has been embedded are now dead or deadening."

He delves into how the immortality of the soul is not a concept in the Hebrew bible or a clear concept in the New Testament but is a later evolution of an idea applied to the stories of the Bible; how the resurrection of the dead is a "distinctly Jewish idea, distasteful to the Greeks." He says the coordinates for resurrection are these: 1. it is corporate, not personal; "resurrection is the restoration of creation to the state in which God intends it."; 2. Justice. God raises up the martyrs who were unjustly killed, and justice is not just for individual martyrs but for the whole people because of the first coordinate; 3. Scenario: the raising up of Jesus implies a story..the story imagines the way a world should be, can be; and 4. Not about Jesus but God. "the raising up is ultimately about God. God's justice is at stake, God's creation is at risk, God's action is celebrated."

He finishes with "three different ways of envisioning resurrection in our situation". One is Literal Resurrection. He uses the film Jesus of Montreal to illustrate this. The actor Daniel in the passion play in the film is almost "a literal version of Paul's body of Christ or even the eucharist. Daniel's organs give new sight, a new heart, to those who receive the transplants. Thus he lives on in these others. The second is Metaphorical Resurrection. He uses the film Stranger Than Fiction to illustrate this. The main character in the film hears the narration of a story in which he is the main character, one who in the story dies to save another but in the film does not die, who gets a new ending, one that "argues that resurrection is about everyday life, bout making the everyday a new life." The third is We Shall Overcome nd he uses the life and story of Martin Luther King Jr. to illustrate this sense of resurrection where "God did raise Martin Luther King from the dead. King's prophetic words and martyrdom helped raise up a nation to a new standard of God's justice, helped it live up to its creed....To listen to King's I Have A Dream Speech to hear that last triumphal shout, free at last free at last thank God Almighty we are free at last, is to be drawn into the kingdom of God, to be raised from the dead, if only for the moment. That is the transcendent moment."

"The trouble with resurrection is that we have literalized it, narrowed and restricted it, turned it into a creedal belief and in the process have forfeited its great claim and hope." ....

Hope you can come to Dallas on the evening of Oct. 15th to hear the lecture by Brandon Scott, and to the workshop on Oct. 16th he is leading during the UUCF Revival/Retreat 2010. More info and registration at It is not too late to plan to come be with others exploring "Rediscovering Jesus and Communities of Hope."


Reprise of UU Church Growth posts related to May meetings in Denver

In light of the convening this month in New Orleans for the Leap of Faith initiative, stemming from the work this past Spring in Denver, I thought a little reposting is in order.

Here are three links to the posts from this past Spring where I republished the findings Thom Belote originally posted on and included my comments embedded in as responses. Thanks again Thom.

Also check out these related posts from May from Peter Bowden at

Sunday, October 03, 2010

History and the Missional Church

Good conversation, and a summary of where it all comes from, at least in recent developments, over at

Friday, October 01, 2010

Our Great, Sad, Renewing News

One week ago we had great news as we heard that our loan was approved to purchase the original Turley Methodist Church building, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., from the 1920s here, one of the oldest and largest still standing in our northern-edge of Tulsa. One that has been empty for several years, little used, except by homeless breaking in. We intend to transform it, with the help of many others, into a space almost three times our current space (which itself is two and a half times the space we began in here back in 2004).

It will become a larger version of our current embodiment: a community center, computer center, food justice center and pantry, we hope one day a healthy cornerstore too as part of the food mission, plus a library, art gallery, more community garden even with our recently purchased other property nearby transforming abandoned homes into a park, and our current small clinic would become a "Health Hub" for our community health missions, and finally holding all of this together on either wing, in the middle, in the original, oldest part, the sanctuary, a chapel space that needed the least amount of fixing up, a space with wonderful stained glass windows and the image of the Good Shepherd caring for even the one last lost of the fold (so symbolic of our overall mission). All wrapped up in a kind of urban missional progressive monastery. Even in some down the road way spaces in the basement transformed into places people could stay and serve with us, or just find peace and rest for a bit.

Our good news is that with the loan and with the grant from the Zarrow Foundation we are on our way to begin that transformation.

The sad part is that the very next day, the Saturday after a full day of working in the community and at the center for Turley heritage day lunch and program and concert, we discovered that the inside of the building had suffered major vandalism on a recent day, perhaps the very day of our great news. Graffiti throughout, broken stained glass windows, doors busted, paint splashed. Not a space untouched in some way except the basement. Our thoughts on discovering it (and thanks to State Rep. Seneca Scott who was there when we discovered it, going to go on a tour of it with us, who stayed and helped our grief) were of the Good Shepherd window, and in the basement of the Indian art on the walls themselves in the prayer room painted back when it was an Indian Methodist church. Both of those signature sacred spaces were preserved.

Not long after there has been more vandalism of the work we do beautifying intersections and abandoned ugly spaces. Part of last weekend though was a big pickup of furniture that had been dumped along the roads here in highly visible spaces and allowed to sit by the road for months and months. We got that cleaned up, and those spaces have remained clear of any new dumping.

If you go to you can read my communion service homily given this week at Phillips Theological Seminary where I include our response to what happened when we discovered the Saturday major vandalism of the church building. We put up a sign immediately that said we love the vandals, that God loves the vandals, to pray for the vandals; and amid the broken windows, next to the Good Shepherd window, we held communion service on Sunday morning.

We have had more vision to come from this, and more will be coming. Stay tuned. We are working toward the closing and purchase of the building, hoping not all of the "as is" purchase will now fall on us to repair. We have been meeting with new groups of health and food folks about exciting ventures that can be centered in the building which much of it would be changed anyway into a new "health care studio" concept of community health.

In the meantime, this Sunday, we will at least have most of our worship here at the current A Third Place Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., and discussion of a sermon from the new book by Rev. Tom Wintle, Hear, Pray Affirm, available for purchase at the bookstore of And communion and common meal. On Sunday, October 10, weather permitting, we are planning to take church and worship on the road to Pawhuska and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. We will be meeting in the old church building, planning and praying, in between.

Speaking of mission, if you are interested in conversation on the broader ways of what we do here and why, and to connect with other progressives doing things in their own missional ways, check out the newly created blogsite I started at

blessings, thanks for all you do where you do it, and more to come,

Missional Progressives

"Come And See."

Thanks for sharing with others.