Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More Abandonment for an Abandoned Place? Plus Coming Events because we refuse to abandon our place

Hi all. Sad times as I write this. Actually today one of our businesses a few blocks away, where one of our church members works, was robbed and the owner beaten, the payroll for the part time workers who get by day to day was stolen. And yesterday three alternative plans for school closings in the Tulsa Public Schools were announced and all three of them recommend closing our community school. More on that below.

But, we continue to be a presence sowing seeds, and our presence is needed now more than ever before here. We will be reopening regular hours for the community center in our new building, still in phase one of remodelling, beginning April 5, on a part time basis; it is already fulfilling to see how people are finding us out and coming by to see how things are going and to use the resources as we get them available. The Food Pantry is partly back in operation with new hours of Fridays 2-6 pm or by appt or during our special events. We will soon have three computers available in the computer center, and more soon. Our library/free bookstore is available, as are meeting space and DVD watching area, and the prayer chapel space, and community info area, and the outside is being transformed into welcoming artistic space thanks to our community art day last week. We will be moving toward dedication and official opening and more space this summer. But so far on track with the move. Plus we are gearing up for the kitchengarden park work, and our other areas such as Cherokee and more where we serve others.

I had a great time talking about us, and our vision of community, when I was in New England recently. You can read what I said in two sermons here at this link: Abandoned Places, Missional Communities, and Faith.

Events Underway: Thursday, March 31, 4 pm at Cherokee School, strategy meeting with parents to fight against the school closure; Thursday, March 31, 6:30 pm here at The Welcome Table, a free showing of the documentary "A Powerful Noise" about three women in different parts of the world who made big differences in their local areas with global reverberations, free pizza and popcorn and drinks; come get inspired for the world changing work we must do; Friday, April 1, 5:30 pm Tulsa Community College NorthEast Campus, community coalitions "From Turley to TU"; Sunday, April 3, 11:30 am I will give a talk on "Life, Death, and Resurrection in the 74126" at Emerson Hall in All Souls Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave., followed by lunch somewhere, then back here to the Center from 2 to 5 pm for a free public workshop on economic justice and faith featuring a DVD by Shane Claiborne of with a meal to end it. Also beginning April 15 we will be in the running for a big grant for here from the National Fruit Tree Planting Association; we will need all to help with online voting so we get a big donation for our community orchard for North Tulsa area; more on that will come separately but get ready for it.

Big Weekend of Service: Friday to Sunday April 8-10 we will have volunteer projects going on all over the place here, up at the kitchengardenpark at 60th and N. Johnstown to begin getting it ready; here at the Center, and at Cherokee School, and on the streets of our area. Plan to come spend time changing one little part of the world in great need; all ages welcome.

Big Projects Underway: Even with the school under fire, we continue to gear up for our project for the third summer in a row of feeding all the children and youth under 18 years old a lunch whoever needs it whether they live here or elsewhere or are just travelling through, and it will be at Cherokee School two hours a day. The more volunteer commitment we have the better; then we will just pay for staff when volunteers can't make it. So see me or contact me if interested; we will be holding training for it soon...Also we are getting ready to launch a Summer Wellness Survey Project with OU again; I am getting training for that now; we plan to provide coupons for those who participate with the coupons redeemable at local businesses so it will pump a little money and support into our neighborhood. And plans are continuing to unfold to move toward the launch of our revolutionary Community Health Worker plan to develop health mentors from folks who live right here to help uninsured people who live right here from having to end up so often in expensive emergency room care.

Cherokee and Greeley School Vulnerable to Being Shut Down: But the big news is the proposals released which all have recommended our schools being closed. We are now in the public, and particularly parent, feedback stage as the reports were just released. It caught us off guard especially for Cherokee near us because 1: Cherokee School represents a historic community, having been an independent school of its own before the 1938 merger with Tulsa Schools, and is the keeper of the Turley Community historical artifacts and display; in fact all the kids in the Greeley school area once were Cherokee students before it was built, and because 2.) its enrollment is more than some other schools who were not slated to be closed in all the plans (though our other partnered school Greeley is also proposed to be closed in two of the three plans), because 3.) its cost per student for building operation was lower than other schools that were not slated for closure, because 4.) its proximity rate to other schools was also on average with others, better than some worse than others, because 5.) its academic performance was also in the average range compared with some other schools nearby, because 6.) it is one of the most ethnically balanced student populations, and we thought that was one of the goals; and because 7.) its number of students in its area who have transferred out to other schools rather than attending at Cherokee was a lower percentage than most other schools nearby, (its only damaging criteria data was that it has a low number of students transferring into the school compared with others nearby).

So, why was it picked to be closed in all three plans, and why was Greeley picked to be closed in two of the three plans? It will be interesting to hear what school officials say who recommended it; so far nothing specific has been said for the reasons behind this particular closure, nor what would be done with the building if the school is closed. In the midst of the grief, I tried to make a few points at the initial meeting last night at our community association monthly program: there is a tendency to be divided and conquered and if each school only struggles alone that will happen; especially if we end up dividing along racial lines; and also that we wouldn't be having this discussion regardless of the declining enrollment in the district if the state were not slashing funds to schools; we would be celebrating having smaller enrollments to do better teaching; we would be celebrating having extra space in buildings to bring in the community more; we should tax ourselves adequately to meet the basic needs of our children, and this is another attack on the whole idea of public schools which is so much a cherished part of our American value system. That is the big picture which we are in danger of forgetting in our specific anger and confusion over why this or that school may be closed.

I will come back in a second as to my speculation as to why Cherokee in particular was slated for closing, but I want to say that we can't let the school system wall off the effect of this decision on communities; especially after they give lip service and in some few places have built effective community schools; yes, education levels and testing results and the kinds of courses available is important; I have been lamenting the loss of these over the past years as they have starved the schools, and now are penalizing them because parents have often left,who could, because of the previous curriculum cutbacks; but don't forget to take neighborhoods into account in the decision; and not all neighborhoods are equal; this will be particularly devastating to the 74126 if Cherokee and Greeley are closed; we should instead, if we were to follow God's preferential option for the poor, keep these schools open and bring others here. As the NAACP has said, our communities here have suffered from decades of neglect, resulting in lawsuits, because of the segregation Tulsa schools had de facto until the mid to late 60s, and then the way integration was handled led to a showcase high school that took away resources from other high schools, and has resulted in again hugely imbalanced racially high schools; so now, don't penalize schools in communities that have been emptied because the resources were taken away in the first place.

Cherokee and Greeley are on the edges of the district; geographically I think the planners were looking at bringing back closer into the center the schools, shrinking the area of service without shrinking the actual area of the district; which means students here on the edge, where we have the highest poverty, will have the furthest to go to attend school; even with more funds spent on busing, it will mean our parents, many of whom do not have cars and do not have reliable cars, will find it harder to get to the schools for events, for picking up kids who are sick, and it will make it harder to build the kind of parental school involvement that is needed. When schools close, parents move, and an already declining student population in Tulsa will continue to decline as more families go suburb or private; the hope is that more elective programming at all of the schools will keep them in the district even if they have to travel with their child further to get there; I hope so, but doubt it if they can get those electives elsewhere. Those who want to go elsewhere but can't afford it will not make the kind of school supporters they are now. Also geographically, Cherokee serves students within and outside the city limits of Tulsa, but it is located four blocks outside the city limits; there is not then a city governmental representative voice that can speak up for it as there is for nearby schools that are within the city limits.

Deeper still, Cherokee is an ethnically balanced school as I mentioned, and this can work against it as unfortunately there isn't a core ethnic group that can rally around it either. And, here is the rub: many of the white residents in our area have not been supportive of McLain High School and Gilcrease Middle School as they have back in the day when those schools were more evenly integrated and especially when they were primarily white schools; even now the parents of many Cherokee students, though they are not alone in this, have no plans to send their children on to the higher schools close by here, to Gilcrease or McLain, because of the past problems at those schools, which are being turned around, but images and stereotypes and fears are hard to erase; and so why should the school district keep open a school at which many of its students will then transfer to other schools or to charter schools or outside the district? In essence, has our area itself cut itself off from Tulsa Public Schools middle and high schools and are now seeing the District return the "favor" by cutting Cherokee, and perhaps Greeley, too off from it? We need to look at the ethnic demographics of Cherokee compared to the surrounding schools and deal honestly, though painfully, with the emotions and ramifications and history. But, closing it will only make that situation worse, and will make the racial demographics of the schools even more uneven, I believe, as families turn elsewhere.

Our task is to keep our eyes on the real culprits who have failed to tax those things that ought to be taxes, and those people who ought to be taxed, to provide funds for education to all so we can operate out of abundance and not out of scarcity; our task locally is to also envision a new kind of school at Cherokee that will draw on its strengths and help it attract students; I think making it a magnet for overt, intentional, teaching tolerance curriculum as both an Ethnic and Ecological Diverse Elementary School is a key, recognizing its already strong areas of multi ethnic population and the outdoor classrooms we have been putting in place there these past few years through our community foundation and center. We need a place where young people will go to learn how to learn and grow with others of different ethnicities as they get older; it will help them, and their parents, to then remain in the Tulsa district for what it can offer, which is why Bonnie and I moved with our daughter out of Owasso and back to the Tulsa School District. This can be Cherokee's distinctiveness, at a time when diversities and diversity of life are so key to the new economy. I also worry what will happen even more to the vulnerable urban unincorporated area here adjacent to the city limits if the only school in the unincorporated area is shut down; already it is not eligible for community development block grants, etc., and taking yet another resource away will deepen the hurting.

My proposal for this area: (without the advantage of months of deliberations of course and with the caveat that we should just citizen up and tax and spend more for our most vulnerable children)
I like, given the real unfortunate economic circumstances the district is in, the plans to make the high schools multi year campuses, reducing the moves from one building to the other during the adolescent years; I like doing away with middle school as it has been, making the high schools 7 to 12 grades; do this at McLain; it is easier and more appropriate I think to have older children travelling further from their homes, especially in areas with difficult transportation and poverty areas. We then have geography to consider and the value I believe in keeping younger children closer to their homes: Houston and Gilcrease and Greeley are all within a half mile of each, with Houston and Greeley adjacent; Penn and the old Monroe school they are talking of reopening are also adjacent; Alcott and Cherokee are more set off in their own spaces. So, use Gilcrease which is right between Houston and Greeley as a site for those two schools combined, closing their own campuses; and keep Cherokee and Penn and Alcott open, PK-6 or some variation between them of those grades. Don't reopen Monroe. Make Cherokee a Diversity Emphasis Magnet to help attract others and offset that low transfer in criteria and the demographics of the area. Even if you had to, make Cherokee a Special 6th Grade Center with those focuses in order to help prepare students and families for the diversity to encounter and encourge in the higher grade level life, though I in general don't like single grade schools, but it is an idea; just like Rogers High School is going to be transformed into an early college school to prepare students for college and get them started on it; this option of Cherokee as a special 6th grade center would be geared to helping all prepare for the big step into the 7-12 grade centers. Then in the McLain feeder system you would actually have closed two schools which is I think at most all this zip code should have to at worse consider but they are schools close by to another; make up the money elsewhere that would be gained by closing Cherokee too. Gamble on it being pitched as a district wide kind of Anytown School, like the oklahoma center for community and justice has its summer program for diversity called anytown, and add in a focus on ecological diversity and environmentalism and outdoor classrooms, the strengths already in place.

And, as the Cherokees say, make your decisions thinking not of the next budget year, but of the seventh generation.

blessings, Ron
ps I will post these school thoughts separately on Facebook and blog for those who might want to comment or pass them on just as is without the other news.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Abandoned Places, Abandon Church!: Part Two of Embodying Progressive Missional Faith: An Epistle To Plymouth

See part one in the post below. This post is "An Epistle To Plymouth" at the Installation Service of the Rev. Gerald E. Jay Libby as the 24th settled minister of the First Parish in Plymouth, Mass, Church of the Pilgrims, founded Scrooby, England, 1606, settled in Plymouth, 1620. Delivered today. This text and the delivered text are not exact; more here than given orally, same as in the earlier sermon at Worcester.

"An Epistle to Plymouth"
Rev. Ron Robinson

O God, May my words reflect Thy Spirit, May our minds and hearts be open to all the abundance and diversity of Life Itself, and May this time together inspire us to help make Thy Love Everlasting visible in the world.

First, my friends, from The Selected Texts for today from the Revised Common Lectionary comes this passage especially appropriate on this day of new beginnings: It is from the start of the 12th chapter of Genesis. Adonai said to Abram: Go you forth, from your land, from your kindred, from your father’s house, to the land that I will let you see.”

This pivotal passage in the Bible gets even more power and meaning as it comes right after the incident with the Tower of Babel. There humans discovered God does not like uniformity, ego, hubris, and edifice complexes designed to put more and more people into one single place for their own identity and selfish aims. Right after the story of the destruction of the Tower of Babel and the scattering of the people into cultures of peoples, then comes the story of Abram. He is not yet known as Abraham, and at this point is all of 75 years old. When he was a child his father had heard the Lord call him out of their home in Ur to go to Caanan but his father had settled in Haran. It was from there Abram is called out, out of his comfort, his safety, his identity, in response to the Voice that interrupts our plans, and confounds what we know, turns us inside out, and reminds us of whose we are and what that means.

Greetings and Gratitude, I bring to you, the oldest congregation in our Association, from a very small band of folks in the far northside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who are an emerging congregation in our Association. Gratitude for your gifts today, and your history, and your invitation to be here. Consider the invitation given to come be our guests. Perhaps, though we have a great age difference, we can find ways to walk this road as together, oldest and newest, in both service and spirit.

Walking together. That is what this occasion is all about. It is a phrase from the prophet Amos made popular among our religious tribe by the one whom recently we lost at the age of 94, our historian of The New England Way, Conrad Wright. He helped restore our foundations as a people of covenant, especially those covenants or promises that constitute and create our free church. These include the covenants between a person and church; church and its elected leaders, including minister. Also church and church; and minister and minister. These four are our internal covenants helping to establish right relationships and Identity. They are like the materials of a ship that hold it together and give it a particular shape.

But there are two other more externally focused covenants: 1. that between church and world, be it known as parish, or immediate neighborhood. and 2. ultimately the covenant and connection between church and God, howsoever is called the Transcendent Spirit that is also within, among, and yet beyond us, the Voice that calls us or rises within us, and sets us on a journey, sending us out to be servants among scattered peoples. These two external covenants are like the Sea and the Wind; they are what give the ship of church its purpose, its reason for having its particular shape, and when they change in drastic ways they can sink or stall the ship built in the best of ways for other environments.

The four internally focused covenants are often the ones we spend most of our time dealing with; they are the ones that present us with urgent matters; and because of this they are the easier to grasp, and to write guidelines and policies about and create celebrations like this one. But if you are not grasped by the other two, the church will not be complete, not be church; instead it will become, as Conrad Wright said, merely a collection of religiously-oriented individuals who, if they were to disappear, would not cause much of a disturbance in the lives of the people in their surrounding community. That’s a good question to ask at annual meetings and pledge dinners: are we creating the kind of disturbance in the world that if we were to disappear would be noticed and felt by people in our community, and who are the ones whose absence would be greatly felt?

Today we do celebrate one of these internal covenants, that of church and minister. Know this: this covenant will only be as strong as are all the others. Where any one of them is weak or broken, the others will suffer. Strengthen any one, such as this one we celebrate, and the others will be stronger. Especially, though, to strengthen this covenant do we now need to put a priority on the external covenants we have neglected so long, for they are the Ground of being for the others; they call church into existence in the first place and continually re-orient church toward others, and re-create it among others, as a manifestation of The Spirit’s very own nature as sending, giving, liberating, serving, restoring.

When we make the shift in priority from internal to external covenants, and let them guide how we become church, we shift from a church having a mission, one that it can change like it changes boards or plans or programs, or ministers, to The Mission having a church.

Put in your mind, heart, and lives the mission of healing a hurting world, even writ small in very local ways, and let that dictate everything else, no matter what may then need to be changed. Engage the parish deeply, and let that wisdom, those needs, then create whatever form of church is mandatory to carry out the mission, and whatever personal transformations are called for in order to be sustainable servants.

As you do this, be prepared to see your world anew and not turn away from what you see. This is true at least for those of us like me who were born before 1963 especially, born and raised in Churched Culture. We, who perhaps have been here the longest, and longest steeped in church, are actually now the immigrants, the pilgrims in what has been our own land. Those who have come after us, those who are not and may never be Churched are the natives of this new land, new culture, and if we are to survive and to thrive and leave a more loving world behind us, we will have to learn from the natives, and let them lead us. Without them becoming us, and without them losing touch wiwith their varied cultures so they can continue to be the church there.

A come to us church could thrive in a churched culture with little variance between it and others; but in our world of great distance between our church culture and life beyond, a come to us church must have tremendous resources and resiliency to bridge that gap. And those are few and far between. But the good thing is that being church is older than our models of it, older than Plymouth, older than Wittenburg, older than Rome. Originally church was a “go be with them” people, and is becoming so again.

Here is what we need to remember: The church is not, fundamentally, a 501c3 nonprofit religious organization; it can and has existed, ancient and emerging times, without bylaws, boards, budgets, and buildings, and clergy. Church does not hahave to be thought of as “a” church, that one “goes to” on the corner of this and that, and is even named a certain thing, but church can be lived out organically as a way people, two or more at a time, participate as expressions of “the church.” Imagine. Church anywhere, anytime, by anyone. For Church does not have to be only in the mode of help us to become bigger and better, more competitive, where people despite our best intentions become the means to some organizational end; that is to follow the default mode of consumerism; church doesn’t have to be about attracting and extracting people from one environment, at great expense, and placing them in our environment, always worrying they will leave us; church can be about helping others grow, serving the ends of others, giving ourselves away, incarnating who we are into the greater life, and of course inviting others to do so with us.

Church may in the end choose to fulfill its mission being an organization with boards, budgets, bylaws and buildings, and marketing campaigns, and to make its worship time so attractive it can compete with all around it and fill up its pews again, but when we expand the horizons of church and then choose which one to move toward we will--to use the words fashioned by your, our, ancestors in Scrooby—have done so as the Lord’s free people, knowing we have chosen to be the church in certain ways. In a changing world, we need all the options at our disposal and to exercise as many as possible, even emanating from the very same people. There is no longer a one size one kind model of church; especially not if it is seeking to make visible in the world a Free Spirit of both Intimacy and Ultimacy.

Of course, if Mission creates church, how do you know what the mission should be? Who decides? How can it not change, even as church changes to fulfill it? How can a non-creedal people walk together down Common Mission Road? I am tempted, on this occasion especially, to say that these questions are why you have called a minister and why he has answered both this call and his own calling. But the questions, real and honest they be, are signs themselves of our misplaced priorities, of our old habits, of turning inward, turning only toward concerns for one another and those internal covenants that keep us perpetual in an Identity Crisis, our favorite crisis.

Mission comes from the Greek word missio, being Sent, and so is rooted in those beyond us covenants with the World and with God. Mission becomes then clear and compelling. As writer on the missional church Reggie McNeal says, no church ever votes to become missional. It simply begins living it and soon becomes it. Living into being the likeness of God in the world; or moving the world a bit closer to the Sacred.

In the Jesus tradition I follow in freedom, we take our missional words from Jesus who took his from Isaiah: to take God’s world transforming message of good news to the poor, to heal the sick and broken hearted, to free the captive, give sight to the blind, and proclaim the year of Jubilee when economic justice abounds and even the land is made whole anew. We are to be a Loving Liberating Justice For The Poor God’s Sent People. We fail, because we are people. But our mission is clear. We may differ at times on ways to best carry out the mission, that’s healthy conflict that is externally-focused; but the core mission is a given. All I know is if we argue over what to call it, we will miss it calling us.

You might have qualms about the word missional; it smacks too much of missionary colonialism; coming from Oklahoma, I get that. Here is the key difference: we do not take our Truth out into a world without truth or God, to make people out there like us in here. History has shown that doesn’t work; and theology has shown it limits God and turns God into an idol, something that can be possessed and manipulated. Instead, we are sent into the world to discover and uncover and nurture God’s surprising presence becoming visible there through the mutual relationships of service and study and celebration with others, especially with those most vulnerable, and those most unlike us.

Going back to our metaphor of the church as ship, with the world as sea, and God as the wind, my own community has helped me push this metaphor even further. For in our world today, our task is not just to craft a ship in dry dock then launch it into the world, like ocean liners or even like schooners, worried that it might sink, worried about its captain and crew; so much of church planting and church transforming is like that; it is what happens when we put first changing the church, something we are always trying to do it seems as our starting point, instead of what the real starting point should be, about changing the world.

What if we viewed church as a group of swimmers already adrift in the sea, survivors of wrecked ships already, joined by others dropped in to help them, who band together and assemble in the churning waters makeshift rafts to hold them and what they can salvage; rafts that are built so if they capsize, and they will, oh they will, they will easily right themselves again, even as the wind and the waves take them toward distant shores toward which, like Plimouth, they didn’t originally intend to land.

These are exciting experimental times with many amazing radical stories of how people are becoming church like this in response to such a Mission. Some of these ways are known by names used, like Church Under The Bridge, Church Without Walls, Pilgrims in the Park, The Salvage Yard, The Simple Way, and my favorite based on a saying of St. Paul, Scum of the Earth. Our own small group in Oklahoma is now on its third or fourth name in eight years, now The Welcome Table to bring it in accord with the name of the community center we started and the name of the community gardenpark we have started where abandoned houses once stood. And we are in our sixth main meeting space in that time, though we have worshipped also at gardens, in streets, parks, and bowling alleys while also being in service there.

But some groups becoming church, becoming disciples of love and justice, have no name, fearing, with good cause, that naming inevitably turns us toward ourselves and turns us more into an organization than an organic movement.

My favorite story in this category comes from Australia where a young man had grown up having a hard time, as a sufferer of ADD, sitting still in worship every Sunday in the spectator-manner of his church, and so when he became a young adult he decided that he didn’t have to keep “going to church” and so one Sunday he followed the invitation of a friend to go out on the lake in a boat; while out there, in a lull from swimming, his old habits reared up and he felt guilty for not “being in church” and he asked his friends if he could say part of a psalm and then say a short prayer, and his friend said sure, and he asked his friends if there was anything he could include in his prayer for them, and he did so. And he went back swimming and partying. Next Sunday the same thing happened, but this time he had also brought a Bible with him, and after a short time reading and praying they kept on partying. Gradually more and more friends were joining them. Gradually the prayers had more things mentioned. Soon they were spending time at the lake helping tow boats that had broken down, and were cleaning the park, looking for other ways to do random acts of kindness. They began to take time out for more bible reflection and they held communion on the picnic tables, and they kept partying before and dduring and after. Pretty soon worship was more party than program. And all the while his worried family kept bugging him to “come back to church.” They thought church is something you attend; but it is something you become.

Is that young man and his friends still there doing that? I don’t know. Maybe not; maybe they spun off and did the same thing in other places and ways. Was it a transient thing? Perhaps. But their story has lasted, and inspired, and that is a powerful thing, the most powerful change agent. The world now needs such random acts of church. And now think of something like that story, and like many other different ones in all kinds of places and times, happening not just accidentally or spontaneously, but intentionally too, from here, seeded even by people who love the pews they can’t any longer sit still in.

Reggie McNeal, in Missional Renaissance, writes: “An explosion of missional communities…will occur. These will be groups of believers and nonbelievers who will operate in noninstitutional settings. They will range in size from a handful of participants to a few dozen. Gatherings will take place in homes and restaurants, bookstores and bars, office conference rooms and university dorm rooms, hotel meeting space and downtown Ys, and yes, even churches. Their community life will center on an intense desire to grow spiritually and to aid the community. Some will be connected to churches; many will not be. Affinities will be common passions and similar life rhythms. Leadership will emerge from within.”

What this requires is nothing new, but that we begin again, as we did 400 years ago, gathering people in a new way for a new way, people willing to turn default modes of church upside down and inside out compared to the dominant way of being church at the time. What this requires is that we begin once more sending out such a people again out into the world, even sending them out as small groups while others stay in more familiar land in order to support them. What this requires is being willing to find home again in different harbors than we first imagined. And we require leaders again to remind the people of these requirements, these covenants, thesthese compacts.

Like Abram after Babel, we too live in a changed and much more scattered and diverse world. Like Abram, we have settled into our ways, with our father’s calling unfinished. The mission, the adventure, is a distant fading memory. Until, until, the Voice is heard that says Go you forth, from your land, from your kindred, from your father’s house, to the land that I will let you see.

Abandoned Places, Abandon Church! pt. 1 of a Progressive Missional Faith: The Three Rs of the Spiritual Life

Delivered at First Unitarian Church, Worcester, Mass, March 20.


From Luke 13:20-21. The Parable of the Leaven: And again he said, To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman stole and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was corrupted.

And From Jorgen Moltmann's "The Source of Life"...Moltmann saw the devastation first hand of whole communities in Europe during and after World War Two:
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.

Sermon: Abandoned Places, and the Three Rs of the Spiritual Life

First let me give thanks to your church and let you know I have many times spoken of you when I have preached on the presence and what I call the parable of the free church. One Sunday several years ago I was here for the first time sitting right about there…what I remember and tell is that right after the Lord’s Prayer the Rev. Merritt preached a powerful sermon about her belief in God and why it was important for atheists to be a part of this church. That combination of tradition, personal testimony, and inclusive community helped me to see anew and feel deeply what we mean by the free church, and like all good parables it has me still thinking and trying to live into it.

Jesus’ parables are one of the guides for our community back home. A favorite is when Jesus said The kingdom of God is like leaven, which a woman stole, and put into three measures of flour, until it was all corrupted. hat seemingly measures of meal, until it was all corrupted. That seemingly simple parable is about the radical fact of God changing sides. God’s Relocation. The kingdom of God, was itself a parable, for the kingdom, the world, the Empire as everyone knew, was Caeser’s. The evidence was everywhere; if you needed reminders just look at your coins or your crosses lining the roads. Caeser was Lord and Savior and what was divine was power and honor and property and propriety and security. Jesus immediately challenges those assumptions by claiming the world is not Caeser’s but that of the God of conquered, small poor Israel.

Then Jesus goes on to link this God with leaven, something ordinary, and also unholy, not like the purity of the unleavened bread, rather something moldy that was to be kept separate and apart while preparing your meal. Next God is likened to a woman, and as if that isn’t bad enough in the eyes of the world, she is a woman who sneaks or steals this leaven, and then foolishly puts it into enough flour to feed a feast, and what happens? It all goes bad, becomes useless. And that’s where the parable ends.

The God of this parable has relocated…from holiness to unholiness, from power and privilege and public status and acts to what happens in the home, out of sight is no longer out of mind, at least in God’s mind and sight; relocated from fullness and contentment to emptiness and waste; also from A Static Being to a process, a movement that changes and corrupts from within the dominant culture’s status quo and beliefs in what is worthy and respectable. Jesus challenged the authorities of his time, as this parable challenges us today, to also pick sides, to relocate, to go experience God, and help make God visible, where the powerful and the privileged won’t go and even seek to keep hidden from others, in hopes of keeping their honor, their marketing, their economy intact.

One of the best examples of this parable in action in our times can be seen in the life of Civil rights and community organizing activist John Perkins. Little known to the general public, he has had a huge affect especially on young people today seeking to change communities the way an earlier generation sought to change laws.

John Perkins was born 80 years ago in rural Mississippi. His father left when he was young; He watched a white police officer kill his unarmed older brother while standing in a line at a movie theater; his brother had recently returned from service in World War Two. John was full of anger and was a ticking time bomb; he hated church because it seemed to do nothing for the community in the face of injustice; he had quit school at third grade to work. He married but continued to drink and party. His family, seeing his anger and despair and fearing for his life, managed to send him out of Mississippi to work in California. There he began turning his life around and became part of the black middle class of the time and in that place; then through his young son Spencer he began attending a church that had a prison ministry; there in meeting with the inmates and encountering the bible for really the first time he not only became a Christian but began taking seriously this Jesus he was meeting for the first time. A prophetic Jesus that calls out for justice for the poor and oppressed. And It was the late 50s, in the thick of the growing civil rights era in the South, and the Jesus he was now following led him to go back home to rural Mississippi.

At first he was only going to teach this Bible, this Jesus, to the youth so they would get the message earlier than he had when he lived there. But soon the needs of the community, and the voice of this Jesus, were calling out to give more than a message: so a community center and farm was started, food was distributed, health care was begun, child care was given, adult classes begun, and worship held, and civil rights were supported. The God that relocated him also showed him that the work of God is in redistribution, both of goods and justice.
The more public his ministry the more it was seen as a threat. One night he and a van full of youth were stopped on a rural road by police who arrested him for contributing to the delinquency of minors and took him to jail where he was beaten and tortured near to death. In a hospital, the care of a white nurse coming so soon after his treatment by white jailers gave him an epiphany; it helped him to put his hatred into a larger vessel of God’s love, and gave him a new focus, racial reconciliation.

And so were born the 3Rs of community development that has guided and grown his work in the past decades and inspired many other communities: One R is for relocating to places of struggle and abandonment; a second R is for redistribution of services and spirit; and a third R is for reconciliation of peoples.
Actually he points out that to do this work requires combining three groups of people: remainers, those who have never left an area when others have and who have a native’s wisdom; returners, those like he was who came back where they had been and brought new gifts of service and wisdom and perspective with them, and relocaters, those called out to go to new places, called out by their own discomfort at being in comfortable places. All are needed. And while there is nothing like actual physical relocation, getting new neighbors, there are many important ways people can relocate their time, talents, and treasure to abandoned places. I just hesitate to go into them because they so easily become our default mode and will distract us from a more radically transforming calling whose simplicity itself might be what’s the most challenging.

A phrase has sprung up to describe places like where John Perkins lives and where I live, places located all over the place in rural and urban settings. It is called the abandoned places of Empire. It harkens back to the Roman Empire, there at a time when the Empire was crumbling, new communities on the edges were being created as small alternative socieites with values of cooperation instead of conquering. But now The Empire we feel at odds with is a contemporary American CoConsumer Entertainment Marketplace and Governmental Empire with dominant cultural values that champion Appearance, Affluence, Achievement, Coolness, Convenience, Comfort, Strength and Safety. And above all, perhaps, personal autonomy full of choices never ending. Challenging those American Dream values now is akin to Jesus casting God as leaven, as unholiness. This is an Empire who says the good life, even the spiritual life, is found in being surrounded by the so-called best things. The goal of this Empire is for places like ours to exist only as places people leave, as places where people live as punishment for not being able to buy into all the Empire provides us. We are the “Left Behind” places, as if the Rapture had already happened, in an economic, political, communal sense.

John Perkins says think of the shame people have who remain with constant reminders they have not been good enough or smart enough or lucky enough or young enough to leave as they should. That shame breeds a paralysis that makes it hard for people to become active with others for their own and their community’s behalf. It makes it hard for them to see the counter-truth, that as theologian Jorgen Moltmann says, the opposite of poverty is not property but the opposite of both poverty and property is community.

Even the good news of our community, the 74126 zipcode, far northside edge of Tulsa covering an unincorporated and incorporated urban rural small town area, once working class and growing before a racist response to integration occurred and white flight began to suburbs and investment in schools and the community ended. But I sometimes wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to relocate there, where five years ago we bought a home on two acres with a great view for $28,000. Ten minute drive from downtown; ten minutes to a lake. A realtors dream.
Then I remember hardly a night goes by we don’t have a shooting; just between May and August last year there were 311 shootings in Tulsa, and the highest concentration were in our area, which doesn’t actually have the highest crime rate overall. And we also have the city’s huge mountain of a landfill that has risen up in just the past decade to rival the height of the natural hill behind our house, and it is perpetually on fire and being closed for environmental damages, which just means even more illegal dumping on our streets. We are in a healthy food desert where 55 percent worry about how much food they have and 60 percent can’t afford healthy food, and I do wonder if that number would have been higher if people were more aware of what constitutes healthy food. We have no home pizza delivery, no movie theaters, our parks have been closed or redesigned to be used by people driving in from the suburbs, and most of the businesses we do have are owned by people who live elsewhere, as do our teachers and police and many of our preachers; even some churches only rent in our zipcode for the low rent not because they serve people from here. Our average household income keeps going down and is now just barely above $20,000; When we bought our property it had been abandoned for several years like 40 percent of the vacant homes near us, and we had to plead our case to the bankers to get the loan to buy the place; they didn’t believe me, an executive director of a national religious organization, and my wife, a physician, were actually going to live there, moving from our new home in a new subdivision in a fast growing suburb. A place where after spending more than the purchase price on renovation and remodeling the value of our property has remained virtually the same because the the rest of the ones around us have continued to decline.

The opposite of poverty is still even the good news of our community where We have the lowest life expectancy in our greater area, fourteen years less than the area with the highest rate just a few miles away, but we have the fewest, meaning none, health care services in the area. One of the first things our micro-church helped to bring to our area, locating it in the community center we created, was a university health clinic, but the economic and social dynamics of funding it and supporting it were not sustainable for funders and it has closed; while similar clinics in other parts of the city remain open full time, ours couldn’t maintain even a half a day one day presence which it had been reduced to by the end. Getting people to come wasn’t the problem; getting the right people to come, those with some insurance possibilities to help offset the uninsured, was the problem; there just weren’t enough of them, and those that were already were going elsewhere. On the advantage side, in the edge communities and out of desperation can come what we call “creative disruptive innovation” and we are now planning a health care mentoring network hiring people from our neighborhoods to partner both with their neighbors who are high users of the emergency room and to themselves teach medical residents about the communities in which their patients attempt to live.

The opposite of poverty is even our community where government and educational services have been cut and the fact that we are a small blue conclave—my precinct voted 225 to 25 for President Obama--in the only state where every county voted against Barack Obama, doesn’t bode well for having slashed state funds directed our way.

So If one adopts the values of the Empire, then ours and the places John Perkins has lived, are the last places you would want to live. But if you follow the values of the parable of the leaven, if you are intent on growing a soul in relationship and community with the most vulnerable, then these and ones even more severely stressed in other countries, are the first places. And once you relocate, and begin the work of redistribution and reconciliation, you’ll kick yourself for not going sooner. Every day presents an opportunity for the kinds of small acts of random justice, random love and beauty, random church, that sustain and deepen our lives of faithfulness to the Spirit Everlasting. They are the kind of places where a few people with a few resources can spread hope like leaven. They are places where it is easy to experience the counter truth that the opposite of poverty and property is community.

Besides the visible things we have created in just these past four years since we turned our little church group inside out and began incarnating ourselves into the community, instead of expecting the community to come to us, becoming like a guest in our own place, besides the clinic and garden and food pantry and computer center and clothing room and concerts and festivals and all the one on one personal assistance, what has really begun to be seeds of change in our zipcode is simply the ways people have begun to have a way to share their presence with one another through our presence. Which has been done with under a dozen leaders, with no paid staff.

What we have had has been God’s leaven, another name for which is beloved community, or communitas, the kind of community that forms itself by turning away from itself, outward with others. It is communitas on one side, and Empire on the other,and I say, as a Universalist, that God has chosen sides, has moved into the neighborhood of abandonment and not the gated community, and is hoping but not waiting for church to move there too. God hasn’t given up on those behind their gates, not given up on the well-off, on the cool and beautiful people who wouldn’t be caught dead in our zipcode; no, unlike the Empire, God is big enough to be an active loving presence everywhere, with everyone; It is just that God will transform our gated lives and communities not from within them but from the 74126 zipcodes that are located everywhere. I believe it is the next great adventure, mission, frontier, horizon for us as a progressive spiritual people to find ways to be there too. I am sorry I haven’t been able to tell you about the lives we have literally saved, about the joy that overshadows the setbacks. But these words by John Perkins I close with will I hope suffice.

“So what does it take to make beloved community happen? I really believe that it begins with a place. I’ve preached relocation all my life because the communities I’ve been a part of have been abandoned. Everybody left, so I called them to come back. But my real concern is for the place. If the church is going to offer some real good news in broken communities, it has to be committed to making a good life possible for people in the place where we are. If you care about a place, you’ll care about the kids in that place. If you don’t care about the kids, they’ll knock out your windows. But the kids in our neighborhood don’t knocfor the place. If the church is going to offer some real good news in broken communities, it has to be committed k out our windows. One of the first things we did when we came here was to put in a sandbox and build a jungle gym. We made sure there was a field for kids to play ball.

When you’re committed to a place, you also care about the beauty of the place. The flowers around our place are important. Every summer the children come running to ask me if they can take some flowers home with them. They don’t have pretty flowers at home…Shared beauty makes people want to share life together. You don’t have to tend your flowers in a neighborhood very long before you have something to talk to your neighbors about.

It may sound simple but I think you’ve got to have neighbors you talk to and get to know before you can love your neighbor as yourself. That’s why community development has been so important to me all these years. The church can’t organize the perfect community. If people aren’t drawn by the cords of love to a vision of beloved community, you can’t force it on them. But we can organize for justice. We can develop a community so that there is a place for people to know one another. That’s the work God has given us to do. Only God can send the rain, but we can till the ground by committing to a place and making sure people can flourish there. That’s the first thing the church has to do if we’re going to interrupt the brokenness of society.

As we commit to our communities, we also need to learn how to see them as economic places. It’s not enough to just move into a place, plant some flowers and be nice to your neighbors. All of that is good, but that won’t address the brokenness of people’s lives because the structures of the community are broken. People need work, good housing, education and health care. So the church has to invest its resources in developing the community. We also need to use our influence to get businesses and government to invest in the community. ..I wish churches spent more time thinking about how their members could love one another and share a common life by working together as a community. Part of the reason our churches are so individualistic is that we just accept the economic systems of our culture without question. We assume that the people who can get the good jobs should go wherever they have to and the people who can’t get the good jobs should just take what they can get. But churches that want to interrupt the brokenness of society ought to be about creating jobs in the community and giving neighbors an opportunity to work together. If we take our communities seriously as economic places, we’ll spend more time thinking about creating good work than we spend thinking about more relevant worship styles or bigger church buildings." Amen, John Perkins.

So, Go, find the abandoned places and the people who will be the leaven in your own life and for your own church, even as you then walking together with them become the leaven in the world which no Empire can withstand.

Friday, March 18, 2011

From Boston to Turley/North Tulsa

From The Welcome Table Community Center, The Welcome Table GardenKitchenPark, The Welcome Table Free Universalist Missional Community, A Third Place Community Foundation, 5920 N. Owasso Ave, 74126.

Hi all.

I am writing to you from Boston tonight. This coming Sunday morning I will be preaching at First Unitarian Church in Worcester, MA on the spiritual life that comes from going and serving in "abandoned places." I will be drawing on Jesus' parable of the leaven, on the work of civil rights leader and founder of the Christian Community Development Association John Perkins, and what we have learned from others here in our part of the far north Tulsa area. Then Sunday afternoon I will be preaching the sermon at the installation of the Rev. Jay Libby at the Church of the Pilgrims, founded 1620, in Plymouth, MA. There my "epistle to Plymouth" will be a call for progressives to go missional in our understanding of church, looking at the covenants of the free church and the ones we have neglected, and how our mission can broaden our own understanding and fulfillment of becoming church itself. The text will be the beginning of Genesis 12, in the shadow of the destruction of the tower of Babel in the preceding chapter, and Abram's answering the call of Adonai to leave his home at the age of 75 to become the seed of God among the scattered peoples. I will post both sermons next week at

Because several of us are out of town for Spring Break still, we won't have any programmed worship gathering at the building this Sunday; of course anyone with a key is welcome to go and have fun and just be there in case anyone shows up or to do some work. Worship will resume the next Sunday at 11 am with a focus on celebrating Women's History through scripture, singings, communion, and conversation, and our usual common meal. Remember we are mostly the church during the week so come stop by and help one another.

Here are the important events coming up at The Welcome Table Community Center and elsewhere here at the gardenkitchenpark, at Cherokee School, at our guerilla gardening sites, etc. as we begin relaunching to the public our new building and programs and projects. You are invited to all of them. Please share with others.

Friday, March 25, from noon to 7 pm come anytime to Community Art Day here at our The Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., just off Peoria. We will be joined by graduate art therapy students from Kansas who will help residents create art for our building and grounds, especially after our vandalism attack. Free, with Food, and for all ages....This will be our first major public event in our new building. Help Us Launch our new space with beauty and justice both. All artists are welcome, all who just like to have fun are welcome, all who like to see a place of abandon come to life are welcome.

Saturdays beginning March 26 call us at 9186913223 to find where and when we will be working at Cherokee School gardens, 6001 N. Peoria, and our other public gardens underway here...Tuesday, Mar 29 7 pm community meeting at O'Brien Recreation Center, 6147 N. Birmingham Ave.

Sunday, April 3, I will be speaking on Life and Death and Resurrection in the 74126 on our gardens and center and community renewal projects during a presentation at 11:30 am at All Souls Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave., then go to lunch with us, and then come back north as we hold an "Economy of Love" workshop based on the book and DVD of that name by Shane Claiborne, part of the new monastic movement, author of The Irresistible Revolution and co-author with John Perkins of Follow Me To Freedom, and other books; from 2 to 5 pm followed by common meal here at our Center. Check it out at as we seek to create a different economic relationship that fosters instead of destroys endangered communities and people. This is a major Lenten program and is open to all who seek a transformed way of communal life.

The Big Weekend: Friday to Sun, April 8-10 we will be calling all helpers to come help us on renewal projects at our Center, especially at the GardenKitchenPark at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave., at Cherokee School, cleaning up illegal dumps on our streets, and working at our sites around the area where we have started guerilla gardening. Opportunities to serve going on all day each day with free food for volunteers. Come for the full weekend of service; come for just an hour; come by yourself; bring all your family of all ages, your church, youth, etc No experience or tools needed, though bring them if you have them, all ages welcome.

Help us launch our new visibility in our new spaces. Check out more at where you can help us receive a matching $1,000 donation (we have received $750 so far) and Check back often as we keep creating new ventures, partnerships, and worship opportunities here.

blessings, thanks for all you do where you are and for who you are, and more to come soon,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Second Annual Art of Turley/Heart of Turley Day Launches New Community Center Friday Mar. 25 noon to 7 pm, and other upcoming events

Hi all. Here are some upcoming events you and others are especially invited to where we will be working on and celebration our projects here at our new community center building and grounds, new gardenkitchenpark, and school garden and neighborhood guerilla gardening.....Hope you will enjoy these and share the news with others on your lists and your social media sites.

Friday, March 25, from noon to 7 pm come anytime to the Second Annual Heart of Turley/Art of Turley Community Art Day here at our The Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., just off Peoria. We will be joined by graduate art therapy students from Kansas who will help residents create art for our building and grounds, especially after our vandalism attack. Free, with Food, and for all ages....This will be our first public event in our new building.

Saturdays beginning March 26 call us at 9186913223 to find where and when we will be working at Cherokee School gardens, 6001 N. Peoria, and our other public gardens underway here.

Turley Community Association public meeting with local elected officials and others, Tuesday, Mar 29 at 7 pm O'Brien Recreation Center, 61st and N. Birmingham Ave. off Lewis. Come meet neighbors, hear what is going on, ask questions of local officials.

Sunday, April 3, I will be speaking on Life and Death and Resurrection in the 74126 on our gardens and center and community renewal projects during a presentation at 11:30 am at All Souls Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave., then go to lunch with us, and then come back north as we hold an "Economy of Love" workshop from 2 to 5 pm followed by common meal here at our Center. Check it out at as we seek to create a different economic relationship that fosters instead of destroys endangered communities and people.

The Big Weekend: Friday to Sun, April 8-10 we will be calling all helpers to come help us on renewal projects at our Center, especially at the GardenKitchenPark at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave., at Cherokee School, cleaning up illegal dumps on our streets, and working at our sites around the area where we have started guerilla gardening. Opportunities to serve going on all day each day with free food for volunteers.

Help us launch our new visibility in our new spaces. Check out more at and

No experience or tools needed, though bring them if you have them, all ages welcome.

Ron Robinson, Executive Director, A Third Place Community Foundation

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday Worship 2011 6:30 pm Mar. 9


This is the day which God has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad therein.
For what does the Eternal require of us?
To live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God
Thus do we covenant together:
In the light of truth, and the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather in freedom, to worship God, and serve others.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24

Thou who has made us to know that we are dust and to dust we shall return, make us also to know that we are temples of thy holy Spirit and recipients of thy grace. Amen.

Hymn: O God Our Help In Ages Past, #281

General Confession (all say)

Almighty and most merciful, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of thy holy name. Amen.

Scripture: Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Psalm: from PSALM 51 (Responsively)
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot
out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

PRAYER of Confession.
Merciful and generous God, we come before you conscious of our sins. We are ashamed and sorry for the wrong we have done and the good we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves; we have not even loved ourselves very well. God of mercy, forgive us.
Lord have mercy.
We know that your beautiful world suffers from greed and injustice: Children go hungry, with only tears for food, and the forests groan in distress. And we know that our comfort, our standard of living, depends on the suffering of others and the ruin of the planet. These things disturb us, yet, we confess we have not protested as we ought, or rushed to combat these evils as we should. Make us braver, dear God, to speak out and act. God of mercy, forgive us.
Lord have mercy.
Loving God, you call us to be your people, a witness to the transforming power of love in the world. But we have not been faithful. We have held on to our anger and hurt for too long, we have not known how to work out our differences. Set us free from all our old wounds. Draw us together in community dedicated to your purpose in all that we do. God of mercy, forgive us.
Lord have mercy.
Now, merciful God, we come to you in silence: you already know the wrong that weighs us down, the guilt we cannot shake, the hurts that need to be healed. We ask that you take them from us now and set us free to begin a new life.
God of mercy, forgive us.
Lord have mercy.

(Silent meditation and reflection).

Hymn: Find A Stillness, #352

Ash Wednesday Prayer (responsively)
From lack of reverence for truth and beauty; From going along with mean and ugly things; Holy One, deliver us. From cowardice that dares not face truth; Laziness content with halftruth; Or arrogance that purports to know it all; Holy One, deliver us. From artificial life and worship; From all that is hollow or insincere; From trite ideals and cheap pleasures; From mistaking vulgarity for humor; Holy One, deliver us. From being pompous or rude; From cynicism about others; From intolerance or cruel indifference; Holy One, deliver us. From being satisfied with things as they are, In the church and the world; From failing to share your outrage about injustice; Holy One, deliver us. From token concern for the poor; From lack of sympathy for lonely or loveless people; From confusing faith with feeling good; Or love with wanting to be loved; Holy One, deliver us. For everything in us that may hide your light; Holy One, light of life, forgive us. AMEN.

Receiving of Blessing and Anointment For Healing

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and trust the good news of God’s love. May the touch of balm received from one another tonight be a sign that though you are mortal and though you have stepped from the path of Love you are always a child of God, and may it be a reminder that we are called to be a healing presence in the world, in the way of Christ Jesus who walked with those whom others shunned, who ate and drank with those whom others despised, who healed those whom others shamed, who lived fully and freely in the face of those oppressing others with injustice, who blessed those who cursed and killed him, who taught all those who would follow his way to pray saying 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; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

(As you touch with the balm the palm or forehead of the one next to you, you may make the sign of the cross or a simple mark, and you may give them a blessing such as “May God walk with you always” or “May the spirit of Jesus help heal your heart,” or “Be full of love in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” or words from your heart.

Silent Sharing of Communion: Jesus said I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. And they said, Lord, when did we do this? And he said, You did this for me when you did it for the least of these. Jesus often healed by sharing meals; people in his presence often turned their life around by joining in his meals. Let this sacred meal in his spirit remind us to help heal and serve others in his spirit. Here then for the renewal of life is the bread of life, food for the spirit. Let all who hunger come and eat. So here is the fruit of the vine pressed and poured out for us. Let all who thirst now come and drink. In this new covenant, we come to make peace. We come to be restored in the love of God. We come to be made new as an instrument of that love. All are worthy. All are welcome. (Sharing of Plate and Cup)

Closing Song: Guide My Feet #348

Benediction Response: A Litany of Atonement, #637