Saturday, April 28, 2012

Celebrating, Reconciling, Growing Lives and Community For All

Quick View: Read more below on Futures Meeting Thursday, May 3, 3:30 pm, Boston Speech May 5, New Food Pantry Hours, Next Mobile Food Van Giveaway Day, May 12 10 am to 2 pm GardenPark Party and Dedication Ceremony, and other events and projects.

 Hi all. Well, it has been a busy time in the 74126 and surrounding zip codes lately, to put it mildly; the last newsletter sent out was on April 4 a few days before Good Friday and Easter Weekend, and it had my commentary on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death that day and the history of race in north Tulsa including personal and family experiences from the days of the Klan being supreme, the race massacre, and the way my father worked to break the cycle of racism for his descendents and his commitment to staying and serving with all for our area throughout the years as a model for me to pass on and that guides our anti-racism and sustainability and reconciliation work here now.

Two days later we had the racially motivated shootings and deaths here; all but one of the murders happened here in our two mile service area, both the shooters and the victims lived in the McLain community area, and it surfaced, again, the work that continues to call to us here to build relationships and to work on the deeper systemic issues of mental health and poverty and class and race and education and domestic abuse and disruption of family life that mark the lives of our youngest of all races here. It was only a month before that we had a good conversation on these issues at our community center around the showing of the documentary on reparations featuring Cornel West, following up on our discussion around the anniversary of the Freedom Riders; it is a part of every tour and discussion we have with folks who come in to work with us. But we know the cycle of racism, like other cycles of violence of the mind, body, and soul, can be broken despite multi-generations and despite events.

Easter Morning we had our Sunrise Service at the new KitchenGardenPark and Orchard at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. that we have been working on for the past two years; and as the sun was rising we were hearing about the arrests of the shooters, and we were talking about how the vision of the park itself, and why we had taken the abandoned block of houses and trash and buildings and turned it into the park it is becoming, precisely because of its location as a bridge area connecting not rich and poor, but connecting one impoverished area that has predominantly (but not overwhelmingly) black residents with an impoverished area that has predominantly (but not overwhelmingly) white and American Indian residents. Easter morning and the news reminded us of the vision and the work still to do on our mission of the park and the community center and all our projects connecting neighbors. Our recent demographic research confirms what we who live here know; we are rapidly becoming more multi-ethnic (the area of the proposed Turley city boundaries is now down to 56 percent white and is projected to decrease to 52 percent white in three years and so it will soon like much of Oklahoma be a minority majority area, and that our area continues to lose population and services across the ethnic lines; our wider service area including far north city of Tulsa limits will also increase in multi-ethnic diversity as whites and hispanics increase their percentages, even as that area also continues to lose population and services.) At the same time what the statistics do not show yet, is how breaking with stereotypes we are going to see people remaining and relocating here for a simpler and more socially justice oriented life.

Just two years ago we had the crazy dream, working with the OU Graduate Social Work and OU Graduate Design Studio, to try to raise the funds to buy the property to begin the transformation. That took all summer of 2010. Then last year at this time we had the equally crazy dream we could win a national online competition for a 40 fruit tree orchard for it, and on one of the hottest days of the summer of 2011 we had volunteers from the northside and all over Tulsa helping us to plant the orchard. In between we had the help of Rita Scott and State Rep. Seneca Scott and others at the Tallgrass RC&D to help us get a grant with our local Freedom Bank to do the first phase of site preparation work that is just now drawing to a close; with the assistance of partners like Gwen Goff and Steve Eberle and Demalda Newsome and Diane Askins, the Indian Health Care Resource Center and Tulsa Community Gardening Association and others who came and helped and gave we and our neighbors have already put in or have the materials and are scheduled to put in up to 40 beds to go along with the orchard; next coming are more of the social areas and kitchen area and more.

You are invited to come and celebrate with us, to meet others, to share your own community projects, as we pause and hold our Garden Party on Sat. May 12 from 10 am to noon with the speeches and ceremony at 11 am. at 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. (best way is to go to Peoria and turn west at Cherokee School and go up to the top of the hill overlooking downtown Tulsa in one direction, Turley Hill in another, and Bird Creek bottomland in another; or go to the Turley Residential Center on N. Cincinnati Ave. (soon to be MLK Ave. and go east on 61st St to Johnstown; you can park at the Methodist church and come across to the park.) Tours of the park, community information resources, activities for all ages. See the completion of phase one and catch the vision for the future.

Besides the community and the healthy food production for our neighbors in need of both, the Park also helps us grow food for our Food Pantry. New hours are Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9:30 am to noon at our Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave. We just finished this past Thursday with another of our Mobile Food Van Days at Cherokee School giving out some three tons of food in just one hour thanks to many volunteers; our next one will be Thursday June 7, with volunteers needed for just two hours from 10 am to noon, and the giveaway is at 11 am; vouchers for the food can be picked up at our pantry after May 7 for those in our 74126 74130 74073 zipcodes. Volunteers are needed at the pantry and in our clothing room, etc. during the Pantry hours as well.

At the same time lately, we have been working with others to keep community in mind with the State Education Dept efforts and plans with Tulsa Public Schools to renew McLain Jr. and Sr. High School here; that will be the subject of more commentary in the future, as it has been in the past when I have written and spoken about McLain's role in our community revitalization and its history as part of our community history; besides the macro level stuff, I am also trying to raise money for our McLain Foundation to help students take an aviation program first flight trip to Dallas, and also to raise funds for an end of the year Dinner for a mentor, teacher and a top student in as many subject areas as possible. Donations can go to (you don't need paypal to use the online giving) or sent to A Third Place Community Foundation at 5920 N. Owasso Ave., Turley, OK 74126. For more on our McLain work, see these links: my interview; for the new solar panels for the McLain greenhouse project. We continue to work with the conversion of Horace Greeley School into a charter school, and look forward to working more closely with Gilcrease Elementary where our children of the area will now go as part of the Tulsa public school district shifting; and we hope to help our two other schools in the area this coming year, as well as we have been working behind the scenes on plans for repurposing the closed for a year Cherokee School on North Peoria.

More on all of these events with the schools, as well as our community building Disaster Response Work, and our continuing work exploring incorporation and cooperation of Turley, and support for the Fire Dept. and O'Brien Park and other volunteer groups here, and our work on economic development and a possible new Aquaponics project here, will be covered at our monthly Future of Turley planning session, Thursday, May 3 at 3:30 pm at the community center. See a recent TV news story on our efforts here at

I will be travelling to Boston to deliver the keynote address and a workshop at the Ballou-Channing District Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association to be held Sat. May 5 in Fairhaven, MA. The sermon address is "ReShaping the World: church in likeness to a different God" and the workshop will be on our community renewal efforts and how we have done what we have done here with so few people, all unpaid. For some background there is a recent article and update on our missional community approach to church published in Small Talk periodical here at

On Friday, May 18 I will be a part of a panel of residents and leaders in our area on a panel at Rudisill Library as we work with the Tulsa City/County Health Dept. and their opening of the new North Wellness Center here. It is going to be a great summer of new projects popping up all over our area; it has started already with the construction underway on the Shoppes of North Peoria; with the soon to be opening Wellness Center and the Tisdale Specialty Clinic by OU in the old Northland Shopping Center area. Beyond these major funded projects, are all those efforts by groups and individuals and churches who are living out the hope that in the abandoned places love persists.

Tomorrow, Sunday, our weekly public missional gathering at 9:30 am we will continue celebrating Eastertide with the video by progressive biblical scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan on "America as the New Rome" followed by our community planning and sharing about the why we do church the way we do and our work and communion and common meal.

If this is an adventure of missional living you want to be a part of, we need your partnership, and/or your presence, and/or your prayers, and/or your gifts at Help us keep surprising the world.

Thanks, blessings, Ron

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter Sunrise Service

The Welcome Table
A Free Universalist Christian Missional Community
Easter Sunrise Worship

A Time of Silent Vigil in the Dark

How long must we stay in the desert? How long in the absence of Love?

Comforter of Comforters, do not leave us bereft surrounded by those who bay

for our hearts, those who dismiss and disparage us, those who hunger for our

humiliation. We regret how we have strayed from the way of love; we yearn to be

once again in love’s presence, once again attending love’s teachings, once again

free to rejoice, to give thanks, to join in blessing. Sing to us the songs of starlight

and quiet waters, the songs of welcome and restoration, the songs that keep our

hearts steady and bring us bread. Even here in the desert, love persists. Even here

in the emptiness, love bears us comfort. Even here in the long vigil, love guides

us. May it always be so. Amen. (Rev. Naomi King)

Silence Until Sunrise

Today is the day which God has made: Let us rejoice and be glad therein.
What does the Eternal require of us?
To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
This is our covenant as we walk together in life in the ways of God known and to be made known: In the light of truth, and the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather in freedom, to worship God, and serve all.

I Thank You God For Most This Amazing Day #504, by ee cummings

Morning Has Broken, #38 O Life That Maketh All Things New #12

Psalms Readings #421, 422, 423  

Communion: Bread of Life and Cup of Hope


Prayer: #510

“Precious Lord” #199 “Dona Nobis Pacem” #388

Prayers of Cares and Concerns followed by The Prayer of Jesus: Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

Scripture Reading:
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, "They took the Master from the tomb. We don't know where they've put him." Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home. But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus' body had been laid. They said to her, "Woman, why do you weep?" "They took my Master," she said, "and I don't know where they put him." After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn't recognize him. Jesus spoke to her, "Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?" She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, "Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him." Jesus said, "Mary." Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" meaning "Teacher!" Jesus said, "Don't cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: "I saw the Master!" And she told them everything he said to her.

Reflection and Discussion: Embodying Easter

 Jesus Christ Is Risen Today #268

Benediction Response (Rev. Naomi King)

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice! Let the children dance and sing in praise

of the awesomeness of the Beloved!

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

Let the elders dance and sing in praise of Love’s restoration!

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

Let all the people dance and sing with wonder and gratitude to the Lover of Life!

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

Raised from death, brought back into life, with us once again

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

Put aside all mourning, my people. Set aside the ashes of grief for rejoicing

in the power of transforming love!

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

We have been brought out of exile and through the desert.

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

We have been called back to the wonders of transforming love.

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!

A way has been made. Let us pick up our hearts and follow!

Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!
                                            Hallelujah! Let all the people shout and rejoice!


Friday, April 06, 2012

"While It Was Dark": 2012 Easter Message

"While It Was Still Dark": An Easter Message

Based on John 20:

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”
2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to looka into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,b “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. "

So, in John’s account of the good news, there she is - Miriam of Magdala. Now she is near Jerusalem where she had followed Jesus from the shores of Galilee, followed him and with others helped him model that another kind of world was possible
and was here and now coming into being. They had been modelling a world where the liberating God of occupied Israel was more powerful than the Caesar of Rome. They had followed Jesus still as that other “possible world” came crashing down in his arrest, torture and death, as the “normal world” put out the light of that new world. She was at the
cross when he died.

And there she is, following him still, in the darkness, going toward the darkness of the tomb. Alone. A woman. A stranger. Going with nothing but her self, her grief, her dashed hopes. In this account, Jesus’ body has already been anointed. So she is
going to the tomb without a worldly purpose. She apparently knows it has been sealed by a stone. Did she plan on removing the stone herself, to go be by the corpse? Later it says she bent down to look into the tomb, so we aren’t looking at a big heavy stone in this account, so she could have entered the tomb if she had wanted to. Maybe she only wanted to be as near as she could be, still, the presence enough.

So in the darkness she goes, and finds the stone removed over the opening to the tomb. She goes no further. Then instinct kicks in. She flees to community, to tell Peter that “they” had taken the body, but she does not know for sure that the
body is gone, as she had not looked into the opening. How quickly that “normal world” kicks in, and our default model of how the world works, and who is in charge, returns. That omnipresent, omnipotent “They” of her reaction. Jesus,
whose new world had sought to do away with “us and them” reactions, had been killed by the great “They” and now “they” seemed to be in charge after all. The “we” that Jesus sought to enlarge, to empower, was now diminished.

In the darkness alone, she now represented all of the followers of Jesus, confused, crest-fallen, disillusioned. And seeing the stone rolled away from the tomb only made it worse. She assumed the worst. She got it wrong. On one level, that is. Some scholars believe that the community that composed this gospel account did so in order to put Miriam/Mary of Magdala in her place, and to elevate Peter, and especially the “beloved disciple” who is the one who gets to the tomb first, who it is said goes in after Peter does, sees the remnants of the shroud
and the emptiness of the tomb and “believes” (not apparently believing that the body has been taken by Roman powers, but believing that it has been taken, up by and into God; he comes to that conclusion not by having to encounter Jesus physically as Mary soon does, or as Thomas soon would, but he is blessed and favored because he is the first to believe without having to see).

And yet, I am drawn still to Mary in the darkness, more than I am to the others.
And yet, there she was, starting it all; none of the experience of resurrection would have occurred without her first venturing out alone in the darkness seeking Jesus even dead and buried. If the gospel writer meant to put her in her place, what has happened is that Mary of Magdala has been put in our place. We, I believe, are like her. We keep seeking to draw near, in our darkness and even when others don’t want us there. For many around us Jesus is still dead and buried, and yet we keep going to the tomb and staying there even when those believers” have left.

In the darkness of the world she ventured out alone. In the darkness of her own confusion and terror, she remained and wept and looked in then into the tomb.
Through her tears she was able to see angels. Even after she sees angels, she still clings to her default world where the powers of “They” are in charge defining her world. She even sees Jesus but mistakes him for the gardener who may have taken away the body from the tomb. She continues to grasp for explanations that make sense, but she keeps asking questions, continues to be present even though at this point she is not facing the gardener/Jesus, has her back to him in her grief and
fear and confusion, this stranger in a strange land. And through it all, Jesus does not leave her either, but this time finally calls her name, and she turns to face him, knows him, claims him. And in so doing her default model, her normal world, is replaced for good by the other possible world.

Mary’s discipleship grows and deepens bit by bit, her experience of the resurrection comes bit by bit, not all at once. So too does ours. A big part of our tradition even grows out of the history of those who said during the first Great Awakening that being a Christian was more than a spontaneous xperience, but requires attention and intention over time, growing a soul more than having a lost one suddenly found, which is why community is needed. To help us find the light.
And Jesus sends Mary back to the community, even that which sought to outcast her. To teach them what she had learned.

Together we continue the walk that Mary Magdalene started that early dark morning, with death all around, walking toward the tomb, and without knowing, toward the womb of life everlasting.

Such faithfulness, while in the dark, guides our walk here, together, with all those whose lives we touch and are touched by. Let Easter come again even in the struggles and confusion of all that has been happening in our community, in all that has been taken away these past months, in all the challenges and changes faced by those most vulnerable, and let us go share it, this faithfulness, with others.