Friday, April 12, 2013

Growing Together: Garden, Neighborhood Center, Cornerstore, Community, Worship

A photo of before, and one of now....

Three years ago, we began the Miracle Among the Ruins project here in far north Tulsa and Turley area, turning blight into beauty, eyesores into places of community, and working on the poor health and food insecurity of our 74126 and surrounding zipcodes.

Today, Saturday April 13, we hold our Big Event Spring Planting Day at The Welcome Table Community KitchenGardenPark and Orchard, 6005 N. Johnstown Ave., taking it into our next phase of creating a space for people to become neighbors, to find peace, to grow and share healthy food (twenty varieties of tomatoes, 18 varieties of peppers, a dozen varieties of melons and squash, a Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans, squash), a Vegetable Village of edible playhouse gardens for children, a Kiwi Dragon garden art and play space, 25 raised beds, 50 fruit and nut tree orchard, berries of all kinds, damaged trees turned into art and storytelling places, old tires into art, and restful places amid the ruins of abandoned buildings one of many of which just burned two nights ago right across from the park after years of neglect by owners and officials. Stop by today to tour, to help, to put in a bed for your family, your church, your civic group, your friends, or yourself. Free lunch for helpers. Things for all ages and skill sets and physical abilities to do. Start the day at the community pancake breakfast, 7 am to 10 am, at the Lodge Hall, 6227 N. Quincy Ave., $5 all you care to eat, then come to the park about half a mile away.

Two years ago we began using the largest, oldest church building, that had been abandoned for several years, at 5920 N. Owasso Ave., one block west of Peoria Ave. as our Welcome Table Community Center, with library, meeting space, computer center, clothing and more room, and food pantry, and art space. We continue to work on repurposing all of the property into community space, and our centerpiece now is the expanded Welcome Table Free Cornerstore Pantry where people come and select their own food items, as they would in a commercial for profit grocery, but with nutrition counselors, and where we have a counselor to help them sign up or ask questions about food assistance cards from the Dept. of Human Services. We provide opportunities for people who receive to give back to others too; and we will have our next Big Food Event, the Mobile Van Food Giveaway, on Friday, May 3. We are partnering with McLain High School on this event. Volunteers are needed to come help us from 9 am to noon, and receive a free lunch after the event. The very next day, Sat. May 4, from 11 am to 1 pm we will have a Community Food Day that combines our regular First Saturday gathering with a followup from the Mobile Van the day before. Volunteers are always needed at all events, including our weekly Wednesday Noon to 4 pm Community Food Day at the center.

But first, at the Center, on this Sunday, April 14, at 3 pm we will hold our open-sourced leadership circle to brainstorm and develop ideas and relationships and projects that keep us on the radical edge of growing community in abandoned places. It is where the idea for the expansion and change in the pantry emerged. On Sunday we will explore ways to turn requests for financial assistance into deeper relationships of economic investment in people no one else would invest in, as well as exploring ways to create a barter economy, and economic co-ops. And you never know what the Spirit will reveal.

Also this Sunday, we will leave from the Center at 4:30 pm to go to the 5 pm Taize worship service (or invite any who cant make the brainstorming to meet up with us there), with communion, and meal at Trinity Episcopal Church downtown at 5th and Cincinnati Ave. This is a missional act as well, as we are moving from creating "a church" to growing our participation as members in "the church," that people of God seeking in a myriad of ways to make the loving and liberating Jesus visible in the world. This past Sunday, as we will on the First Sundays, we held worship and communion with one of our local partner churches, Turley United Methodist Church, across from the gardenpark and orchard, and then we held a picnic lunch in the park. On Second Sundays we will go to Trinity downtown. On other Sundays we will worship with other churches across denominations, making connections, and growing relationships with them, moreso than feeling we have to create our own identity through worship each week, and sometimes we will still gather and lead worship in our own spaces at the park or center or out in abandoned places of the community, as it emerges organically, not organizationally.

(A personal missional aside note: Sometimes it seems worship, or rather liturgy, as wonderful as it is, can get in the way of the deep soulful community relational connecting with and through God and one another, especially if it begins to feel forced or added onto for its own sake. It has always been here one of the four paths of manifesting church: missional service to and with and for others, community and relationships among us, personal spiritual growth and learning, and also community worship. Experiencing worship with other diverse groups, retreating more, holding spiritual check-ins, even partying and sharing lives more all has a way of loosening us up and opening us up to the promptings of the Spirit, and moving us yet another way out of ourselves, over ourselves, de-centralizing ourselves so that we can serve others and God better. At least that has been part of the discernment underway, and the continiuing experiment with trial and error and epiphany that we call missional community. I will be looking at ways we incorporate prayer and response into as many of our missional moments together as possible, and also creating a separate spiritual center space as well for those who come to receive food or information or for meetings, etc, and wish to find worshipful space and resources, so worship may become more thoroughly infused into our work even as it becomes less something "we" do to create a sense of "we" on a set day and time.)

We are looking ahead to the weekend after this one already too for great community engagement. On Friday April 19 at 4 pm the McLain School Foundation meets at the school near us; and on Saturday, April 20 there is much community sports activities at O'Brien Park, and we will be focused on helping with the Global Youth Day at 10:30 am and the following Community Resource Fair at the new Health Dept. Wellness Center from Noon to 2 pm, all at 56th St. and Martin Luther King Blvd (formerly known as Cincinnati Ave.). Come experience and learn about what all is going on with many of the nonprofits in our area, and support the youth of McLain and northside schools and neighborhood youth regardless of where they go to school. Then at 6 pm on Saturday, April 20 you won't want to miss the McLain and Booker T. Washington Alumni Classic Basketball Game to be held at the BTW Nate Harris Field House, where we will have a booth for the McLain Foundation.

For the rest of the month after that, I will be out of the country in the Philippines as I go preach and talk and learn from the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines as it celebrates its 58th anniversary, having begun as an indigenous Christian Universalist church in and around Dumaguete in the Negros Oriental. I will be preaching on "Jesus' Lost and Found: Becoming Alive Again In and Through Community" based on the parable of the prodigal sons in the Gospel of Luke, and talking on The Missional Church, and planning how the UUCP and the UU Christian Fellowship can grow together and help us launch a new global initiative for progressive Christians within, related to, and beyond Unitarian Universalism and other faith communities. You can learn more about the church at And about the UUCF at

I am also working a lot these days on the Missional Revival 2013 in New Orleans: Jesus, Justice, and the Mission of the Post-Katrina Church" to be held Oct. 10-13 this year at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal at the First UU Church of New Orleans. All are welcome and invited to come help us work in New Orleans, and much worship, and have small group sessions and great social times, especially during the acclaimed Louisiana Seafood Festival. Our panel on the theme will include two dynamic local preachers and activists, Rev. David Billings, a United Methodist minister and anti-racist organizer, see, and Rev. Dr. Dwight Webster, an African American Baptist minister and seminary professor and community activist from New Orleans, see If you want to stay at the Center itself in the intentional spiritual community space, you will need to reserve space with us by June 7. We will have online registration up soon. But let me know if interested. We will also have a block of rooms reserved at the Garden District Hampton Inn for those who wish to stay there or register closer to the event. That hotel is right on the St. Charles Streetcar line and close to the church too. You can see lots more on the schedule, the worship services, the Center and more at our Facebook Event Page at

Finally, for those in the Tulsa area, keep Saturday May 11 in mind to come these way and experience Street Cred 2013, a community neighborhood makeover event for 36th and N. Peoria area, sponsored by Tulsa Young Professionals and others; we will have a booth at the event fair part of this glimpse into what renewal in the area can look like. Fun and Justice going together, growing together.
Thanks, blessings, and more soon,
thanks for all the prayers for all the above,

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