Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Thanksgiving and Advent Church

Hi all. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Advent.

First, a few announcements then a few stories:

This past Friday was Buy Nothing Day, when we join with others around the globe in creating a counter culture to the consumerist "Black Friday" that seeks to promote affluence, appearances, and the nation's perceived GNP at the expense of the real health of individuals and families and communities. Starting at 9 a.m. we held our Giveaway Day from the donation room of A Third Place and offer our space for people to bring items of their own to giveaway to others. Our donation room works to promote this culture shift every day but we are pleased to yoke it with the annual Buy Nothing Day movement. I get more than a little "prophetic" when I keep hearing how important corporate "profits" are to our future if those are dependent, as so many are pushing regardless of political affiliation, on increased consumer spending and easier debt and disposable marketentertainmentplace values and products.

Sunday join us at Church of the Restoration, just south of Pine on Greenwood, at 11 a.m. for worship where I will be preaching on Advent and a theology of presence in north Tulsa through the mission of our churches.
And keep Sunday, Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. in mind when I will be with the Metropolitan Community Church United of Tulsa near the Airport. See

WOW: Weekly on Wednesdays beginning this Advent, on Dec. 3:
7 a.m. Morning Prayer and Midweek Meditation and Breakfast, a short period of centering the soul.
11 a.m. Bible Chat with Ron
Noon Prayer and Meal
6 pm to 8 pm Vespers Meal, Conversation, Advent Communion

Dec. 3, 10, 17 our Advent study will focus on Shane Claiborne's book "Becoming the Answers to Our Prayers."

This Thanksgiving Day was a great demonstration of our incarnational way of being the church. It was a kind of parable of us. Many churches do wonderful things on and for Thanksgiving; the line at John 3;16 mission for free turkeys stretched down the block when I went by there the other day, and I heard many stories of churches giving out food so families could make their own meals; and I know some families who passed the word that those who needed a place to eat with others could come to where they were gathered. These are part of the "come to us" type of churches, and we need more like them. But we also need more like ours, a "be amongst others" church, a go to them and learn from them, dedicated above all to creating relationships, connections, community and not just providing a handout or a service. We ate our meal with about 30 others at A Third Place, and some brought something to share too, and helped others while they were here; our new stove donated by a member of the wider community and connected by a volunteer; one of our new volunteers prepared all the place settings so people wouldn't fill like they were going through a line, and also cleaned the children's room; and people who couldn't eat with us brought food and will be around to serve and share leftover meals during the Giveaway Day tomorrow; plates of food were made and taken to those homebound during visits. We learned stories from those we ate with, and got ideas for ways we could partner with them, like the women who showed up from the local horse rescue group. We had people who had never been to the community center before too, but who will be back. A new Turley Tradition was started with this meal.

The day before Thanksgiving a man who had hitchhiked from Washington found his way to the Center to seek help in using our computers to try to find a relative in the area; a thanksgiving reunion happened at the Center.

We began our season of Reverse Offering this past Wednesday during Vespers when we distributed money to be used as people can come up with ideas on how that money can seed change in people or communities. We will share our stories in January on the Wednesday near Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is our preparation period to focus ourselves on the coming of Christmas, the Incarnation, the spirit becoming flesh, becoming meaty, becoming vulnerable, when the Spirit of God became visible in the world through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time when we enter into the story of how the divine spirit came not to the showy, the wealthy, the powerful, the resourceful, the institutional, not to any place and people where it would be expected by the world. Instead it came to a single poor young woman living in an unknown and unregarded part of the world under occupation by the world's mightiest power, when God switched sides, when it took on a human face, an earthy experience, one susceptible to all that we are susceptible to, even penultimately ending up on a cross. That is something worth following a star toward...It is something to use as a model for our lives and for our faith communities. This Advent let's contemplate how our churches and our lives are Advent-ures of an incarnational kind.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Below and off and on I have mentioned New Monastic movement, and gradually I have been drawn to the balance of missional-monastic for the vision of where we might go with our community here. A lot of this might depend on some discerning and dreaming we are doing around a possible new and much larger space, an old church building near us, but more with the desire to be an urban monastery or house of hospitality in this abandoned place of Empire we live in, as a way of creating a culture counter to the one about us, bringing back daily communal open to all public prayer, sharing of possessions and giving of them away, and our working together in service beyond ourselves. However, I am not sure we will become monastic in the sense of sharing living space on a daily basis with other members of the community, as is the monastic custom both old and new. Who knows what the future holds, but one way to move in this direction is to seek to live monastically, even if not as monastics. A recent read here in this regard is Karen Sloan's Flirting With Monasticism: Finding God on Ancient Paths. The main take-away that moves beyond the specifics of her own story is that we individually and communally can benefit from learning with and from and taking into our disciplines what the various traditions of monasticism have given us; there may be much that is not transferrable, but it is a conversation to become engaged with. I hope to revisit it here more soon. Oh, and The New Friars by Scott Bessenecker is one I might have mentioned too that has a helpful and different take on missional-monastic, and how friars, as opposed to monks, have been more popularly seen as out on their own or in pairs working in the world instead of, or in addition to, time withdrawn from the world. It is all transformational though.

This Advent will be eventful though as a few seeds and steps begin.

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From Next Gen leaders in Sojourners

This begins a series of quick quotes and excerpts and marginalia from not too long ago reading.

From Sojourners back in June:

Eliacin Rosario-Cruz ( & see below for comments on Tom Sine's book): Christians need to create contexts in which we live out the way of Jesus---physical places and relationships in which the story given to us by a market-driven, individualistic, racist, sexist system is challenged and subverted." What gives him hope? Easter. My daughter's love for gardening. Our little community of the Mustard Seed House. Friendship with other young conspirators. Libraries. Autonomous social movements in the Global South. Street artists. Workers co-ops in Argentina. Potlucks. Horizontalismo. New Monastics. DIY culture.

Lyndsay Moseley, Sierra Club---As John Muir said, "Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal body and soul alike."

Beauty, play, prayer, nature, healing---good guides for the road ahead here, things to look for as we grow organically and in that wonderful phrase, and statement of mission, create contexts in which we live out the way of Jesus.

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About us in "Small Talk"; Missional-Monastic?

The final part of the three part essay on us that I wrote for Small Talk publication is now available on its website. Thanks so much for their work and for highlighting ours. Go to and click on newsletters and go to volume 6 or Support their mission.

Things develop and evolve so fast when you move from organizational to organic. I can already see how this essay written just a few months ago was right at the turning point of how we had transformed from what most folks think of as church into being more of a missional group with weekly worship more like part of our mission to ourselves, resting in God's presence, so we can continue embodying that presence to others. Now I wonder what we might be able to write about us a year or two from now, as we begin to add, bit by bit (see the post below), monastical to missional.

In his latest good book, The New Conspirators, Tom Sine has a good overview of the different streams of dawning church that he calls 1. emerging. 2. missional, 3. mosaic, and 4. monastic. I will try to comment on these more in the coming days, but I can see us in our existing group anyway straddling the missional-monastic, having moved away from the emergent attempt back in 2003. It is also fun to see a developing mosaic type church with the changes that have begun at All Souls in Tulsa with the weaving together of that church with the members of the previous New Dimensions Church led by Carlton Pearson. More to come.

Icons and Images, Retreat and Turley

It has been quiet for a while here on the blog as work and local action get busy, but I have been accumulating a lot of bits and pieces that I will be posting in the days to come to make up. Here to start is some more about some recent travels and upcoming events in the neighborhood through the Living Room Church and A Third Place Center. It begins with a reflection on a spiritual retreat again at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham MA.

It was wonderfully refreshing to be on spiritual retreat at Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine home of hospitality near Massachusett's Cape Code. A spiritual retreat is somewhat of a misnomer since so much of it has to do with bodily rest, bodily rhythms and re-orientation, and rediscovering the joy of simple physical things. And I am thankful to be home. The particular focus of the conversation during the retreat was on "Seeing Jesus" and on the physical presentations of what no one can re-present physically, which is what Jesus looked like. I looked at hundreds of diverse images and icons made of faces and bodies in a myriad of poses, all called Jesus, and from nearly all centuries since Jesus, some by famous artists, some by artists I want to get to know better, and some by the early faithful followers of Jesus in the catacombs and elsewhere who are and always will be unknown, and whom I think I would like to know best of all.

And so now here in Turley again I find the vibrant and comforting and challenging spirit behind those images and icons of Jesus, this time shining through the people around here and in this place. Spending a lot of time looking at faces in art helps, believe me, to see more clearly and more deeply the faces we encounter all around us--especially if those faces in art have themselves tried to convey a glimpse of the divine.

I thought during the retreat of how,during the births of our two daughters, Bonnie followed that contemporary ritual of birthing, having a special photograph, a face, to center her thoughts during labor, a makeshift altar in a hospital room; and how important it is, for the same reason, to have little altars around us all the time, at home in corners, on the refrigerator, in our cars, out in our yards, on our desks or workplaces wherever possible, little bits and pieces of sacredness to re-orient us, like prayer, throughout our day. I know I need to fill my canvass of life with these iconic reflections more often.

And I know that all our A Third Place/Living Room Church gatherings of service and study and communion and community times are themselves images of Jesus which help us to find the Spirit and, refreshed, let it go to be born into the world.

And so as we draw into the special marking of the Thanksgiving Season, we are thankful for all that is being born within and among and beyond us, through us--and we have an eye, an expectant and eager eye, on the Advent and Christmas season and all that may, yet, be born which we have no inkling of now.

Who could have, for example, forseen the following, these times ahead on our schedule below where we enter into our mission of "becoming a body of people, who make Jesus visible in the world?." Everyday, it seems, something new is being born....

Wednesday, Nov. 19--6 p.m. meal, conversation, communion. We may be spending our time after the meal exploring a possible new and much larger building for our missions; we may be revisiting what it means to be ethical eaters and our developing food ministries, and how all of it grows out of and feeds into our sense of what communion is in our radical hospitality tradition, drawing from a recent and wonderful book called "Take This Bread" by writer, lesbian, political radical leftist, cook, Episcopalian Sara Miles (check out Come and see what all happens.

Friday, Nov. 21, I will be meeting here in Turley with an ACORN representative for some learning and connections, then meeting again with the TU law clinic to continue our project developments, and then meeting with representatives from the Kendall-Whittier community association to talk about their history of renewal.

The health clinic meets every Monday, Tuesday and Friday full day here, except for during the Thanksgiving week. Call A Third Place or OU 660-3613 for information on access during that week.

Saturday, Nov. 22, 12-step The Lighthouse meets at 7:30 p.m. here.

Sunday, Nov. 23, worshipping with Church of the Restoration at 11 a.m., Pine and Greenwood.

Tuesday, Nov. 25 we will be meeting with a member of OU Social Work Department again, this time about developing projects and particularly partnerships for our community gardening. Just today I had new leads and people wanting to help us with this work. Then at 7 p.m. meet with the Turley Community Association at O'Brien Park.

Wednesday, Nov. 26, 6 pm meal, conversation, communion: a look at how prayer can change the world, based on the new book by Shane Claiborne, "Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: prayer for ordinary radicals." [If you'd like to share in this conversation with us, let me know for a free copy of the book].

Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 1 pm we will bring our families, our food, and meet with others in our wider community who will bring their families, and if possible, their food, and share in this holiday meal and time together at our Center. All for free. We will also launch our Buy Nothing Day events encouraging people to take from our wonderful bargain donation room instead of shopping for new things for Christmas.

Oppose "Black Friday", Buy Nothing Day, Friday, Nov. 28. On the day the consumerist society seeks to encourage debt and bankruptcy of many in order that a few may reap increasing profits and on that day supposedly "go into the black or plus side of the business ledger" we will offer our alternative society counterweight of giving away nearly everything we can out of our donation room and plus from our homes, helping people fight the system of "gotta have it" labels and gadgets, recovering the joys of sharing. Come by and help us give to all freely. We have great books, clothes, large items, weird items, and more. The five and dime store is back, for free. This will help us create room for expanding our "lending library of tools and medical equipment and other items of necessity that not all need to own separately."

Sunday, Nov. 30, First Day of Advent, 11 a.m. Church of the Restoration. I will be leading worship and preaching on our mission in north Tulsa and Turley, our theology of presence, our inside-out church. Get a preview by going to look at the three part series of essays I wrote for Small Talk magazine, volume six in the newsletter section at

Beginning in the Advent Season, the season of new spiritual birth, Wednesdays beginning Dec. 3 will become a Mid-Week Day of Monastery and Meditation here, in addition to our missional daily work, we will have 15-30 minute morning prayer and breakfast at 7 a.m. (if you are interested but an earlier or later time in the morning would work for you, just let me know and we will see how it goes as we develop this); noon prayer and bible chat and lunch, and then our weekly Wednesday vespers beginning with meal at 6 p.m. All free, for all. If you'd like to be a prayer or meal leader during one of these times, just let me know. Come share with me also ways we can transform some of our inside space, and the new backalley space, into places for solitude and silence, even if it is semi-solitude and semi-silence of course. It's time for me also to resurrect my "Souls and Soles" meditative walking, so if you would like a walking partner, or want to join me, drop me a line and we can connect, same goes for those who would like an hour of spiritual reflection scheduled monthly.

A look ahead: Friday, Dec. 5, 5:30 p.m. at Tulsa Community College, meeting with other community organizers in north Tulsa House District 72; Tuesday, Dec. 9, noon, special program on personal and neighborhood safety by Sherry Clark, see; Saturday, Dec. 13, a special day of community gardening and transforming one of our neglected intersections in Turley; Sunday, Dec. 14 I will be in church and leading conversation on missional church with the Tulsa Metropolitan Community Church ( and looking for ways to partner; also look forward to our tour and meeting at the Turley Correctional/Residential Center next month, developing co-mission with the YWCA of north Tulsa on issues such as anti-racism and living multi-culturally with the YWCA, holding a program on disabilities awareness and learning how to be more hospitable, and a relaxing time for celebrating Christmas with one another, and for all those relationships and community and missions bubbling up and taking shape, and those I know I have forgotten to mention here that I should have. Looking even further ahead: plan to be a part of our local welcoming group working with the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship Revival as it comes to Tulsa and also to Turley, go to and especially click on the Revival link, and let me know you would like to be a part of it in March, and plan now to go to the regional UU summer camp this year at Western Hills Resort near Wagoner, a short drive from us, Aug. 2-7, part or all of the week.

Also I go to Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa at Admiral and Mingo on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. for chapel and then, as Director of Ministerial Formation for UU students, meet with students and others at noon meal for wonderful conversation, and would love to have you join with me sometime as my guest, especially if you are interested in seminary or possibly just taking some courses there. Let me know as there are some weeks that the seminary does not have these activities, such as next week during Thanksgiving Week.