Archive for March, 2010

DART Stations of the Cross

// March 31st, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

DART Stations of the Cross is a community art project which links an ancient spiritual practice with mass transit. It is presented on Good Friday by two emergent churches in the Dallas area, Church in the Cliff and Journey. Participants are encouraged to arrive at the Mockingbird DART station between 6 and 7 pm this Friday, April 2nd and to look for volunteers with black armbands.
Volunteers will provide a set of fourteen devotional cards comprised of original paintings and poetry reflecting on the traditional themes of the Stations of the Cross. Riding from Mockingbird to the end of the line in South Dallas participants are encouraged to flip cards as they pass through the stations and to consider the ways they encounter God’s presence, or absence, in the urban landscape. You will be asked to get off the train three times — at Pearl, Union, and Ceders– as a movement of solidarity with Jesus each time he falls. (At all of these stations volunteers will greet you, and at the first one you will have the opportunity to donate to the Stewpot’s Open Studio which supports homeless artists). Once you reach Westmoreland, the last stop on the red line, you will receive final instructions before riding the train in silence back to Mockingbird station.
All are invited to participate! Ride alone or gather with a group of friends. For more information contact Courtney Pinkerton at 214. 233. 4605 or email
Quick Links:

Shadow Sides

// March 25th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV/adapted)

Jesus went on ahead of the disciples, heading towards Jerusalem.
As they were approaching Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of the disciples on ahead, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden.  ‘Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’
So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ ‘The Lord needs it’, they replied. Then the disciples brought the colt to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt’s back, they set Jesus on it.

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God enthusiastically for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

Palm Sunday: A Moment to Examine our own Contradictions
Scott and I had a conversation this week about the power of certain intimate friendships, including many found in this church, to call us back to ourselves. For example, last week when Scott got back from Hawaii, he and Lisa went out to dinner with Teri and Janalee. During the meal he was explaining how he was really struggling to lead DART Stations of the Cross this year. And he got two different responses. Teri reminded him that if it really was too much, he could set it down and everything would still be OK. And Janalee suggested that maybe he hadn’t done enough to really feel good about it yet.
Two very different responses. But somehow these friends created the space for him to set down a heavy expectation he was placing on himself that had him frozen and thereby, paradoxically, to choose to pick up and engage deeper in the work at hand. The work that he feels called to do.
It is possible to live one’s whole life on the surface and asleep–numb with fear and with pain. On Palm Sunday, we remember that Jesus rides a farm animal through all this numbness. Leveraging the shock value of his vulnerability as he rides unprotected into a dangerous situation, he calls out to us, Wake Up!
Talking to Scott got me thinking about the function of this community, and all true communities, as transformers. Meaning, what do we, the community, do with the pain and hurt and anxiety of each of our member’s individual lives? Do people leave worship or community meal carrying the same load? Or sometimes, do we succeed at converting these burdens into electrical current which galvanizes and provokes us to re-engage the work that we are called by the Spirit to pursue?
Palm Sunday gives us a chance to look inside the transformational process. With the sea of disciples in Luke’s passage, we see a crowd hungry for truth and meaning, yet also carrying seeds of doubt and capacities to turn toward anger and vengeance.
Now, not everyone in this triumphant scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem will later be crying out ‘Crucify him!’ Yet consider those followers with a less extreme change of heart. Those who just sat in their house and felt shame as the drama unfolded. Those who found everything they had wanted, or thought they wanted, shattered at their feet as Jesus was pulled deeper into the Lion’s den. Those who felt powerless to respond and powerless to even fully engage with what was happening. Might they have wondered what happened to the truth they had tasted with the call of Hosannah on their lips? And where was the future they thought Jesus was heralding?
All of these questions and yearnings are wrapped up in a swirl on Palm Sunday. It is a day of contrasts.
And those of us hungry for Truth cannot merely wave palm branches and lay down cloaks this Sunday without considering our own shadow sides: the fear and anxiety and seeds of doubt that block our path toward fuller living. And the invitation, reverberating through Jesus’ life and the prophets before him, to cultivate practices that transform our fear and our pain so we do not continue to transmit them.
What are these practices? They are simple and there are many. But time spent with truth-telling friends is surely one of them. People who love you enough to call you out when you are being lame, but who also love you enough to point the way home. For in these moments of intimacy we can be the face of Christ for one another. We can help each other to heed Jesus’ call as he enters Jerusalem: ‘Wake up!’ to the movement of the Spirit of God.
Join us tonight as we host new friends from Journey, a fellow emergent community of faith in Dallas, and together enter deeper into the heart of Lent as we prepare for DART Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, April 2nd. Paul is making lentils, Journey folks are bringing cookies to share. 108 S. Rosemont Ave, Dallas TX 75208.         214.233-4605. everyone welcome!

Jackals and Ostriches

// March 17th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Isaiah 43: 16-21
Thus says YHWH,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

Lent 2010: A Theology of Enough

Our church is filled with jackals and ostriches: the wild animals drawn to a stream in the desert. I woke up with this Isaiah passage in my mind and heart this morning. And before I was even awake I thought– this church is a river of life in a parched land.

Laura Fregin, the previous pastor at Church in the Cliff, used to say that our church was like a well. And people come to dip their toe in the water one last time before they decide to give up on organized religion. It is a lot of responsibility to be a healing station for people searching for a place to bring their whole selves: intellect, artistic sensibility, sexuality, and even their doubts and disbelief.

It reminds me that it is so important how we speak to and receive visitors. How we follow up on people that drop away. And that we hold people tenderly who are in the very healthy process of deconstructing and reconstructing the Big Truths. Honestly, deconstruction can make people hard to love. They (we) can be prickly and cranky.

There is a reason for this.  The soul is a wild animal.

Today’s Isaiah passage reminds me that God provides the nourishment for us all, even the wild ones. God gives water in the wilderness, makes rivers to flow through the desert. And out of this water comes life.

So our job is not to spoon feed each other so much as to honor the wildness in our peers and to trust that the Spirit is somehow providing for them, providing for us all. How to honor each other’s wild bits?

Move slowly, speak softly. Sit and wait, and be patient with each other.
These are all really good Lenten practices too. And just one more: be patient with your own untamed needs and desires. Isaiah reminds us that the rivers of water are intended for even the most dangerous and outlandish of God’s creations. 


God is always about doing the new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I see it in so many of the lives of this community: individuals showing up to their work, their relationships, their journey with integrity and grace. I felt it also this past week when we announced that we are welcoming a new baby into the Amory-Pinkerton clan.

You know, in a lot of churches the pastor is sort of seen as public property. Even in the church I was part of in Boston which was progressive and artsy,  I remember hearing people grumble when the pastor got pregnant saying “it is not really a good time in the life of the church…” or “this will distract her from our work…”

But here, with this group of people, I trust that I am being tutored in how to live an authentic life. I sense that this community wants fullness and goodness for me just as I want it for all of you. And God can blend all that we are called to be: in my case mother, pastor, writer, organizer, dreamer even when the world would suggest these roles are incompatible.

Somehow, we are managing to be Church, in a church, and that is no small accomplishment. In a culture which often defines church as a building or a group with a shared set of assumptions or beliefs, I give thanks to YHWH for this place where our souls can show up, with all their wild desires, and be tended to by community and given some cool water to drink.

Our church is filled with jackals and ostriches and you are Enough.

Peace of Christ this day,


Join us tonight for baked potatoes, salas and ice cream at the new ‘horsey house’ aka Wes, Teri, and Kristin’s home here in Oak Cliff. 830 N. Bishop, 75208. In honor of St. Patrick’s day there will be baked potato’s, some wacky Irish tunes courtesy of Trinity River Folk and a festive atmosphere. Kids and Adults all welcome!

I’m sick of Lent

// March 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

I’m tired of Lent.
The worship team hatched this clever idea of trying to ‘destabilize’ our regular worship pattern during Lent as a way of asking how much is Enough? How much can we strip away and still have a Holy encounter? What if we mess up the chairs and make it all chaotic and/or force people to set up their own place? Does God still meet us there in between the ducks and the community basketball game? Do we feel Her move?
What if we change around the order of service and move Communion before the Conversation? Does it still provide us with us with a mysterious encounter of enough?
I want to say ‘Enough’ to our exploration of ‘Enough’. I think we have been too successful at our own plan of destabilizing, which makes me appreciate again the precious nature of the space we create on Sunday morning. We may meet in a Rec center. People may interrupt us with phone calls or dribbling balls or shaking the snack machine.
But it is still a thin place. A threshold of the Divine. And all this destabilizing has left me a bit disoriented, hungry and wanting of God. And that is a Lenten place.
But still, I’m sick of Lent.
I like to snuggle up next to God, and to feel held, wanted, and inspired. And last week I just really wasn’t feeling it. I just wanted to sit there and watch the ducks in the rain. But instead we had these disorganized chairs. And beautiful and HARD scriptures to wrestle with. And so I said some things. And we talked a little. But I worry many of us left feeling a little off. (Note: If you did not feel off and had a beautiful experience, I totally affirm that as I know the Spirit has the power to move in mysterious and differentiated ways).
Ross says he comes to church every week he’s in town because some days something incredible happens, and you never know which day it is going to be. And this raises the question, what do we do with those other days? The not incredible ones? How do we make sense of them?
They serve to remind me that Something (or Someone) is there below the good or easy worship feelings. There is a presence to be sensed just in the rhythmic breathing of a few gathered souls. In the tending to our children, in the openness in their faces. In the watching of the rain, together. It is enough. Even when it isn’t.
So all this feeling of ‘offness’ makes me really primed to get the parable of the prodigal son and the desire for grace that it so beautifully describes.
The sensory details are what get me about this parable: A stoic patriarch who leaves behind the social constraints of his day to run out and gather a lost child into his arms. The weight of a robe of quality fabric draped on the dusty shoulder of a weary traveler. The smell of grilled meat prepared and shared with all the neighbors. The taste of bile in the older son’s mouth, and the tender response of the Father-“There is more than enough.”
This life is not a zero sum game.
So we keep walking through Lent. One week at a time. One story at a time. Join us tonight for some spaghetti and good company. 6:30 Casa Semrad108 South Rosemont Ave. 214. 233-4605 for more info.  And join us Sunday as we seek God’s dynamic center even in our own imbalance.
PS All Church Meeting this Sunday at 10am
. Contact Ross or Kristin for more info.

Take This Bread

// March 3rd, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Isaiah 55: 1-9 (inclusive text) “Ho, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy food and eat! Come, buy wine and milk, without money, without price! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you will eat well, you will delight in rich fare; bend your ear and come to me, listen, that you may have life: I will make an everlasting Covenant with you– in fulfillment of the blessings promised to David. See, I have made of you to be a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the nations. See, you will summon nations you never knew, and nations that never knew you will come hurrying to you- for the sake of YHWH, while I may still be found, call upon me while I am near! Let the corrupt abandon their ways, the evil their thoughts. Let them return to YHWH, and I will have mercy on them; return to God, for I will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, my ways,” says YHWH. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Lent 2010: A Theology of Enough

The Isaiah passage for this week raises some interesting questions that disrupt a simplistic take on Lent as merely the season “to give up” or even to “take one” new practices. Isaiah probes deeper – asking his minority community in exile: “What are you really hungry for?” “What do your feed yourselves with?” And perhaps most interestingly for our contemporary context “What do you spend your money on which doesn’t actually nourish you?” Calling out with the cadence of a merchant at a busy market, Isaiah invites his listeners to come, even with no money in our pockets, and to fill arms and baskets with Yahweh’s good food and drink.

———————————————————————————————- While taking communion for the first time in her forties, Sara Miles had an encounter with the Divine. “God is real!” she proclaimed to herself, and “God is in my mouth!” She wept and her hands shook as she struggled to assimilate this powerful embodied experience into her previous assumptions about life. Week after week she came back, to a funky, artsy Episcopal church in San Francisco, hungry for the Mystery. Clint placed Sara’s book, Take this Bread, in my hand a few Sundays ago. And I devoured it. Her story moves quickly, from a chance Eucharistic experience after wandering into St. Gregory’s to check out the architecture, to a powerful desire to extend the table even further. She partners with the local Food Bank and opens a neighborhood pantry in her church’s sanctuary. It is not a program, but a community of prayer and one ultimately run by volunteers who rise up from the ranks of those who come weekly to shop for a free bag of groceries. Rather than pious church ladies doling out food to the poor with a do-gooders smile, think instead of crack addicts, prostitutes, noisy Chinese and Russian immigrants, and the mentally ill, homeless and abused. Together, the volunteers receive and organize pallets of food delivered Friday morning by the food pantry truck, welcome visitors with a snack and a random number (no ID or proof of income necessary), and invite them into the church in small groups to shop with dignity and in peace. (Fresh produce, bread, cereal, and dried goods are piled up on and around the altar, and in the center of the sanctuary they place a ‘holy compost bin’ for scraps). In a matter of weeks they are feeding two hundred and fifty folks, in a few years they have launched nearly a dozen additional neighborhood pantries around the city. And along the way they learn to see God breaking into the world, incarnate, in the flesh of one another. For the poor who volunteer, the physical work and intimacy of the distribution of food, gives them a place to contribute even as they struggle with very real challenges in their own lives. For the sick in mind and body, St. Gregory’s pantry is a community to anoint them with scented oil, and pray for healing and release from pain. For the volunteers from the “regular” Sunday morning congregation (who tend to be wealthy and educated) the pantry gives them an opportunity to find meaning and freedom in unlikely friendships. Ultimately the boundaries between different kinds of people: well-off and needy, believers and nonbelievers, sober and struggling, healthy and sick begin to become pliable, and to bend and crack as the light of God’s kingdom shines through.

Ho, everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters: And you that have no money, Come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, And your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, And delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me: Listen, so that you may live.

The worship team has been considering organizing a book study for the Great Fifty days of Easter. I think we may have found our book, rising organically from the hands of the librarian in our midst! I encourage you to order a copy of Sara Miles’ Take This Bread and we will dive into it together starting the Wednesday after Easter (April 7). Also join us tonight and Sunday as we continue to journey together in the wilderness adding Isaiah’s questions to our own as we meditate on where and how we encounter God’s Enough. Peace of Christ to you this day, Courtney PS. Lisa and Teri are preparing Thai food for tonight, all are welcome! Jesus and hand-made spring rolls, what’s not to like? 6:30 Casa Semrad108 South Rosemont Ave. 214. 233-4605 for more info.