Archive for April, 2011

Potluck Feast this Sunday

// April 28th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Easter is called the ‘feast of feasts’ in the liturgical calendar. More than just one Sunday, Eastertide is actually a seven week long honeymoon for the church as we savor the sweetness of life and liberation. This Eastertide Church in the Cliff is launching a series called ‘Fresh Expressions’ and opening the door to creative and out of the ordinary uses of our Sunday morning gathering.

This week we are keeping it simple: an old school potluck with friends. Join us for good food and easy conversation. We also might sing a few hymns!

10am set up
11am eating time

Janalee is organizing the meal. Email for details or to let her know you are bringing something.


// April 22nd, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, DART Stations of the Cross

Night has fallen.

Several members of our community wrote meditations for a Good Friday community art project. We share them here, grateful for community voices and relationships on this lonely night.  Thank you Robert, Stephanie, Genny, Adam, and Alan for daring to wrap words around the stations of the cross.

 Station 2:

Jesus takes up his cross, and bids us do the same. A stranger in his own land, we too are foreign to those who bend the knee to the state, market, party, or even their own voices and vices. Accused by the powers of a crime he didn’t commit, we who would follow him are accused also- of too much orthodoxy or too little, too many good works and often not enough, too much activism yet too little impact. He picks up the instrument of his own death: not a trinket, not a bauble, not a point of contention regarding its symbolic meaning, but a syringe full of poison, a hangman’s noose, the electric chair he’ll strap himself into. He knows what his fate will be, and embraces it, knowing it is the only way to save us- not from him, but from ourselves, from our own merciless self-condemnation.

Station 3 – Jesus Falls.






Hands, feet, face – all caked with dust that tastes like the

                remainder of the kin-dom dream (so close!)

                now discarded for reality (pragmatic).

The young ones wonder –

                should we still follow through?

The old ones breath in –

                could we?

The dust simply asks the people to see this moment,

                to record it in your very bones so that every movement of your life

                enacts its memory.

Jesus in the Dust, Again  (Station 7)

I’ve heard privilege called “a special entitlement to immunity,” and, “having the option not to think about something.”  Privilege is tricky – it looks different on different people, and gets uniquely lived in this weird combination of systemic advantage/disadvantage and personal context.  Our fragility invites us to clutch privilege close, using what we’ve got to build a kind of immunity-fort…privilege, I think, is being able to avert my eyes from a human being who keeps falling down into the dust, broken and chewed up for any number of reasons.  Whatever caused that suffering, it’s easier to simply cash in the privilege chips and not think about that dusty bit of God lying in the dirt. Maybe one of the paths to honestly engaging our own humanity, then, is exhaling – and looking over at the hard truths written on dusty faces.

Station 10: Jesus Stripped of His Clothing

Jesus you came into this world naked, bare with nothing but what was within. 

In the last hours, your purple robe, your plain but priestly covering was stripped away.  Stripped violently away to reveal the stripes on Your back,

the blood streaming from the wounds,

the parted flesh red with abuse. 

You are naked, bare, save for the crown of thorns that have been pushed down into your scalp and face,

with crimson streams flowing down. 

Covered only in the life fluid of your body,

the Paschal Lamb is




off to slaughter.

 Station 11: Jesus Nailed to the Cross

I can still hear the sound. 

A terrible crack, a thud, a loud moan, the sound of breaking bone and severed sinew, over

and over. 

I think, that was too much.  I cannot bear it.  My sweet Savior being so brutally abused.  Then I realize, it was only one hand,

only the first nail. 

I can’t stand to watch, the pain burns inside me as I hear a 2nd unmistakable sound,

the crack, thud, over and over

and then it is done. 

My sweet Lord is stretched out, as far as his arms will go,

agonizingly spread open,

in His final invitation,

His final offering,

in a distance as far as the east is from the west,

showing us

the extent of His love.

 “Get off your cross, honey! Somebody needs the wood!”

Dolly Parton as Dr. Shirley in Straight Talk

Christian tradition does not ask us to contemplate Jesus’ death and suffering because we need to feel guilty. We journey through the stations on Good Friday because we need to remember what too often happens to those prophets and messengers who call us to divinely inspired living here on earth. The crucifixion accounts comprise a very short portion of each of the gospels. Why? Because while we should reflect on the human actions that set in motion Jesus’ crucifixion, the gospels call us to continue Jesus’ work to create a more loving and just world. Rather than getting up on that cross with Jesus or identifying with the nails going into his hands, I think Holy Wisdom calls us to take down that cross and use the wood and nails to build a better world.

Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross

From the sixth hour to the ninth hour

it was darkness

In the brightest part of the day

It was darkness

With just a few spectators and friends and His mother

They await in darkness

The body is breathing so slowly, faintly, painfully,

words come out in hoarse whispers

“Adoni, Adoni why have You forsaken me”

And the darkness envelops them and Him

The bitter cup of sin is offered, then drank

The sin of all times, before/after and beyond

The rancid taste of our shortcomings

Is consumed in one last act


“It is finished”


Good Friday is also Earth Day. While we remember Jesus’ suffering we also lament the suffering of our planet. A Litany.

God the Creator, humanity now lives in a nuclear age

Earth have mercy

God the Christ, embodied on earth,

Earth have mercy

God, the Holy Spirit, moving on the face of the troubled waters

Earth have mercy

Heart of Jesus the Christ, stirred by disaster,

Earth have mercy

Heart of Jesus the Christ, source of all consolation,

Earth have mercy

Heart of Jesus the Christ, our life and resurrection,

Earth have mercy

Heart of Jesus the Christ, our peace and our reconciliation,

Earth have mercy

Maundy Thursday Walking Meditation Tonight at 12 Hills Nature Center

// April 21st, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Join us tonight at 12 Hills Nature Center to walk in the rain.

Maundy Thursday

Walking Meditation

12 Hills Nature Center

This is an invitation to place your own story, in this wild field of a garden at this moment in time, into communion with a very old story that also takes place in a garden. The garden story of Maundy Thursday has a mystical and painful resonance – shaded by night, with people too sleepy or too acutely aware that darkness of another kind looms large. If you would like, walk this path and let your steps, breaths and thoughts carry you into a story told for two millennia, and consider the reverberations of this story in your life, particularly and also communally. For if Maundy Thursday is about anything at all, it is about living in the stark reality of relationship.

Begin by walking for about a minute, figuring out how long it takes for you to match your steps to your breath – allow your inhaling and your exhaling to become equal in length (for example, 3 steps to inhaling, 3 steps to exhaling). Allow yourself to settle into this cadence, taking in all of the speech around you that is beyond human language.

After a meal which celebrated loving God, each other and the dream of a just world, Jesus and his disciples went to a garden, a place they often gathered, to pray and wait.

Keeping your breath and steps evenly matched, journey down the path. Be present to the sacredness and the mystery of life, knowing that your story is part of this story and all others.


The stories tell us that Jesus was aware that suffering lay before him, and he was grieving and anxious.

Stop for a moment. You share the same emotions as Jesus of Nazareth, and small children, and Mohandas Gandhi, and inmates at the county jail. The same sort of skin and bones and blood cover and support your life, and the life of the more than 6 billion human beings currently on this planet.

Begin to walk again, allowing your breath, and steps, and even your grief and anxieties to connect you to the community of humanness, a fragility and finitude shared by all creatures.

He wanted those he loved dearly to keep him company while he cried and prayed.

Stop once more. Concentrate on your breath coming in and going out. Who are those whose company you hold dear in the midst of hardship? To who/what/where would you like to be more connected in those moments? Recall the people, ideas, and places firmly to your mind, and begin to walk again.

He asked that the suffering might pass from him.

Stop. Observe this place – grass, flowers, path, dirt, animals of all kinds. Many people disliked Jesus because of the things he said and did, and he knew he would suffer because of this. The life of Jesus

which we admire, emulate and worship was one that lead to suffering and death. What difficult things are you being called to in this season of life? All of life is connected, and your actions matter. Breath in this awareness, and remain still for a moment.As you are ready, begin mindfully walking again, matching your steps and your breath.

But it did not. His friends disappointed him and one betrayed him, and in the garden where he prayed often and likely found vision and inspiration in past times, he was wracked with sobs and felt the pain of the way forward.

Keep walking this path, listening to your breath, and the sounds of the world around you. This is a moment in the dark – sometimes they do not abate quickly, if at all. Good Friday is yet to come in this story – it is just about to begin. How do you make sense of this experience? Do you assign it cosmic purpose – Godʼs will? Or, the frustrating status quo – The injustice of those holding power in society? Or even – The fear swirling around the hearts of creatures who destroy as well as create and love?

Maybe all, or none of the above. Continue walking, paying attention to your breath and the sound of your feet connecting with the path. Some questions are better unanswered, perhaps.

Genny Rowley April 2011

Genny Rowley April 2011

Holy Week Special Events

// April 20th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Maundy Thursday Service at 12 Hills Nature Center. 6:30pm
Join us this Thursday at an urban nature preserve in Oak Cliff. Come at 6:30 to walk a bit of the trails and listen to the birds. At 7pm we will gather for a walking meditation to commemorate this day, also called the “Thursday of mysteries,” as we remember Jesus and his commandment to love one another.
Map and Directions to 12 Hills Nature Center.
Good Friday Film Screening of ‘Son of Man’ 6:30pm

The Shirleys host screening of a South African retelling of the Jesus story and serve a simple meal.
221 S. Edgefield, Dallas 75208
(Note- DART Stations has been cancelled this year. see below)
For the past two years, DART Stations of the Cross has served as a way for our community to contemplate the meaning of the cross.  It has been rewarding for many of us both as participants and organizers.
Unfortunately, we simply weren’t able to put it together this year.  The submissions we had were beautiful and heartfelt, but we still lacked about half of them earlier this week.  With mounting schoolwork, I haven’t had the time to give the project the personal attention it needs to succeed.  And so I regretfully say goodbye to DART Stations for 2011.
The submissions will be posted on our Web site for the community to read. I hope that those who contributed met God at some point in the process and I invite everyone who is available to join me on Good Friday for the screening of ‘Son of Man.’
Grace and Peace,
Scott Shirley
Holy Saturday Easter Egg Decoration Event
Jen and Teri invite the young ones and the young at heart to decorate eggs for Easter morn. Bring a dozen hardboiled eggs – they will provide the dye, paints, stickers and other goodies. 4:00 – 6:00 PM Sat at Jen’s place.
Easter Sunday

10am Easter Egg Brunch.
Come enjoy hand-decorated Easter eggs, fruit and other treats. Also we will fill eggs with candy and homespun blessings to be shared with passersby.

11am. Easter Worship.
Join us for a grassrootsy celebration with our new community choir as we together pot a tree of life.

DART Stations of the Cross Cancelled

// April 20th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, DART Stations of the Cross

For the past two years, DART Stations of the Cross has served as a way for our community to contemplate the meaning of the cross.  It has been rewarding for many of us both as participants and organizers. 
Unfortunately, we simply weren’t able to put it together this year.  The submissions we had were beautiful and heartfelt, but we still lacked about half of them earlier this week.  With mounting schoolwork, I haven’t had the time to give the project the personal attention it needs to succeed.  And so I regretfully say goodbye to DART Stations for 2011.
Thank you for your contributions.  We would like to post them on our Web site on Good Friday.  I hope that those who wrote met God at some point in the process.
Also, I would like to invite everyone to my house on Good Friday for a screening of Son of Man, a South African retelling of the Jesus story.  There will be a simple meal. 6:30pm 221 S. Edgefield Ave.  I hope you can make it.
Grace and Peace,
Scott Shirley, Artist-in-residence
Church in the Cliff

The Interior Cave

// April 15th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Dear friends,

This week we celebrate Palm Sunday: a liturgical moment which contains so much of the complexity of life on the Jesus Way. We shout hosanna like the sisters and brothers who gathered around Jesus on his journey into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). We too yearn for a glimpse of a different way of life. Can you picture it? The children swept up in excitement, cutting palm fronds and running alongside a donkey. The crowd pressing in—hungry for liberation, yearning for healing, hoping for a leader to show them the way home. Jesus and the disciples all playing a part in street theater which subversively mocked Caesar and revealed the limits of an oppressive imperial power.
Palm Sunday is a liminal zone. The hosannas don’t hold. The crowd, like most, is vulnerable to changes in the wind. Yet I think they called out with full hearts in that moment, and their hosannas reveal a deeper truth. It reminds me of a documentary, “the Congregation” I saw several years ago which details the story of Rev. Beth Stroud, a gay pastor in the United Methodist Church. Supported by her local church leaders Beth courageously “came out” from the pulpit. She acknowledged in her sermon that she did not know what the future would hold. She saw with clear eyes that her existence as on ordained UMC Elder in full standing and a gay woman in a committed relationship were likely not tenable due to the broken policies of the church. But then she squared her shoulders and took a breath and explained that she was not afraid: “After all, here I am, for this Sunday at least, and perhaps for many months to come, your openly lesbian, fully credentialed, United Methodist pastor. I am excited to be able to give you the gift of my whole self in the fullest expression of my ministry, for however much time we may have.”
I encourage you to read the full sermon. Beth clearly has transcended a dualistic mind. She is not the victim, and she makes very clear that the Bishop and religious hierarchy is not the enemy. She challenges her progressive congregation to love each other well and to deliver casseroles and to pray, so that they can nourish each other for the journey together.  She received a standing ovation. A year and a half later she was stripped of her ministry credentials.
What does it take to be a guide in the in-between moments? How can one ride through the heat of the crowds yet stay connected to God’s wisdom? How to work for justice and not create enemies? How can one communicate peace and calm in the midst of the storm of our human longings and fears?
If you watch the excerpt from Beth’s sermon, I think you will see her drawing from an inner chamber of calm: a reservoir of the soul which grants ready access to God’s presence. This is what the desert mothers and fathers called our cell or nest.  It is the Christ consciousness. I wonder if that is what we have been trying to cultivate during our time in the cave.
Jesus is drinking deeply from this interior well of wisdom as he rides into Jerusalem. How else might it have been possible? Through his pilgrimage into the city center he cracked open a different way of living. Even as people clung to him, he was showing them and all of us a way forward through a dead end. He modeled a practice which releases us from the voices within and the voices of the crowd thereby enabling us to engage with the big projects of life: loving each other and transcending the labels of insider and outsider, mine and theirs, friend and enemy.

We need two things to cultivate the cave within: an ear to what the Quaker’s call ‘the inner teacher’ and a community to help us fall deeper into a trusting relationship with that voice. This is series work. Work worthy of a Hosanna.
Join us Sunday as we round out our Lenten series and wave some Fair Trade palms.
Peace of Christ this day,
PS Much is brewing at Church in the Cliff. I encourage you to read the many invitations (in many voices) below.

Celebrate Earth Day and Help Buy an Ark

“Hello everyone – As most of know , the youth are planning a trip this summer to Heifer International Global Village to learn first hand what it is like to live in a 3rd world environment. Part of their plan is to raise $5,000 to purchase an “ark” of animals that will go to support communities in the developing world. This Sunday, Palm Sunday, Church in the Cliff will have a booth at Lake Cliff Park for the Earth Day celebration that is from noon – 5 PM. The goal is to raise money for the ark and spread the word about our community. We could use some help from folks to work the booth. If you are able to participate, please let me know or post on FB. Thanks for the support!”  Sara Kitto – proud momma of Emma Kitto.

Community Choir

“Hello All –
We had a great first rehearsal last week! Right now we have seven people signed up to sing on Easter, and I’d love a few more voices to round out the sound (and remember – the more voices there are, the less your individual voice can be heard, so don’t be nervous).
We are having a second rehearsal this Sunday night, April 17 at 5 p.m. at the Kessler Theater at 1230 W. Davis Street. We are singing three songs;  I’ll be handing out lyrics sheets and CDs with music tracks on it so you can practice on your own, if you like. If we want to, we may have one last rehearsal the night of Thursday, April 21. Please invite anyone who is interested!” Janie 

Support Huma-Faith and Enjoy a Meal Out
“Dear Friends:
As you all know, we are in great need of your support and this time you can help us by simply going out to eat at Chili’s (Cedar Hill) on this Sunday, April 17, 2011.
Present the flyer to your server at the time of payment for your meal and Chili’s will return 20% of your total check back to Huma-Faith (email James for digital copy of flyer.) So please mark your calenders, make time to eat at Chili’s in Cedar Hill (Lunch or Dinner) on April 17, 2011 to support our cause. Chili’s address 376 North Highway 67, Cedar Hill TX.
Thank you all for your support.
Peace & Blessings,”
Baquee Sabur,
Founder/Chief Administrator Huma-Faith, a transitional housing program for people in recovery.
James and Clint are organizing a crew to go. Interested in joining? Let James know!    
Followup On Ordination Conversation

Jann Aldredge-Clanton  was a wonderful guide for our community conversation on ordination after church last week. She shares her recap on the experience: “The conversation Sunday was energetic and helpful in clarifying the community’s thoughts and feelings on ordination. I heard a consensus that Church in the Cliff will continue to be an ordaining church, but that the community would like further discussion on the process toward ordination. People expressed the desire for ordination to be a meaningful, responsible, and sacred act.”

To that end we are forming an ordination team to clarify the process and requirements for ordination at Church in the Cliff. The team will be drawing from the Alliance of Baptist and United Church of Christ recommendations and also from our previous experience as an ordaining body. The team will put together a recommendation and present it to the full church. Interested? Questions? email

Con/Textualizing Lent

Readings and Discussions at 10 AM in the lounge.   Facilitated by Stephanie Wyatt & Adam DJ Brett
April 17-Prayers and meditations from our own Jann Aldredge-Clanton as we go into Holy Week. Email Adam for a copy. (

Swallowed Whole

// April 8th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

This week we sit with Jonah in the belly of a whale. This prophet narrative is rich with irony, metaphor, and innuendo. Jonah is running from God on a ship bound to the ends of the earth and ultimately tossed overboard into the sea. He must have thought he was dying as the waves closed around his neck and he watched the ship sail on without him.
Then a big fish swallows him whole. For three days and nights he sat in the putrid darkness. Coleman has a children’s book that depicts Jonah in the belly. It looks like he is sitting in a red cave. His cheeks are smudged with grime. There is seaweed hanging from his arms and draped around the floor. And the whale’s ribs arch up around him—pointy and white against the meaty darkness of the belly walls. Jonah appears trapped and deeply uncertain as to his whereabouts or his future.
Some in our community, like Jonah, have had to wrestle with calls that were so big they warranted a run in the opposite direction. Jann Aldredge-Clanton is one of the first women ever to be ordained as a Baptist minister in the South. She is also a feminist author and an activist and a treasured member of our community. To meet Jann is to encounter a “Spirit-person”—one who has loved the church and her people enough to demand it to be more whole.

In her memoir, Breaking Free, she details her journey. (As an aside, I am not alone in thinking that Jann rocks. Ann Richards, former Texas governor says of Breaking Free: “This is a compelling story of a brave woman. She is everything you always hoped for in a minister.”)

I think Jann knows something of what it is to travel the boundary waters with Jonah and to carry the burning voice of a prophet within. She likely also knows something about sitting in the belly of the whale— in my experience people with spiritual depth have spent some time there. When little arms get tired of swimming God swallows us whole and keeps us safe. In the belly we are gifted with time to listen deeply and to discern a new direction.

Join us Sunday as we meditate on Jonah’s story. Also, all are invited to bring a dish and join in a potluck and community conversation about ordination facilitated by Jann after worship.

Peace to you this week,

Heifer International Project
Church in the Cliff wants to encircle the tender voices of our young people and help listen to the world they want to create. Then we want to leverage all that we have as a community to help make it so. Iris is an animal lover. She also cares deeply about people and wants to learn more about the challenging living conditions in the developing world. In honor of Iris we are spearheading a Heifer Project to try to buy an ark. Price tag: $5,000. An ark includes two of every animal that Heifer relies on to help lift families out of poverty: from bees and chickens up to camels and water buffalo!
Tonight Iris and Emma are taking their fund raising efforts to the streets for Bishop Art’s monthly “First Thursday” event of live music, shopping, mingling and fun! They have crafted adorable gifts for people who make donations: from crocheted hearts to a pack of gift cards depicting Iris’ original sketches of Heifer animals.

We are fund raising guerrilla-style, so will be commandeering one of the parallel parking spots near Espumosa or Hunkey’s. Come on down to support the girls and have a special evening. We plan on fund raising also at Oak Cliff’s Earth Day celebration on April 17th and next month’s First Thursday event, May 5th.

Con/Textualizing Lent
Readings and Discussions at 10 AM in the lounge.   Facilitated by Stephanie Wyatt & Adam DJ Brett
April 10-Why the Old Testament and Jesus’ Jewish identity really matter according to Amy-Jill Levine
April 17-Prayers and meditations from our own Jann Aldredge-Clanton as we go into Holy Week
We will have copies of the articles for the upcoming week with us each week, or save us printing costs and receive the whole packet by emailing Adam (

Join Iris and Emma at First Thursday in Bishop Arts

// April 6th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Iris and Emma are fundraising to buy an Ark through Heifer International. They have hand-made takeaways for donations. Come check out their table in the Bishop Arts District this thursday evening, April 7th. 6-8pm.

First Tuesday Social Justice Film Festival – April 5th Fierce Light

// April 5th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

7:00pm April 5th

First Tuesday Social Jusice Film Festival Presents
a free screening of “Fierce Light”

Fueled by the belief that “another world is possible,” Fierce Light is a compelling, global journey into the world of spirit in action, an exploration of what Martin Luther King called “Love in Action,” and Gandhi called “Soul Force”; what Ripper is calling “Fierce Light.”

Acclaimed filmmaker Velcrow Ripper takes an insightful look at change motivated by love, featuring interviews with spiritual activists Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, Daryl Hannah, Julia Butterfly Hill, and more.

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Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff  3839 W. Kiest Blvd. Dallas, Texas 75233  214.337.2429