Archive for May, 2011

Why Bless a Bike?

// May 25th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // DART Stations of the Cross

Because Emma rides farther and farther each day and Sara, like other mothers of tweenagers, watches her go with love and a desire for protection surging in her heart.  Because Richie and Brandon and others ride their bike to work most days, turning the daily commute into a courageous act when one lives in a city without many bike lanes. We bless bikes to honor the joy on Eva and Jiri’s faces as they ride to church most Sundays—following their papa who steers while holding his mandolin case in one hand. We bless bikes to honor Mikal Beth and Iris who ride to the community garden to take care of their plants— and carry home radishes and other first foods they have grown for themselves. And to celebrate Jen and Catherine who ride whenever they can as they gracefully navigate busy professional lives to honor other stories we don’t yet know…
 
Why bless a bike?
 
Because ultimately Jesus calls us into new ways of life. And to follow in the Jesus way is to continue to be open to new practices—not just fresh ways of thinking or believing, but literally new ways of moving in the world. In blessing bikes we bless people who are being sweet to our earth and good to their bodies by choosing this mode of transportation when they can.
 
This Sunday as part of our “Fresh Encounters” worship series we are hosting a playful interpretation of a “Blessing of the Animals” liturgy, often held in honor of St. Francis. While somewhat unorthodox to bless bikes rather than living creatures, I wonder if St. Francis might get it. Riding a bicycle can broaden a narrow and constricted view of the environment (which riding in a car allows us to more easily preserve) and connects us to our living world and our neighbors. It opens our eyes to our position in what Francis called the “web of all creation.”
 
Oak Cliff is hopping with bike friendly energy. This is another reason to bless bikes, and invite others who ride them to join us. Because it is one way that we can be part of our community. To draw a ring around the holy work we see already happening and in our midst.
 
Some logistics:
 
If you are a bike rider, please ride your bike on Sunday. Or if you can walk, walk. Strollers and tricycles also welcome to be blessed. And seriously, consider inviting a friend who you think might enjoy it.
 
If you are coming in four wheels– Bring a bucket! And some rags! And a lawn chair. There will be more than enough bike blessing to go around as we partner with Viva Oak Cliff to clean up some of the bikes they collected recently in order for them to be shared with children in the neighborhood. What if you don’t like amateurs touching your bike? No worries, bring your own tools and do a demo of how to clean and tune properly. Several new bikers would like to learn.
 
In a world where things can get polarized and sadly being “green” can be reduced to a label in the realm of identity politics this is one simple thing we can do together as a multi-generational faith community to honor earth friendly choices, even if we don’t bike ourselves.  So all are welcome: bikers and non bikers, believers and questioners and questioning believers.

Join us as we turn ourselves inside out and forgo the protection of walls and familiar worship structure to instead squirt some degreaser and wipe down a frame. My prayer is that it might remind us that we do not generate or contain God’s efforts to heal our bodies and our earth but rather we are invited to do our little part to participate in the unfolding Good. Come pump up a tire. Say a simple prayer as you tie a blessing around a handlebar. Come to laugh and play and drink iced tea and be so bold as to imagine that God might meet us there– on the front sidewalk of the Kessler Theater.
 
Peace,
 
Courtney
PS Urban Farm Picnic and Weedpick was Rescheduled for Tonight! 6:30-8pm. Come to eat, tour, and get muddy as we help out on the Food for Good Farm at Paul Quinn College. (3837 Simpson Stuart Rd Dallas 75241). Join us for Church on the Farm next week, June 5th. 

PPS New Testament Summer Bible Study also launches tonight. Almost full! Please contact Teri for details terichica@gmail.com
 
Ark Update
After last week’s service we have collected $1,457.32 toward the $5,000 needed for our Heifer Ark! We are inspired by our youth and grateful for the generosity of friends as we work together to enable struggling families around the world to lift themselves out of poverty. Checks can be made out to Church in the Cliff with “Heifer Mission Project” in subject line and dropped in offering plate or mail to PO Box 5072 Dallas TX 75208. Please spread the word and thank you. We will keep you updated about progress toward our Ark. an’t make it Sunday but ready to donate now?Can’t make it Sunday but ready to donate now? Make checks out to Church in the Cliff and put “Heifer Mission Project” in subject line and drop in mail to PO Box 5072 Dallas TX 75208. Thank you! We will keep you updated about progress toward our Ark.

Being Church for Iris

// May 19th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I am not normally one to receive Divine messages at night—as if spoken to me, audibly, in my mother tongue. But one night early last spring God talked to me. And this is what She said: “Be Chloe’s Church.”
 
I had been sitting with my desires for a youth group. Remembering the life changing experiences I had as a young person: our church youth group traveling to Mexico and the Navajo Indian Reservation and partnering with a local community to do some good work.
 
I want that for the children growing up in our community. I want our church to enable them to go places that stretch and expand their consciousness, that open up new ways of looking at the world and break down the false barrier between ourselves and others. I want road trips and candy from the gas station and nights somewhere where the stars hang down, heavy as jewels. I want them to have the chance not just to read the gospels, but to live the Gospel— to see in another’s face a mirror of their own soul. I want them to taste and touch and encounter the Holy, in that unique way you can when travelling outside of the regular routine and thus on sensory alert to the world around.
 
But we don’t have a van with “Church in the Cliff” emblazoned on the side. Or a large group of youth. So last year I just sat with this yearning, crystallized around Chloe, who literally grew up in this community and was becoming a teenager before our eyes.
 
And God’s answer was pretty clear: “Be Chloe’s Church.” The message transformed my internal sense of scarcity into a recognition of our unique calling. As a small community we may not have a slew of 12-18 year olds and a musty van, but we do have the opportunity to know and love our children by name. We can honor their coming of age with a mission project that speaks to their particular dreams for our world. We do not have to outsource the loving of our youth to a specialized ministry on the side. Instead, we are invited to claim it as our work, as an entire multi-generational body, to listen attentively to young voices and to wrap our resources around them. They will be our guides to build the kingdom Jesus proclaimed.
 
And last year, Chloe’s vision– of a world where even the poorest of children has access to enriching arts programs– led us to New Orleans. We partnered with “St. Walgreens,” an Episcopal Community Center housed in a renovated drugstore in the lower ninth ward and led a music workshop for their summer camp – culminating in a mini musical “Go Down Moses.”
 
Now there are plenty of stories that go with this trip. Stories of getting lost, stories of Perl’s first beignet, of working on houses of people ripped off by insurance scammers, of children so lovely and so lonely at the same time, stories of Gospel songs sung by powerful voices, and visionary Episcopal priests, and donated cellos. Stories of love and connection that continue in our hearts and new knowledge about the particular ways in which our country can forget about whole groups of people—holding them invisible right before our very eyes.
 
These stories run deep—both for the participants and for the identity of our whole congregation. One of my favorite stories occurred as we were heading out the door of the center and a fellow volunteer caught my eye. I could tell he was trying to make sense of our posse — spanning over five decades in age with Perl, then not yet two, as our youngest traveler. “Who are you?” he asked. We explained that we were a church inspired by one of our young people to come here to help with the music camp etc and a lightbulb went off and he said, “Oh—so you are like an all ages youth group!” I smiled and said, “You got it.” I feel like that is a pretty good description of our church, not just on mission trips, but year round.
 
And this Sunday we celebrate the new story unfolding as our community prayerfully engages with what it means to “Be Iris’ Church.” Iris has recently stepped from childhood into her teenage years yet retains a heart as wide and open as the sea. And she instinctively gets what so many of us learn to forget: that God is not only manifest in our relations with other people, but rather God is alive and accessible though all of creation—especially animals we know and respect.
 
Iris’ vision leads us into a partnership with Heifer International—a grassroots organization that empowers families to feed themselves and lift themselves out of poverty through the donation of quality livestock and training. This is a special kind of summer mission project—rather than fundraising for a whole group from our community to travel to another site to do mission work, each of the participants are totally paying their own way to go to Heifer Ranch. Heifer Ranch offers a unique program called ‘Global Village,’ an experiential learning opportunity in which nothing – shelter, food, water or cooking fuel – can be taken for granted.

Participants prepare a meal with limited resources and sleep in simple housing. Heifer Ranch is also a farm complete with gardens and animals including water buffalo, camels and traditional farm animals such as pigs, goats and more. Iris and other participants will learn more about the issues surrounding hunger and poverty, Heifer’s sustainable solutions and what they can do to help.

By paying their own way on the trip, our youth hope to encourage our community to channel our fundraising efforts directly to support poor families around the world. Specifically, Iris’ love of animals has inspired us to take on Heifer’s ultimate challenge: raising $5,000 to purchase a Gift Ark. This gift provides livestock—two of each of pigs, cows, trios of rabbits, donkeys, beehives, sheep, llamas, flocks of geese, goats, oxen, flocks of chicks, trios of ducks, trios of guinea pigs, water buffalo, camels, pigs and training for struggling families worldwide.
 
Sounds like a lot, but we are resourceful. And our youth have actually already been hard at work: staffing tables at First Thursday in Bishop Arts as well as Oak Cliff Earth Day. Together they have already raised close to $500 and educated countless people about Heifer’s grassroots movement to end hunger and poverty. Iris has also sketched beautiful gift cards with animals on them for thank you gifts for donations.
 
This Sunday, as part of our “Fresh Encounters” series, we are dedicating our whole worship gathering to learn more about Heifer International’s work to end global hunger. Please join us to find out about the many ways you can support this project: through prayers, education, fund-raising, and even join us for a tour at Heifer Ranch when we drop off the youth on July 8th!
 
Can’t make it Sunday but ready to donate now?Can’t make it Sunday but ready to donate now? Make checks out to Church in the Cliff and put “Heifer Mission Project” in subject line and drop in mail to PO Box 5072 Dallas TX 75208. Thank you! We will keep you updated about progress toward our Ark.
  
Peace,
 
Courtney
 
Summer Bible Study

You are invited to be part of an intentional small group this summer.  In Church in the Cliff fashion, you are welcome to this Bible study whether you know a little, a lot or not and whether you believe a little, a lot or not.  To foster a dependable space where the same folk, experiencing the same text, find themselves in the same space together an hour and a half each week, this study will be limited to 15 people who can commit to attending each week and completing outside reading.
 
What:    Invitation to the New Testament
An 8 week small group study that invites participants to delve into the New Testament .
 
When:  Most Wednesday nights (and one Tuesday) from May 25th –  July 27th.  7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
 
Where:  Teri Walker’s home
 
Who:     Up to 15 folks who can sign up for the full series (attend at least 6 out of 8) and can commit to doing outside reading.
 
Cost:      $12.00  (Includes a participant’s manual and sharing the costs of the group materials/DVDs)
 
RSVP:    Email  terichica@gmail.com
 
Food:    The group can discuss before the first gathering if we would like to have dinner together before our discussions and how we would like to share those costs and responsibilities.
 
Dates/Topics:
Wed, May 25:    Jesus Calls Us Into God’s Redemption Story
Wed, June 1:     Jesus Calls Us to a Transformed Life
Tue, June 14:     Jesus Calls Us to Minister to a Hostile World
Wed, June 22:   Jesus Calls Us to Complex Communities of Faith
Wed, June 29:   Jesus Calls Us to Serve One Another
Wed, July 6:       Jesus Calls Us to a New Relationship With Tradition
Wed, July 20:     Jesus Calls Us to Live in Light of His Coming Again
Wed, July 27:     Jesus Calls Us to Experience the Gifts of His Dying and Rising
 
Feedback:
If you are interested in this study or studies like this, but these particular times/dates/location doesn’t work, please email Teri and let us know about your interests.  There is nothing to say that only one group can be going on.

Ancestral Brew

// May 14th, 2011 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

We carry the body wisdom of seven generations in our feet.

Katy, a new friend and yoga teacher, taught me this in a class this week. I’m not sure I totally understood it, but it strikes me as true. Our feet are the parts of our bodies that connect us to the earth and to our ancestors.

On Saturday our family escaped to Cedar Hill State Park. We walked around an abandoned farm in the park: peering into dusty barns, poking our noses into retired chicken coops, observing the windmill turn and creak in the wind.

I sat on the porch of an old farmhouse and nursed my baby. I could just make out Perl’s smile as Richie helped her up and she sat “driving” a rusty red tractor down by the shed. Perl did not know it—but her Grammy drove a similar one as a child helping with the corn harvest on the family farm.

The wind blew through the field of wildflowers and I felt the connection in my old feet to this porch, this dirt, this way of life.

So I decided we should move to the country.

Richie was onboard with the idea—both of us charmed by the experiences of the day. I want my kids to see the stars, I kept saying. “How could we do it?” I wondered. I even called my mom to ask what happened to Granny’s old house.

And then evening fell and we settled in back at home and my feet padded around the wood floors of our midcentury house on Gladiolus Lane. As I rocked by the fireplace the particulars of this new family dream started to make themselves known: the huge strain of moving our household again being the top of the list. And of course all the practical questions: how would we make a living? How could we educate our children? How would we make friends?

But this is not the story of how the spark of a dream can be stamped out by practical considerations.

For as I sat and rocked, rather than feeling constricted or constrained by all our commitments I felt some of the cords around my insides that have been tight for too long begin popping open. Rocking in my Granny’s chair I recognized how much of this ancestral brew is mine for the tasting. I don’t have to move to the country to drink iced tea on my front porch. Or to cook simple meals and share them with family and friends. I can plant wildflowers in my front yard and watch the babies grow. I can know and love neighbors. I can invest in this Oak Cliff neighborhood with its defiant sense of place and learn all that one learns from committing to a particular place and helping it to grow into the community that I want for myself and my children.

There is one more thing more that draws me to the farm: growing food. Like many of you I am hunting for opportunities to plug into a more sustainable, local food supply. (There is more to be said on this topic, but instead why don’t we get our hands dirty?)

Join us for a combination picnic and weedpick tonight 6-8pm. Come to learn more about the edgy practice of urban farming at Paul Quinn College’s Food for Good Farm. (Yes, they are the ones you have heard about that plowed under their football field to make a farm.) Can’t make it tonight? let me know you are interested… churchinthecliff@gmail.com

And join us Sunday as we continue our Eastertide series “Fresh Encounters.”

Peace,

Courtney

Summer Bible Study

You are invited to be part of an intentional small group this summer. In Church in the Cliff fashion, you are welcome to this Bible study whether you know a little, a lot or not and whether you believe a little, a lot or not. To foster a dependable space where the same folk, experiencing the same text, find themselves in the same space together an hour and a half each week, this study will be limited to 15 people who can commit to attending each week and completing outside reading.

What: Invitation to the New Testament
An 8 week small group study that invites participants to delve into the New Testament .

When: Most Wednesday nights (and one Tuesday) from May 25th – July 27th. 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Where: Teri Walker’s home

Who: Up to 15 folks who can sign up for the full series (attend at least 6 out of 8) and can commit to doing outside reading.

Cost: $12.00 (Includes a participant’s manual and sharing the costs of the group materials/DVDs)

RSVP: Email terichica@gmail.com

Food: The group can discuss before the first gathering if we would like to have dinner together before our discussions and how we would like to share those costs and responsibilities.

Dates/Topics:
Wed, May 25: Jesus Calls Us Into God’s Redemption Story
Wed, June 1: Jesus Calls Us to a Transformed Life
Tue, June 14: Jesus Calls Us to Minister to a Hostile World
Wed, June 22: Jesus Calls Us to Complex Communities of Faith
Wed, June 29: Jesus Calls Us to Serve One Another
Wed, July 6: Jesus Calls Us to a New Relationship With Tradition
Wed, July 20: Jesus Calls Us to Live in Light of His Coming Again
Wed, July 27: Jesus Calls Us to Experience the Gifts of His Dying and Rising

Feedback:
If you are interested in this study or studies like this, but these particular times/dates/location doesn’t work, please email Teri and let us know about your interests. There is nothing to say that only one group can be going on.

Urban Farm Picnic this Wednesday, May 11

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

CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER Rescheduled for May 25
Wednesday Night Community Gathering
6-8pm
picnic and weed pick
at Paul Quinn College’s Food for Good Farm
(join us for a tour of this Football Field turned Urban Farm!)

3837 Simpson Stuart Rd Dallas, TX 75241

Not your mother’s “Mother’s Day”

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

Most reflections on motherhood strike me as sacchariny, inconsequential, and over boiled.

There is a long history of talking about women in the role of mother in an oversimplified way—so as to suggest that all women should seek fulfillment in their God-given role as the Goddess of the Hearth. What it boils down to is a kind of sexist trope— whereby women are only valued in one role, that of procreation.

Mother’s Day is upon us, everybody! Which raises the question, how is it possible to celebrate well this day in a postmodern community of faith?

Here are some of the obvious challenges: how to honor mothers and at the same time validate the decision by women in our community to focus on creative projects other than the rearing of children? How to craft a blessing for mothers that is sincere and authentic rather than an overly commercialized celebration dependent on non-sustainably harvested flowers? And lastly, how can we celebrate mamas without giving credence to a hetero-normative world view which implies that same sex couples (especially gay men) should not be parents?

Honestly it would be easier just to avoid the day.

But if we avoid it all together, or do what many progressive churches do and celebrate “woman’s day,” we miss an opportunity to value the often invisible work of the mothers in our community. If we take seriously Jesus’ call to love those who are vulnerable, we should definitely care for the caregivers of the young. For it is through the hard working hands of mamas and papas that the very young experience tangible expressions of love.

So how to honor mothers well? I think one way to do it is to allow mothers a space to acknowledge the complexity of the role. Clearly, not all mothers feel the same way about their offspring and sadly not all mothers care well for their children. But it may be even more challenging to acknowledge that no mother feels the same way about her kids all the time.

The Hallmark soft-focus lens does not allowe ambiguity within the mother’s role. But the ambiguity is real and it makes one feel more sane to have space to admit it.

Take Monday night for example. I had been listening to coverage about the death of Osoma bin Laden on NPR all day and really wanted to talk about it with my husband. (An aside: I am really interested in the Middle East. I studied it during my year abroad at the London School of Economics. It was so stimulating to study the history and politics of the region sitting next to students with identities rooted deep in the Palestinian struggle, and Israelis, and Egyptians, and students from all across Europe and more.)

Monday night I so wanted to enjoy a meal and deep conversation with Richie about social media and democracy and the youth movement in Libya and Syria and other countries during this “Arab Spring.” I wanted to talk about the complexities of celebrating death and our national grief regarding 9/11. Like all of you, I had stuff to think through and to talk about.

But Rosetta was getting sick so it took all of Richie’s attention to get her to sleep. And Coleman and Perl really needed some snuggle time. It was one of those nights where they wanted me to be in the middle of the bed and to pull the covers over all three of us. I tried to extricate myself but Coleman said, “don’t you miss me?” You haven’t been with me all day!” Which wasn’t really true since I pick him up from preschool at three and it was now eight thirty, but I took his point. He was telling me that he needed some quiet time with me. So I gave up on adult conversation and holding one on each side –heads resting on my shoulders we all went to sleep.

A sweet ending in some ways to the day but also a moment of setting aside my deep yearnings for adult conversation and connection with my partner. And while I loved holding onto my children and feeling them breathe quietly beside me I longed for a space to process the news of the world.

Now, I want to be careful here. I don’t share all this to suggest that putting aside our own needs is always the right road. But rather to acknowledge the complexities of the role of mother: it can be deeply humanizing and soulful as well as utterly depleting. This is why mothers need honest, life-giving community. And children need their mothers to be in community, for no woman should have to do it by herself.

This Eastertide we are exploring “Fresh Expressions” of our community gathering time. This series gives us an opportunity to move beyond our traditional worship format centering on the Conversation and to explore alternative means of connecting with God and each other.

How about a fresh expression for Mother’s Day? Let us create a space to honor the particular women we have among us who choose to dedicate a lot of their life energy to educating and loving their children. Let us also craft a celebration that invites everyone to reflect on the nurturing female relationships in their lives (mothers, grandmothers, others) and what they choose to take forward from those relationships and what they want to leave behind.

I look around our community and I see mothers in their twenties and mothers in their seventies and mothers in every decade and stage of life in between. Each of these women has a story to tell about how they navigate the role and the trade offs it demands. Surely in a community such as ours we can find a way to hold lightly the tensions of the day at the same time as we hold dearly the very real women in our midst who claim the role of mama as their own.

Peace friends,

Courtney

Mothers Day CitC Style

Genny Rowley has bravely stepped into the role of worship facilitator this week to allow me the chance to participate as a mom. She has crafted a beautiful experiential service for all of us to enjoy. Please read her description below and join us Sunday.

“Join us Sunday for an experiential prayer walk. We have three stops: Sacred Reading, Meditative Walking, and the Altar of Blessing.
The Sacred Reading Space will be a chance to engage the ancient spiritual practice of lectio divina : a slow, deliberate way to take in a particular passage so that it “soaks” you. Readings will center on Sophia, the ancient feminine voice of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Meditative Walking Space is made up of two small labyrinths and can be used to physically symbolize entering deeper into a state of meditation. There will also be finger labyrinths available for participants to sit quietly and trace the movements.

The Altar of Blessing is a chance to offer a written response, or simply to sit and connect to the Feminine Divine through iconography. There are materials available for you to craft a blessing for a particular mother if you like, or to bless God, who is as much our Mother as our Father.

During the Conversation time of our service you will be invited to wander through these stations: there is no one correct order. Instead, you may go where you find life and some connection in your spirit. We will reconvene at the end for parting words and song.”

Genny Rowley
Interested in helping with the service?
Email gennyrowley@yahoo.com