Friday, November 27, 2015

church of the illiterati

church of the illiterati. cartoon by rob g

This church declares itself clearly as a place that welcomes and embraces those who can't read.

Well, maybe.  Their sign does raise several questions:

If this really is a church for people who cannot read, what does it matter what the sign says? Or would it be better to call it "the church of non-readers"? Now it is possible, of course, that this church has specifically used the name "Illiterati" to reclaim the name, perhaps similar to the way queer has been reclaimed by some lgbtq+ groups, or like the church which calls itself the Scum of the Earth Church.

And then one might ask, how would someone who doesn't read know this is the church for them? Would some kind of image be helpful? Or would people find out about it via word of mouth and radio ad campaigns?

And does the Church of the Illiterati embrace everyone? We don't know, as they haven't said. And this means that overall, they are still an uncertain space. Except to non-readers. Maybe.

Friday, November 20, 2015

[transgender day of remembrance 2015]

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015. Image by HRC

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Read more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The 2015 list of people killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[red works photography]

Photo from Concrete Indian series, by Nadya Kwandibens. From profiles the amazing work of Nadya Kwandibens, an Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) from Northwest Angle #37 First Nation in Ontario, Canada.

I love her vision statement:
We, as Indigenous people, are often portrayed in history books as Nations once great; in museums as Nations frozen stoic; in the media as Nations forever troubled. These images can be despairing; however, my goal seeks to steer the positive course. If our history is a shadow, let this moment serve as light. We are musicians, lawyers, doctors, mothers and sons. We are activists, scholars, dreamers, fathers and daughters. Let us claim ourselves now and see that we are, and will always be great, thriving, balanced civilizations capable of carrying ourselves into that bright new day.
Love the photos on her site too! Check it out at!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[st. lydia's dinner party church]

St. Lydia's Brooklyn - snip of homepage

St. Lydia's is a small church in Brooklyn, where the service takes the form of worship happening around a dinner shared together. It is particularly counter cultural in Brooklyn, where the pace of life is fast, meals are often eaten on the go or standing up and often alone, kitchens and eating areas are often too small to accommodate many people.

However, even in my city, in the churches I've been part of, communion is usually done in pews or going up to the front in rows. Having the eucharist as a real meal eaten together is unusual, and would be especially meaningful if eating with non-family members.

I also like the way that they make some declarations right on the home page. Along with affirming GLBTQ, they refer to dispelling isolation, reconnecting neighbours, and subverting the status quo.

Read more about St. Lydia's:
St. Lydia's website.
Article in The Atlantic
Article in Faith and Leadership

Monday, November 09, 2015

[if the gospel is truly good news...]

If the gospel is truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all.

Prejudice, paranoia, the politics of exclusion - all these little systems have their day, and there are moments when they appear to prevail, but the church, we know from experience, will eventually do the right thing once it has exhausted every other alternative. We who struggle today know that a social gospel and inclusive gospel are the consequences of a hopeful gospel. In a world surrounded on every hand by bad news, we turn now to the reasonable hope of the gospel, the good news toward which scripture, Jesus, and the Spirit all point.

Peter J. Gomes in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus (2007). Page 207.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

historical example of declared space

historical example of declared spaces: jewish temple. drawing by rob g

The Jewish temple in Jesus' day was definitely a declared space. In fact, each literal space in it was declared as to who could enter and be in it.

The progression was from the Court of the Gentiles, to the Court of Women, the Court of Men, and then the Court of the Priests.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

jesus visits the new synagogue...

Jesus visits the new synagogue and has a suggestion:

Jesus and disciples outside of new synagogue. Jesus says, "I think what's missing is an 'everyone welcome' sign..."

Ah yes, the ubiquitous "everyone welcome" sign. That's all it takes to encourage people to come, isn't it?

Of course, with the Jewish temple, not everyone was welcome in the same way. Nor is everyone welcome the same way now. More on that in an upcoming cartoon.

See my article on uncertain spaces for a different take on the usefulness of the "everyone welcome" sign.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

exploring uncertainty and embrace at your own church

exploring uncertainty and embrace at your own church. image by rob g
As discussed at length in a previous post, which I highly recommend you read first, uncertain spaces are those which have not clearly articulated if and how they value and embrace diverse people. In contrast, a declared space has clearly articulated if and how it values and embraces diverse people. Uncertainty about a space - especially a church - can be a significant barrier to new people who are looking for a church home. This is of particular interest to churches that want to be more welcoming, especially as much conversation about being welcoming addresses what happens once the newcomer is in the church, rather than the barriers that keep people from entering. (If you have not read the article, I suggest reading it first).

At first thought, it might seem easy to cease being an uncertain space: declare where you are at as an individual or a community in terms of how you value and embrace people.

The process of creating such declarations, along with being a growing experience for the community, can be difficult and potentially divisive at the same time. It will involve conversations and dialogue about where one’s community is actually at and where it wants to be, which is entirely intertwined with where the community’s members are at and where they want to be. And it can result in the discovery that what might have seemed like a fairly homogenous community on the surface, has a lot more diversity when one digs deeper.

This post is intended to be a starting point, a help in exploring where your church is at and where it might want to go. Ideally, work through it with a group so that you can benefit from one another’s insights. Note that this document is a work in progress and may be expanded upon in the future.

Friday, October 30, 2015

an authentic ethic of inclusion...

Jesus saying, "Well, my disciples, we've had a good day of sharing the good news with the poor. Let's debrief over the lovely dinner some of the ladies have prepared for us."

I came across this nugget in Yvette Flunder's Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion:
An authentic ethic of inclusion must reach from the center to the farthest margin and work its way back. When we reach for the ones who are the least accepted, we give a clear message of welcome to everyone. Jesus modeled this type of radical inclusivity when he openly received those most despised by society and the religious establishment.

What does it mean to reach from the center to the farthest margin?

Can you imagine Jesus raising money to give to missionaries and mission agencies to do the work for him, and then mostly in the form of evangelism, poverty relief and development directed at worthy groups, as helpful as this is to some, and then considering his role finished?

Can you imagine Jesus helping an existing ministry to the urban poor by hosting a church service and providing a meal once a month, or serving meals and helping at drop-in centers, as important as this is, and just going to the synagogue the rest of the time?

These are not the farthest margins. And Jesus isn't an "at arm's length" kind of guy from what I've seen.

So along with sending out missionaries and helping urban ministries, shouldn't there be some kind of tangible, personal way that we are specifically reaching to the farthest margin?

Wouldn't it make sense to take some kind of concrete action in partnership with the least of these?

How can we follow Jesus in embracing the ones "most despised" by society and the religious establishment?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

an apology from Senior Deputy Ben Fields of the Richland County Sheriff's Department

To the unnamed black female high school student at Spring Valley High School who was violently assaulted by Deputy Ben Fields for refusing to get up and leave after being written up for not putting away her phone. Columbia, South Carolina. October 26, 2015.

Deputy Ben Fields of Richland County Sheriff's Dept. assaulting black female student at Spring Valley High School, Columbia, SC. Photo from AP.

i just want to say

Sitting at your desk
you wanted to use your phone
teacher said no
but you didn't listen

your parents didn't teach you right
so I taught you a lesson
about learning
while black

Forgive me
for teaching you the back flip
in math class
I should have dragged you down to the gym first

poem by rob g

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

[twelve key points about radical exclusivity]

twelve key points of radical exclusivity. adapted by rob g from "twelve key points of radical inclusivity"Twelve key points about radical exclusivity from yours truly, written as the opposite of the twelve points of radical inclusivity:

Radical Exclusivity is and must be conservative.

Radical Exclusivity recognizes, values, loves and celebrates the people at the center.

Radical Exclusivity does harm in the name of God.

Radical Exclusivity is intentional and creates ministry at the center.

The primary goal of Radical Exclusivity is to be the one and only true church.

Radical Exclusivity maintains existing ways of seeing and being.

Radical Exclusivity requires ambiguity, control and power.

Radical Exclusivity is based on shame and fear.

Radical Exclusivity ignores and devalues the margin.

Radical Exclusivity must be linked to preaching and teaching.

Radical Exclusivity demands conformity.

Radical Exclusivity is best sustained when the members of the community are kept under control of the leadership.

adapted by rob g

See also twelve key points about the radical inclusivity model.