During our immersion (a few weeks ago) we met with Allison Celik of the Wichita Area Circles Network. The Circles program is an amazing program designed to address poverty, but it does so...Read More
SoCe Life Blog
A journey to abundance, one day at a time.
The Good and Beautiful World immersion is continuing with great success and joy. Here is the pictures to prove it.
On our first field trip we went to the Envision. Envision is an incredible organization that has created thriving businesses while improving the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired. They are a major manufacturer of plastic bags and other products and many of their employees are blind or close to it. Inspiring place!
During Elaine's lessons we processed watching the movie The Mission with Robert De Niro. From the movie we explored the themes of colonialism and it's impact on our American experience of Church. Elaine helped us rediscover the co-equal, co-humble, co-communal nature of God. And of course to truly explore our triune God you must do a circle dance. The joy of dancing reminded us of the Holy Spirit's ability to fill us with Pentecost power. It also proved that Matt and Adam should not dance.
After making contact with neighbors earlier in the week we explored possible connection points and then made calls to help people find each other. From our calls we were able to stimulate small paying gigs for neighbors out of work, social connections for people who are isolated, and potential groupings that could give birth to new businesses, apprenticeships, or more.
We use a giant map and lots of post-it notes to catalog all the assets and interest we discover. Then we allow our imagination to run wild with the possibilities. Crucial to ABCD and non-colonial evangelism is that we do not impose our own agenda. Instead we make connections, experiment, fail, and allow people to choose for themselves what comes next.
Still to come....
visit to Raise My Head Foundation House.
more mind blowing Elaine Heath time.
Fork-n-Folk neighborhood potluck with music and dancing.
closing worship and anointing.
And our very first immersion promo video featuring our amazing first students.
Tonight we started our first immersion! I think the excitement and anticipation between the 5 of us could power an ICT bus. Of course Prescott has that much energy every day of the week. Although I know I should be sleeping I couldn't do it. Not tonight. I am far too filled with visions of the church breaking loose from it's chains and running wildly on the streets. On the streets of SoCe of course, but also on the streets which our immersion students will occupy throughout their long journeys.
I also am overjoyed that Elaine Heath has joined us this week to both co-facilitate the immersion and companion our team as we discern and experiment with the baby that is our immersion program. Elaine is a professor at Perkins School of Theology and author of many wonderful books. (Start with Longing for Spring if you want a good read.) On top of all this Elaine is the perfect midwife for our project. She is protective, gentle, incredibly encouraging, and in the right moments speaks with power and authority that has caused us to push a new way of life into being for ourselves, our neighborhood, and hopefully our immersion students. We cannot begin to thank her enough.
Stay tuned for lots of pictures and stories from our first week hosting students!
Have you ever had this experience: you know something is true, you even have experiences that affirm your knowledge, but you struggle to find the right words and then BAM you read a book/have a conversation/watch a video that gives you the words you have been searching for all along.
If you can relate to that description, then you can relate to the journey of the SoCe Neighborhood Action Foundation. SoCe NAF was borne from the experience of five individuals: Adam and Ashley Barlow-Thompson, Myrna Craig, Catherine Johnson and myself (Matt Johnson). We have been meeting on a weekly basis since March of 2014. During that time we have felt led by the Holy Spirit to work in the South Central Neighborhood (hence our name: SoCe...get it? South Central). We weren’t sure what work we needed to do, we just knew where we needed to be. We also knew that our way of looking at the neighborhood was odd, because while many people look at SoCe as a hotbed of drugs, crime, prostitution and homelessness; we saw our neighbors here as gifted and generous people who have a lot to teach the world. Hmm.
Also, since we’ve been meeting we have felt an uneasiness with how “church-as-usual” works. It isn’t that church is bad (Adam and Ashley both work in churches, and I did as well for 15 years). We just saw that as our society continues to change in dramatic ways, the old model of church is not going to be as effective. It is time to begin experimenting with how the church interacts with the community, and perhaps time to redefine the role of the church in the world. And we especially wanted to work on this with college students who are feeling called into ministry, because the church they are being trained to lead may not even exist by the time they are ordained or employed by the church!
So, we had all these thoughts and feelings and we struggled to express them...UNTIL...one day I stumbled across an article (or was I led to it?) that talked about Asset Based Community Development, or ABCD. It was that moment when we found words to describe what we had been feeling for so long. ABCD doesn’t start with a neighborhood’s brokenness, it starts with the assets (talents and skills) of the neighbors. And ABCD doesn’t start with massive institutions that are meant to fix everything, but instead it starts with relationships between the individuals and families that make up a neighborhood.
And what we immediately saw was a correlation between ABCD and the gospel message. For example, ABCD views every resident in the neighborhood as someone with gifts to share--regardless of their age or “label.” Doesn’t that sound like Jesus, blessing the fishes and loaves of a child to feed a multitude; or celebrating the generosity of the widow who gives a gift the world easily overlooks?
Another example is that ABCD does not restrict people to the label the world has placed on them: such as sex offender, drug addict, old, sinner, unemployable, etc. Instead, ABCD sees people as gifted and able to contribute to the good of the community. Doesn’t that sound like Jesus, hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, ignoring Peter’s plea to get away from him, or failing to throw stones at the woman caught in adultery? Jesus came to give us a new identity and then teach us to live from that new identity. We hope to help our friends and neighbors discover their deeper identity in God as a beloved and gifted child, and create space where they can live from that deeper (and unchanging) identity.
And what about the college students we want to encourage along their journey? Once we began to understand ABCD and how it is an expression of the gospel, then we realized we needed to start bringing students into our neighborhood to learn about ABCD and how it can be lived out in any context. We want to immerse them in this mind-set and view of the world, so Catherine and I have converted our house into a small dormitory where a handful of students can stay for a week at a time and learn what we are doing and help us with this work. We call this immersion “The Good and Beautiful World” because we believe God is calling the church to reach out to the world in this very way. We hope the students will take our ideas and run with them and build upon them, and begin transforming the relationship between the church and the world.