Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Pre-1945 Pastoral Life

In the New York Times Opinion section Roy Scranton, an English professor and Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative at Notre Dame, and author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization, wrote, 

"More than three-quarters of all industrial CO2 emissions have occurred since 1945, and more than half have occurred since 1988."

The question I have after reading that is what was the pastoral and church life like pre-1945?  

This was before the Eisenhower Interstate system was built and ripped apart Black communities throughout the nation. 

from Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis.

This was before the GI Bill and before the development of the suburbs.  

Park Forest, IL 1952

This was before automobiles were owned by half of Americans.  

I do not propose going back to the 1940s, we've made too much progress in racial justice, gender justice, economic justice; too many advances in science and technology and etc.  But could the model of pastoral life pre-1945 and pre-industrial CO2 emissions offer clues for the future of the practice of pastoring in America?

This type of pastoring was more neighborhood based, more local, more walkable, more public transit-able, more bikeable.  

What I'm getting at is what were the "old ways" of pastoring that we have lost?   

Wendell Berry tries to keep the old ways of farming and community.  Many pastors love Wendell Berry, myself included.  I think we all see in him a form of authenticity, but also a keeper of the old ways that we all long for.  In Look and See, a 2016 documentary of Wendell Berry we receive a glimpse of the old ways.  

I watched the film at the MSP Film Festival.  Lori and I rode our bikes downtown, took our seats, and wept as we watched.  I would like to reimagine the life giving "old ways" of pastoring in the 21st century: neighborhood based, community based, neighborly practices, communal bonds for a fractured and displaced society. 

I think local churches and local faith communities can be part of the solutions for a greener and more just future.  Part of our future is in our past, if we can recover it.  

Monday, January 25, 2021

If You Want Effective Climate Change Policies and Actions, Pray for Pete Buttigieg (and the Department of Transportation)

Maybe in the Sunday prayers at your church you pray for the President of the United States of America and the Vice President of the United States of America; maybe you pray for the Governor of your state and maybe you even pray for the Mayor and members of the City Council of your city.  

Have you, however, ever considered praying for the Department of Transportation Secretary?  

If you are concerned about environmental policy and actions to avert further climate destruction, then you should include Pete Buttigieg in your Sunday (and daily) prayers.  

Why do I make such a claim?  

As you can see Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.  But Transportation, under the portfolio of the Department of Transportation includes not only transportation: cars, trucks, trains, boats, and planes; but also, pipelines (like the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Enbridge Line 3 among others) and pipeline construction; and highway construction (i.e. cement and asphalt).  

Transportation is more than 28%.  What percentage then?  I don't know, I'm working on it; but it is easy to see that is larger than 28%.  It appears to me the Biden-Harris Administration realizes the importance of the United States Department of Transportation as the way for making environmental gains due to their assembling of a diverse "dream team" of transit and environmental experts from around the nation.    

Then to make matters even more amazing, during Mayor Buttigieg's Senate confirmation hearing he had these words, "There are so many ways that people get around, and I think often we’ve had an auto-centric view that has forgotten, historically, about all of the other different modes. We want to make sure anytime we’re doing a street design that it enables cars, and bicycles, and pedestrians and any other modes — and businesses — to co-exist in a positive way, and we should be putting funding behind that." (emphasis added)

As I watched his confirmation hearing (yes, I watched it - and you can too).  

But if you don't watch the whole hearing and just want the juicy highlights, then the good folks over at Streetsblog have five takeaways.  

Now, back to the prayers for the USDOT Secretary. The more churches, faith communities, people of conscience are involved in transit (and transportation) issues as part of their environmental witness the more they can make a bigger impact in realms of economic, racial, gender justice areas.  

The faster we move from an auto-centric to human-centric view of cities and towns the faster we can meet our climate action goals.  Solar panels, yes.  Energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs, yes.  Composting and rain gardens, yes.  Add those movements with streets that are designed first for pedestrians, then bicyclists, then mass transit, then deliveries, then solo drivers the quicker we can watch our greenhouse emissions drop faster than expected.  

Praying for the Secretary of Transportation may not cause revival to break out, in the short term, but in the long term your prayers could help make possible more human-centric neighborhoods, more green neighborhoods, more just neighborhoods.  Think of prayers for the US Department of Transportation as long-term revival prayers.  

Moving God,
We offer to you our prayers for Secretary Buttigieg and the US DOT,
for just streets
for safe streets
for streets we can walk and run on,
for streets we can celebrate and mourn on,
for streets we can meet our neighbors on,
for streets we can relax under the shade of elms and oaks and maples,
for streets we can call home.
These streets can be moved for the delivering of goods,
for the creation of jobs,
for the making of home,
for the strengthening the ties the bind.
May the streets move us to become a people
more concerned with health and wholeness
then profit and control.
May the streets move us to a more equitable society
where we see the kids on the street as our kids
where we see strangers as friends
where we see those in need and help.
May the streets direct to be a more loving, more tender, and more open neighborhood.
in the name of the one whose followers were once called People of the Way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Stop Looking to Northern Europe and look at the Deep South

Last week I shared a video about bicycling in Groningen, Netherlands "the World's Bicycling City." When you watch the video, I'm sure you are like me and think, "that'll never happen in America." But it already did happen! And it happened not in Portland, or New York City or Minneapolis but in the Deep South: in Montgomery, Alabama!

A few years ago I arrived in Atlanta with time to explore the Sweet Auburn Historic District before the opening session of the New Baptist Covenant Summit on Racial Justice and Reconciliation. As I stepped off the streetcar at the King Historic District stop, I looked up the street at Ebenezer Baptist Church and noticed the familiar 4-foot-wide, white-striped bike lanes.

The presence of bike lanes made me wonder if there could be a link between bicycling and the Civil Rights Movement. The linkage seemed far-fetched at first, but as I watched people of all backgrounds bike past the churches and home of the King family, I began to think otherwise.

Take a moment and recall the transit images and landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement: Plessy v. Ferguson, the ruling that gave us the language of “separate but equal,” was a case about who could and who could not ride on passenger rail cars. Or picture the charred remains of the bombed Freedom Riders Trailways bus. Or picture Rosa Parks with her purse in her lap, refusing to give up her seat on National City Lines Bus №2857. Or picture the marchers locked arm-in-arm walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Each revolved around transit issues. Movement — how African-Americans got from point A to point B — was central to the Movement.

I knew transit issues were central to the Civil Rights Movement, but I had not thought of bicycling as part of the movement. Then during an Internet search, I discovered a picture of African-Americans on bicycles passing empty buses during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Bike lanes on the corner of Auburn Avenue and Jackson Street in Atlanta were placed in the most appropriate streets.

In most conversations, bicycling is viewed, promoted and dominated by white voices. But when white voices look at the historical experience of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, they realize how much the African-American community has to teach.

On the morning of Dec. 5, 1954, the boycott began when African-Americans, inspired by the Baton Rouge, La., bus boycott, refused to take the bus because of Jim Crow-era transit laws. For 381 days, the African-American community carpooled, took taxis, rode bicycles, walked and even drove horse and buggy to work and for errands. Decades before there were bike lanes, before the Nordic nations embraced bicycling, before Silicon Valley entrepreneurs developed ride-sharing apps, before there were any pedestrian-advisory alliances, the African-American community in Montgomery, Ala., had already created what many transit planners can only imagine in their dreams!

The Montgomery African-American community protested, resisted, organized and pressured local and national elected officials, but they also created an alternative community and reality. Despite daily dehumanization and disenfranchisement, they did not wait for a political party to save them. They, like the early church in Acts, chapter 2, created a new reality by means of protest and alternative transit. 
(Note: Portions of this blog first appeared as an article I wrote for The Christian Citizen) 

But white America did not follow the lead of our Black brothers and sisters and neighbors in Montgomery. 

I live about a 10 minute bike ride from the location where George Floyd (aged 46, like myself) was murdered on May 25, 2020.

His death sparked a change in the city and in the world.  The intersection where he died has become a modern day shrine, renamed by the Minneapolis Park Board as George Floyd Square.  

For eight months+ local residents and activists have created a two block square autonomous zone around the site.  No cars (except for residents, deliveries and emergencies).  A major bus route (in fact, Metro Transit's busiest route, the #5) has been rerouted.  The gas station pumping area is now a free bike repair station.  Parking spaces are now garden plots, free libraries, artists stalls.  The intersection of 38th and Chicago is a public art space.  The streets are now canvases for art work, calls to actions, memorials.  I'm sure soon the area will be reopened for traffic, but it doesn't have to be.  

One mantra I keep in the front of my mind is: we can change.  The protesters and activists are showing we can change.  A major intersection can be changed.  We can reach across and find community, we do not have to be forever separated.  We can change.

What if the streets were kept closed to traffic (available for buses, residents, deliveries during certain hours, and emergency vehicles)?  What if the city took the transformation of George Floyd Square as a model for human-centric communities, justice-centered communities?  What if the streets were not only for cars, but were avenues for justice?

As I bike around the neighborhoods around I am buoyed by the transformation of the streets.  Some artists recommissioned the Bike Boulevards as BLM💚 Boulevards and encouraged all to get into #GoodTrouble.  

We do not have to travel to the Netherlands or to Copenhagen or even Paris, maybe all we need to do is bike down to the 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis or open our history books to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and we can find the answers we've been looking for are right in front of us. Maybe all white America needs to do is to look at the prospects of the Beloved Community modeled and shared with us by our BIPOC brothers and sisters and neighbors.

Monday, January 18, 2021

MLK, Jr. Worship Service at Judson Memorial Baptist Church


Worship_1_17_2021 from Judson Church Mpls on Vimeo.

Order of Worship


WELCOME  Rev. Travis Norvell

CENTERING SONG. “Break Every Chain”. Church Anew Choir


TIME WITH FAMILIES   A conversation with Judson Kids Carolyn Kolovitz 

ORIGINAL POEM  The King Lives  read by Joe Davis

Judson Jazz Group. “Precious Lord” Thomas Dorsey

MUSIC Down by the Riverside” Judson Jazz Group

Reprinted by permission under OneLicense.net #A-719301


read by Cathy Spann Charles Albert Tindley

MUSIC. Church Anew “We Shall Overcome” Church Anew Choir

PRAYER   Rev. Travis Norvell

SERMON.  Rev. Thomas Bowen

ANTHEM  Church Anew “Precious Lord Take My Hand”  Choir Church Anew

BENEDICTION  Rev. Kelly Chatman


Stanford Talisman Alumni Choir. “Lift Every Voice”. James Weldon Johnson

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Portions of today’s service were made available by Church Anew. In 2017, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie, launched Church Anew, an ecumenical ministry dedicated to equipping church leaders to face the adaptive changes needed for ministry today and tomorrow. In partnership with the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement in Minneapolis, Church Anew created a worship service for Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday.

Judson Church is located on the land of the Wahpekute, one of the seven council fires of the Ochethi Sakowin (commonly Dakota) peoples. We recognize and pay tribute to the Indigenous people who called this land home for centuries before us.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Maybe the Coolest Church Job Posting Ever

Over the years I have applied to a number of jobs: college chaplains (only offered one interview), pastor at a Unitarian Church with Anglican liturgy (I actually applied twice, after they rejected my first submission I offered that they needed to reconsider me.  they did and rejected my second offer too), seminary president (I used the same line pastoral search committees use, "A young president {pastor} will bring in young students {families}.  they didn't hire me either).  Over the years I was offered some interesting jobs: staff member for Rep.  Louise Slaughter, union organizer for the AFL-CIO of Virginia, chef, gardener, and even denominational office of a denomination I'm not even a member of.  But the position of pastor of an American Baptist church has always been my calling.  It is where I am rooted, planted and having fun.  

Nevertheless, I gotta tell I found the greatest job description in my life the other day.  

Director of Faith and Neighboring Practices for the Minneapolis ELCA Synod.  I have no interest in applying, but my enthusiasm for this position is off the charts. I cannot wait to see who they hire and the work this person does.  It is like someone read my book then created a job description (sans all the Lutheran language).  

I'm including the full job description for you to peruse. I say apply even if the application deadline has expired.  What's the worst response? Sorry the deadline for applications has passed.  Come on, I've received hundreds of those.  My only critique of this position is that it is a synod level position.  I don't see why pastors couldn't restructure the way they do their work so they could incorporate many aspects of this description into their practices.  How would I suggest you do this?  Well, you'll have to read my book 😉

Position title: Director of Faith and Neighboring Practices (Thriving Congregations grant 2021-2025)

OrganizationMinneapolis Area Synod 

The Minneapolis Area Synod works together so that all experience gracious invitation into life-giving Christian community and live in just and healthy neighborhoods.

Position Description:

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Director of Faith and Neighboring Practices will coach three cohorts of five congregations for two two-year cycles (2021-2023; 2023-2025) on faith and neighboring practices. The goal is to increase the vitality of the congregation through a deeper connection to God and a better understanding how God is already at work in the communities surrounding the congregation. The director will engage these congregations as a coach/facilitator to provide resourcing accountability, and will work with synod staff to expand the impact of these cohorts throughout the synod and beyond. The director will manage this initiative. This person will be grounded in both spiritually-centered faith practices and faith-based community organizing methodology. Building a deep understanding of and commitment to culture change within congregations in the areas of faith and neighboring practices will be a sign of success.

The job description of the Director of Faith and Neighboring Practices includes the following responsibilities:

Proven ability to practice and teach faith formation

  • To articulate one’s own faith practices, as well as a knowledge of a variety of spiritual-based formation perspectives
  • To introduce or expand life-long faith formation practices for participants
  • To move religious experience of cohort participants beyond personal therapy and moralizing using the gift of Lutheran theology
  • To expand faith-at-home practices within congregations
  • To support participants in discernment about congregational culture change
  • To train participants to share faith-formation practices with other leaders in their congregation and community
  • To encourage, equip, and engage congregants in exercising their faith/spiritual commitments
  • To build a network of spiritual directors and faith-formation specialists to serve as resources for the cohorts
  • To coordinate a team of spiritual mentors available to participating congregations
  • To gather and share tools and resources for spiritual growth
  • To equip cohort participants to coach and train church councils and other committees within participating congregations on the learnings of the cohort

Proven ability to engage communities in the public square and to teach faith-based organizing methodology, including on issues of racial equity 

  • To support the identification, recruitment, training, and development of leaders in the congregation and community
  • To work strategically with leaders and congregations to bring about social change and public engagement
  • To oversee the process of shaping a racial equity lens for participants in the cohort
  • To train leaders in the assessment of assets, problems, and solutions within their community
  • To develop a culture of intentional communication through 1-on-1 conversations in search of common ground and shared passion
  • To sharpen the skills of asset mapping and power analysis
  • To encourage the spiritual and organizing practice of listening to people in the neighborhood
  • To expand the imagination of congregational leaders and members in their relationship to the surrounding community
  • To prepare and follow a leadership development plan for at least one person in each congregational group
  • To gather and share tools, such as the Intercultural Development Inventory and the Congregational Vitality Survey, for community engagement
  • To train participants how to share faith-based organizing methodology with other leaders in their congregation and community

Demonstrated ability and experience to direct this effort 

  • To articulate a deep understanding of the nature and culture of Christian congregations
  • To commit to recognize, encourage, and challenge organizations so that they might thrive by living into their mission
  • To hold cohorts accountable for the essential between-meetings work
  • To coordinate with institutional partners such as the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University, Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement, 1517 Media, Luther Seminary, and others
  • To coordinate a team of resource people or consultants who will evaluate the outcomes of the program
  • To identify and recruit like-sized, like-geographic, like-missioned congregations to participate in cohort groups
  • To deepen intentionally the existing relationship between the Minneapolis Area Synod and the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Specifically, to work with AME leaders to identify and recruit AME congregations to participate in the cohort groups
  • To train leaders to explore, develop, and share their faith and neighboring practices with others, so they can coach and teach others
  • To produce content for online and print materials to support the synod’s commitment to faith and neighboring practices
  • To stay within the financial bounds of the Thriving Congregations grant and report updates to the Lilly Endowment
  • To work with a support staff person to plan successful and innovative events, including monthly meetings, annual retreats, and program summits
  • To create a development plan for the faith and neighboring practice work to continue after the Thriving Congregations grant is exhausted

Participate as a team member on the synod staff  

  • To serve faithfully and with competence in representing the Bishop and the Synod Office
  • To participate and offer leadership in building a framework regarding faith and neighboring practices within the synod
  • To visibly connect a life of faith and neighboring practices for the synod, including struggles arising from structural oppression, such as racism, classism, and environmental devastation
  • To support the on-going cultural competency work of the synod
  • To participate in various staff meetings as assigned

Success for the Director of Faith and Neighboring Practices would be guiding congregations to thrive by accompanying a diverse group of congregations engaging in faith and neighboring practices.

The Director of Faith and Neighboring Practices will oversee a part-time administrative assistant and will report directly to the Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership, Pastor John Hulden. Salary (with excellent benefits) will be determined based on experience and the funding limits of the Lilly Endowment grant. A bachelor’s degree is encouraged but not required. Some funds are available to cover relocation expenses.

Submit your resume, cover letter, and three references to Pastor John Hulden, j.hulden@mpls-synod.org, by January 4, 2021.

The  Minneapolis Area Synod is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from people who represent the many diverse voices in our synod and state: people of color, persons with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and women.

Status: Full time

Application deadline: January 4, 2021

Contact person: Pastor John Hulden at j.hulden@mpls-synod.org

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

From Car-Centric to Human-Centric

On December 30, 2020 I turned in my manuscript of Church in Transit to Judson Press.  I do not know what the final title and subtitle will be, but I hope it will be something like, Church in Transit: Seeking Renewal and Social Justice in Your Neighborhood or Church in Transit: Moving toward Renewal and Social Justice.  The premise of the book is to get pastors, church leaders, and engaged lay leaders out of the church building and into the community via walking, bicycling and taking public transit.  

As I finished the manuscript I was amazed at the pile of books I thought for sure I would use, but never did.  Now that my early mornings and late afternoons are not devoted to writing and editing I am finishing some of these books.  I thought I would share with you some of the volumes that did not make it in the book, but are pertinent to understanding the promise of city-neighborhood churches.  

The first such title is Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality by Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, published by Island Press.  I would also suggest you spend a half hour or so looking at the Island Press catalog of titles too. 

Melissa and Chris are co-founders of Modacity, I would describe them as multi-modal whisperers, a normal (seemingly) family of four who share and advocate how to live car-free in Delft, Netherlands. By doing so, they show all of us how cities can move from car-centric to human-centric. Although not addressed in their book, but you and I know that one of the original human-centric city institutions was the Church.  

In Building the Cycling City you will not find great ideas to try out in your church, in fact churches are rarely ever mentioned, that not what this book is about.  Nevertheless, I invite you to read this book with the underlying question: who are the streets for where my church or house or apartment is located?  Without giving any thought you will say they are for cars silly. 

But what if they were for people first and cars last?  This book will show what that could look like.  Read this book as a thought experiment, as a way to expand your thinking about what is possible in your city (and in your church).  You will find small ideas that make huge impacts and big ideas that make gigantic impacts.  Too many times pastors and church leaders accept the way things are without ever challenging the paradigm, without ever dreaming of how things could be.  Sometimes we need to look beyond our discipline as a way to refresh our imagination.  I think this book is an excellent way to do just that.  

Treat yourself to 15 minutes and 35 seconds to see what I'm talking about.  View this short film about the World's Cycling City: Gronigen, Netherlands.

Groningen: The World's Cycling City from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Isn't that amazing!  Keep on watching other Streetflims offerings, read this book, and start dreaming of a more human-centric church...

The second book on the subject of streets is Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America by Angie Schmitt (another Island Press book).  

Reading this book was like reading all of the parables of Jesus in real time: people dying on the road and lawmakers largely ignoring suffering and deaths.  

Like the other book, you will not gain any fantastic sermon illustrations, but you will start to ask in your mind who are the roads for?  What if our neighborhoods were more human-centric than car-centric?  But if you read this book in one hand and in the other highlighted all of the mentions of roads and walking in the Bible you would see the two converge. 

Be honest, Have you ever walked from your living space to your church?  (those who live in parsonages next door you do not have to answer. speaking of which, one parsonage in Hinton, WV has a tunnel from the parsonage to the church, no foolin').  Have you noticed and talked with those who walk your streets? Not just those walking their dogs, but those walking to work or back from the grocery store.  What are the bus stops like in your neighborhood?  Are they lighted? Heated?  How long are the walking lights at the crosswalks in your neighborhood?  

How familiar are you with Vision Zero?  Has your church ever talked about Vision Zero goals for your neighborhood?   Or, maybe you're like me and never heard of Vision Zero until l read this book.  So what is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero has proved successful across Europe — and now it’s gaining momentum in major American cities.

Now to stretch your vision a little more...imagine the streets in the neighborhood of your church where the hierarchy looked like this: 

or like this:

or like this:

How would adopting this hierarchy change your church?  Your ministry?  Your view of the neighborhood?