Monday, July 21st

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy 115th birthday to Hart Crane and Ernest Hemingway. While it’s pretty astonishing that two of the modernist movement’s greatest writers were born on the same day, it’s not so surprising that a lot of you made it to Parable yesterday (how’s that for a segue?), where we heard real wisdom about hope and despair from Evan Smith; check out TWC News’ video for one of many viewpoints. Don’t forget that Parable is on for next month with Turk Pipkin, too.

We’ve also got some big news here on the Porch, but I’m under strict orders not to disclose it. Suffice it to say that, after a semi-aestivation in which we’ve entered a cocoon of self-examination and planning, we’re getting closer and closer to emerging and spreading our wings as something a little bit different. Stick around, and stay attuned to metamorphosis, both in the Front Porch and in the universe at large.

Monday, July 14th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy Bastille Day. To celebrate the breaking open, both literally and figuratively, of an oppressive French regime, we’ve schedule a very appropriate Parable. Come by Opal Divine’s Penn Field to hear Evan Smith, journalist extraordinaire and founder of the non-partisan Texas Tribune, interviewed by NPR’s incomparable John Burnett. Our own Rev. Dr. Steve Kinney will celebrate the non-denominational service, and Dave Madden will curate the live music.

It’s also the two hundred and twenty-fourth anniversary of the Priestley Riots, in which a mob burned Joseph Priestley’s Birmingham home to the ground. Priestley was one of England’s great polymaths: he discovered oxygen (which he called “dephlogistated air”); his grapplings with various metaphysical quandaries, notably the unification of science and religion, greatly influenced utilitarianism; he wrote over a hundred and fifty works, including a seminal book on English grammar; he was a Dissenting (or non-Church of England) clergyman; and he was a supporter of toleration of religious and political dissent. As an outspoken supporter of the French revolution, he was targeted by a mob, whipped up by political opponents, which burned down his house and forced him to flee to London. His persecution didn’t end, and he eventually emigrated to Pennsylvania. As one of the true spiritual forbears to the Front Porch, he attempted to synthesize science, spirituality, and everyday life with a spirit of toleration and open communication. While we generally remember July 14th as Bastille Day, a day for freedom and celebration, let’s not forget that just a year later, it led to paranoia, arson, and terror for one of England’s most distinguished thinkers.

Monday, July 7th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy canonization day of Mother Frances Cabrini, the first American citizen to achieve Catholic sainthood. Just as canonization is a public recognition of service, we’ve been recognized too, although in a slightly different way: check out Patrick Beach’s article about Parable in the Austin-American Statesman. And hey, why not swing by on Sunday the 28th for the next round of Parable, this time with the redoubtable Evan Smith? Just think of how great it’ll be to say that you were into Parable before it got popular.

Monday, June 30th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy Theobald of Provins Day. In honor of Theobald’s collectivist spirit, we’d like to share with you our new online home. Thanks to Clint “Happy” Hagen at A Third Way, we have a spiffy new website. Come on in, look around, and tell us what you think. And hey, mark your calendars now for Parable on July 20th; it’s going to be the indefatigable Evan Smith talking with John Burnett.

Monday, June 9th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. First off, a big thank you to Kirk Watson, John Burnett, Dave Madden, Opal Divine’s Penn Field, and everyone who came out for Parable yesterday. We sure enjoyed singing, worshipping, and just hanging out with you. Let’s do it again some time.

As we’ve mentioned before in this space, the Front Porch is fixing to enter a summer-long transition period. We’re going to take a long, hard look at what we’re doing, and we’re going to figure out how to do it better, to emerge from our pupation as a fully-developed organism. If you’d like to be a part of this process, email us, call us, or drop by the office. Or email us, call us, or drop by the office if you just want to talk about Mikhail Bakhtin’s influence on Claude Lévi-Strauss or something.

Today is the sixty-eighth birthday of Deyda Hydara. The Gambian journalist founded the independent newspaper The Point, which was frequently critical of the Gambia’s hostile media environment. His tireless work in exposing government corruption was cut short ten years ago. He was murdered by an unknown gunman while driving home from work. His murder remains unsolved, although whispers persist that the Gambian government was behind the assassination. It’s people like Deyda Hydara, who improve their communities so much with so little recognition from the world at large, who inspire the Front Porch’s mission. We hope that our efforts to root out the darkness of ignorance bear fruit and inspire others to stand together, despite their differences.

Why I Front Porch: Michelle Carlson

Are you looking for more reasons to be a part of the Front Porch? Board member Michelle Carlson has you covered.

“I think a culture is at its healthiest when its people are highly engaged with one another in friendships, businesses, worship, neighborhoods, politics, etc. Investing in these relationships in a respectful manner – equally listening to and sharing ideas – it provides more opportunity for social growth and maturation. Adding an artistic element to the experience intrinsically deepens the dimensions to consider. The Front Porch is an incubator for all of this – it brings together people, dialogue and art in a respectful environment and gives rise to conversation that transcends our daily boundaries. I’m all over that…”

Monday, June 2nd

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy two hundred and seventy-third birthday to Martha Washington. To commemorate such a momentous occasion (or really, because it’s a serendipitous occurrence), Kirk Watson is going to be our guest preacher at Parable this Sunday. This is a pretty cool thing, since we’ll get to hear about how he’s maintained his faith through a battle with cancer, various political offices, and family life.

It’s also Freddy Adu’s birthday today. Some of you–specifically, those who are hopeless sports trivia nerds, which is me–might remember him. He sprang fully-formed from the head of the American soccer consciousness, it seemed, rather than being born and raised by humans. He signed a contract with the professional team DC United when he was fourteen. Destined to be the US’s greatest ever player, he was dubbed “the next Pelé” and feted as the man to lead the stars and stripes to World Cup glory. Over the next several years, he bounced around teams in the US, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, and England.

There is a lot of despair in the story of Freddy Adu: the early promise unrealized, the failure of the anointed messiah, the apathy towards his slide into irrelevance. He’s not contracted to a team now, and seems likely to fade away to whatever hidden realm our deities enter when they’ve been ground down and used up. He’s too old, washed up, a has-been. Today, he turns twenty-five.

I don’t know if this story is about the burden we placed on a kid that he ultimately couldn’t bear. I don’t know if it’s about some kind of twisted American dream. I do know that it’s about treating people as if they are something not human. I do know that this story is about us, which is bad, because a person’s story should be about that person.

Why I Front Porch: Lucy Nazro

Ever wonder why Front Porch board member and Austin educator/legend Lucy Nazro does the Front Porch? Well, here’s your answer.

‘I am on The Front Porch board because I believe its mission is consistent with what the Church should be doing on our 21st century world. The Front Porch is moving from the walls of the sanctuary into the world, meeting people where they are through music, conversation, and dialog. The Front Porch is welcoming to all, open to new ideas, and ready to take risks. In a time when churches are shrinking rather than growing, I believe it is imperative to try new ways to engage people who are seeking a spiritual dimension in their lives through non-conventional means. Diana Butler Bass describes these seekers: “They wanted a different kind of Christianity than that of their childhoods, but they still wanted to connect with the Christian tradition. They wanted the Bible, prayer, and worship. They wanted open, non-judgmental, and intellectually generous community. They wanted to serve and change the world.  And they wanted it all to make sense in a way that transformed their lives.” I believe these are some of the people that the Front Porch ministry would attract.  I truly hope so.’

So there you go. Why do you Front Porch?

Monday, May 26th

Happy Memorial Day, Front Porchers. Hope yall are enjoying the day off if you have it off, although the weather in Austin may preclude some traditional Memorial Day activities. Our first order of business on this Monday is to thank everyone, particularly Becca Stevens, who made Elephant in the Room possible this past Thursday. If you’re interested in keeping the conversation going, give us a holler.

We’re not really taking our foot off the gas, though: in a couple of weeks, on June 8, we’ll host Parable at Opal Divine’s Penn Field at 5:30. By now, many of you know what to expect: Steve’s earnest and open officiating, John Burnett‘s insightful questions, and Dave Madden‘s wonderful music. Our guest preacher this week is Kirk Watson, state senator of the 14th district. As a father, cancer survivor, former Austin mayor, and–according to the Texas Monthly–one of the state’s best legislators, Kirk’s thoughts on a life of service are not something you want to miss.

Monday, May 19th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We’ve got a big week coming up: Becca Stevens, an expert on human trafficking and general superstar, is going to speak on Thursday at St. David’s to cap off our all-day Elephant in the Room event. This is a pretty big deal, so please help us make this happen by going here and donating. If you give $200 or more, you can even join us on Wednesday evening for dinner with Becca and some of our team members.

letterfrombirminghamjailIt was fifty-one years ago today that the New York Post Sunday Magazine published Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” As we gear up for Elephant in the Room and a close look at the horrors of sex trafficking, one of the lines in that letter jumped out at me: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The Civil Rights movement in this country, while past its heyday, is still ongoing. Indeed, it’s bigger than it ever has been. In the past, racial desegregation was a central, unifying goal. Its import has not declined, but now, we know that we don’t just face a single evil, but a whole array of evil: racism has been joined by sexism, homophobia, classism, and a great host of others. But the leader of this collection of specters is apathy. It’s so easy to see evil and ignore it, or just say to yourself, “That’s terrible,” and then put it from your mind. With this event, we’re going to shine a light on something foul and wrong and attack it until it’s gone. Don’t do the easy thing, which is to click like or nod to yourself, then let it fade from your thoughts as you go about your day. Acknowledge your place in this network of mutuality. Accept the responsibility you hold, by virtue of being a person, to your fellow people. Remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.