Letting Go and Saying Goodbye to the Front Porch

Dearest Friends,
 
It’s become clear to me over the past few months of personal discernment that the Front Porch has run its course and given its gift. As has been famously said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
 
We’ve had a great run and a grand adventure in missional ministry over the past decade! We’ve accomplished so much: with hundreds of events in dozens of different venues all over Austin, we’ve connected with so many thoughtful and creative people outside the walls of the church. Be assured, The Front Porch has given All Saints’ and the Diocese of Texas a great reputation in the wider community.
 
I have no doubt that the Front Porch will continue as an idea and brand—as a way of thinking, really. But I believe it’s now time for the vestry and board to officially dissolve the Front Porch as a 501c3 nonprofit. I have a profound appreciation and gratitude for the thousands of great souls who have contributed to and participated in the Front Porch since its 2009 inception (see the bottom of this newsletter for a complete list).
 
By letting go of the Front Porch, I’m freed up to be more focused as a part-time assistant at All Saints’ during All Saints’ interim period. Moreover, letting go of the Front Porch also gives me the chance to serve as the part-time director of development for Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT). I’ve also been helping our Fiji neighbors across the street to be more involved in community service; indeed, just before Covid-19, I worked with them to fund and build two new mini-homes for folks who are homeless at the Community First Village.

Stephen Kinney saying bye with a smile

As I begin this new chapter, please know how grateful I am for the chance I’ve had to serve as the director of the Front Porch. It’s been an amazing and fruitful journey!
 
Gratefully yours,
Stephen   

Thanks all who participated in THE EASTER VIGIL on April 11th
with Sam BakerCarrie Elkin, and Danny Schmidt!

CLICK HERE  to see the virtual Easter Vigil on ZoomIn lieu of the 5th Annual Easter Vigil that was scheduled for Sam’s Town Point on April 11th, we hosted a very simple and intimate Zoom conversation with live songs from Sam BakerCarrie Elkin, and Danny Schmidt.We were marking the in-between times: between cross and empty tomb, between fear and courage, silence and word, hate and love, darkness and light, social distancing and getting back together.
A PERSONAL THANK YOU 
Dearest Partners,

I have so many of you to thank for your help and participation on the porch over the years. With the help of each and every one of you, we were able to have a grand adventure together.
 
In the ongoing dialogue on the Front Porch, we found practical faith and compassionate partners in the real world, and one would have a hard time finding a community that has brought together so many different and enriching people from all over Central Texas and beyond. The people who’ve been on the porch constitute a virtual “who’s who” of creative, thoughtful, loving, and beautiful souls.
 We hosted special colloquies with influential thinkers, activists, and artists, including Krista Tippett; Michael Morton; Kirk Watson; Turk Pipkin; Ray Benson; Temple Grandin; James Alison; Pete Rollins; Becca Stevens; Coleman Barks; Carrie Newcomer; Stephen Mills; Bishop Jack Spong; Evan Smith; Ross Ramsey; John Philip Newell; Micky Scott Bey Jones; James Smith; Randy Woodley; Steve Adler, and so many more.We supported other nonprofits and have hosted benefits and events for Slow Food and sustainable agriculture, for women in prison, for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, for people with disabilities, for military veterans suffering from moral injury, for people who are homeless, for native Americans, for the Deep Dive Artist Cooperative, for Black Lives Matter, for The Hearth Story Tellers, for Interfaith Action of Central Texas, Plant with Purpose, etc. We raised over $20,000 to support school children in Loro Village, Uganda; we’ve hosted conversations on human sexuality, environmental degradation, immigration, healing from toxic political and religious discourse, racial privilege and oppression, LGBTQ prejudice against LGBTQ persons, homelessness and veterans’ issues, bigotry against Muslims, etc.We hosted these programs and events in venues all over Austin: Boggy Creek FarmsThe Victory Grill (thank you Clifford Gillard), All Saints’ Episcopal Church, The North Door, Presbyterian Seminary Chapel, Scholz GartenUniversity of TexasAustin Playhouse, The Brass HouseOpal Divines, Austin Ale HouseSam’s Town PointSt. David’s and Resurrection Episcopal churches, Texas French Bread, etc.We hosted dozens of Austin musicians through our “Unplugged on the Front Porch” and “Pub Church” tracks: Eliza Gilkyson, Ray Benson, Jimmy LaFave, Guy Forsyth, Gina Chavez, Slaid Cleaves, Radney Foster, Israel Nash, Dave Madden, Kevin Russell, Darden Smith, Danny Schmidt, Carrie Elkin, Raina Rose, The Peterson Brothers, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, Bill Kirchen, Matt the Electrician, Tish Hinojosa, Sara Hickman, Paul Finley,  Sam Baker, Walt and Tina Wilkins, John Pointer, Robert Harrison, Billy Tweedie, Shawnee Kilgore, Drew Pressman, Kalu James, Curtis McMurtry, Ashley Monical, The Flyin’ A’s, Bobby Kallus, Chip Dolan, Noelle Hampton, Justin Stewart, Ali Holder, Will Taylor, Saul Paul, Philip Marshall Trio, David Ansel and the Mazel Tov Cocktail Hour, Mother Falcon, Jimi Calhoun, David Pulkingham, Nelo, Woody Russell, Betty Soo, David McDonald and Steel Betty, Stephen Doster, Andrew Crosby, Ulrich Ellison, Andy Barham, Charlie Pierce, Darrion “ChiTown” Borders, Carter Beckworth, Fran McKendree, Darius Jackson, Serafia Jane, Drastik,  Duane Carter, Suzanna Choffel, Jesse Greendyk and The FoundriesRiders Against the Storm, Magna Carda, Erin Ivey, Wendy Colonna, Chucky Black, Aimee Bobruk, Jeremy Nail, Michael Fracasso, Christine Albert, Ruby Jane, Jimmie Dale and Colin Gilmore, Ley Line, Justin Stewart, Michael Mordecai, Josh Dodds, Michael Fontenot, Stephen Smith, Stan Coppinger, et al.We hosted intimate conversations through Pub Church (with many interviews by NPR’s John Burnett), including Kirk Watson, J. Pittman McGehee, Kristin Neff, Rabbi Neil Blumofe, Lawrence Wright, Stephen Harrigan, Michael Benedikt, William Inboden, Meredith Walker, Corban Addison, Ed Clements, Gregory Eaton, Dave Scheider, David Gaines, Lynn Goodson-Straus, Art Acevedo, Lee Leffingwell, Tom Spencer, Ora Houston, Ariana Brown, Donna Howard, Katherine Lott, Jeremy Schwartz, Andrew O’Brien, Ben Philpott, Johnny Meyer, Caroline Boudreaux, Allison Orr, Valerie Foulks, Larry Speck, Flint Sparks, Jesse Sublett, Jimi Calhoun, Victor Emanuel, Jesse Griffiths, Michael O’Brien, Jared Dunton, Jane Patterson, Tony Baker, Scott Bader-Saye, Steven Tomlinson, David Peters, Art Markman, Chikako Nichols, Muna Husseini, Paul Woodruff, Matson Duncan, John Lee, Bavu Blakes, Frank Richardson, Marla Camp, Chris Searles, Judy Maggio, Simone Talma Flowers, Walter Moreau, Alan Graham, Guner Arslan, Paul Reed, Michael Barnes, Will Coates, Tim Klatt, Gena Davis, Federico Archuleta, Humberto Perez, Carl Settles, Adriene Mishler, Ben Wright, Mike Clawson, JC Shakespeare, Raphael Travis, Glenn Smith, Lize Burr, Doug Jaques, Chris Hyams, Lars Nielson, Randy Jewart,  and so many others.     We held a “Crisis in Music–Austin Edition” symposium with Jazz historian Ted Gioia; panelists–moderated by John Burnett–included Mayor Steve Adler, Harold McMillan, Eve Monsees, John Mills, Will Bridges, Nicole Bogatz, and Jennifer Houlihan.We hosted special events on a vast array of urgent issues and topics, including: spirituality and worldview, human trafficking, reverence and interfaith relations, race relations, apocalyptic thinking and conspiracy theories, youth culture, storytelling and film, politics and pluralism in the public square, death and dying, political division, Confederate statues, scapegoating violence, the nature of compassion and beauty, monological ideologies, etc.; we’ve held Iftar Dinners during Ramadan, hosted four public Easter Vigils, hosted an interfaith Hanukkah service, hosted several “Film Churches”, helped launch the 1st New Story Festival at Huston-Tillotson, and so much more.  
It has been a rich and edifying experience of connecting to the best and brightest of Austin’s culture. Yet none of it would have happened without the love and support of the volunteers, staff and board members who have served The Front Porch since 2009. It goes without saying that The Front Porch has been nothing if not a collaborative community of dedicated souls who have partnered together to bring loving attention to things that matter and to introduce folks to the amazing people who make Austin special. Along the way, we’ve tried to model a way of thinking that is dialogical, not ideological, and as a result, those of us who’ve been on the porch over the years have had the chance to experience real communion with others.My heart overflows with gratitude for the friends and colleagues who helped develop the porch in its earliest days: Jimmy Bartz, Todd Fitzgerald, Frank Richardson, Sherman Beattie, Roy Bellows, Craig Kinney, Pittman McGehee Jr., Trent Tate, Miles Brandon, Patrick Hall, Bert Baetz, John Newton, and many others. Thanksgiving goes out to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas for their early funding support and to Bishop Andy Doyle, who included The Front Porch in one of his books on missional communities. We’ve had an astonishing group of staff members and volunteers: special thanks goes to Patricia Boyce for her founding vision and tireless support (and for her son, Jacob Williamson); for Kelly Koonce, who was such a fine colleague in the early days when we launched “The Sunday Salon” at the Victory Grill; for Tito Kohout, whose unique perspective on culture deepened our programming; for Riley Jackson Webb, who became my spiritual son over the four years we co-created some singular Front Porch events that deepened our community (I miss Riley every day).

We give a huge shout out to volunteers and donors like Will Camfield, Anya Opshinsky, Serena Adlerstein, Blake Naleid, Cam Rogers, Merrill Wade, Kevan and Donna Webb,  Philip Marshall, Stacy Erlich, Liz Williams, Stephen and Robin Edmonds, Gregory Free, Betsy Sammon, Edward Abili, Phil DeFalco and Charlotte Frazier, Jill Walker, Jess Hughes, Sheena Wendt, Mary Jo and Steve O’Neal, Jon Deckard and Iris Davis, Kelly Barnhill, Scott and Susan Baker, Ruth Arbuckle, Dan and Paula Herd, Ramsey Midwood, David Lumpkins, Kevin Schubert, Christian Hawley, Randy Langford, Todd and Diana Maclin, Trey Kiel, Heather Wagner, Josh Tatkin, Jeff Hammond and St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Luci Johnson and Ian Turpin, Catherine and Linda Robb, Clark and Mimi Parris, Robbie Sherfy, Bill and Craig Kinney,  and SO MANY others–especially my dear wife Gwen who was with me every step of the way.I’m humbled with wonder for all who’ve served so faithfully on the Board, and especially for All Saints’ Episcopal Church for their providing office and performance space, volunteers, and financial support. Thank you Mona Myers, Jerry LaPorte, Anita Barrick, Marvin Jones, and many others. The Front Porch simply wouldn’t have happened without the support of All Saints’ former rector, Mike Adams–Mike was a formative influence and made “doing the porch” so much fun. Our board members, former and current, mean more than can be imagined, and they get the last word: Heather and Martin Kohout, Betsy Gerdeman, Terry Heller, John Burnett, Michelle Carlson, David Saenz, Molly Sharpe, Julia Howry, Lucy Nazro, Cindie Brooks, Walt Persons, Neil Blumofe, Billy Tweedie, Tim Klatt, Erin Mesick, Judy Myers, Matt Dow, Mark Winter, Lane Hensley. What a long, strange, and oh so beautiful journey.

With immense gratitude,
Stephen Kinney
The beautiful and amazing Riley Jackson Webb. No doubt about it, he lives on!

Virtual Easter Vigil 2020: songs and talk about waiting and beauty

From the artistic soul of Sam Baker

In lieu of the 5th Annual Easter Vigil that was scheduled for Sam’s Town Point on April 11th, we’re very excited to mark this time with a very simple and intimate Zoom conversation with live songs from Sam Baker, Carrie Elkin, and Danny Schmidt. Stephen Kinney will moderate. It is scheduled for this Saturday with a start time at 7:57pm, sunset.

This is free and open to the first 300 who can join us via the live virtual link. To join us this Saturday evening, just join by using this Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/105130651
(If a Meeting ID is needed: 105 130 651)

Here is the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/232690131263522/

While this is a free offering to mark a holy night, please make a donation to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians–our local musicians need our support in this time of uncertainty. https://myhaam.org/
——-
We’re marking the in-between times: between cross and empty tomb, between fear and courage, silence and word, hate and love, darkness and light, social distancing and getting back together.

Please join us!

Transitions!

Dear Friends,

It’s become clear to me over the past few months of personal discernment that the Front Porch has run its course and given its gift. And it’s been a great run and grand adventure in missional ministry over the past decade! I have no doubt that the Front Porch will continue as an idea and brand—as a way of thinking, really. But I believe it’s now time for the vestry and board to officially dissolve the Front Porch as a 501c3 nonprofit.

In the meantime, I’ve accepted a position as director of development for Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT). I am also helping the Fiji fraternity across the street to be more involved in community service—over the next few months they will be paying for and building two new mini-homes for folks who are homeless at the Community First Village.

At All Saints’, I’ll continue assisting with the Sunday liturgy, with pastoral care and with teaching programs, like the Lenten Catechumenate class, the Bailey Lectures, and the adult forum on Sunday mornings. We’re also discussing how I might help support our outreach ministries, especially Loaves and Fishes and Home Cooked Fridays. My primary office hours will be on Mondays and Thursdays.

As I begin this new chapter, please know how grateful I am for the chance I’ve had to serve as the director of the Front Porch at All Saints’. It’s been fun and fruitful!

Gratefully yours,

Stephen   

When I’m Sixty-Four

When I began to do the Front Porch in earnest, I was about 53. Now I’m 64. 64 is an auspicious number, even before the Beatles made it so famous: it’s the square of 8, the cube of 4 and the sixth power of 2; it’s the total number of squares on a chessboard.

The normal age for retirement in Texas is 65. So I’m on a cusp of sorts. I don’t know about the retirement part, but I’m excited about getting older–even as I’m aware that there is a lot more sand at the bottom of my hourglass than at the top. Life is palpably more precious now. And there is more rank gratitude.

At the start of a new year and new decade, I’ve been musing about the life I’ve lived for the past 11 years, ever since we began hosting Front Porch events and building the Front Porch community. On reflection, I’m astonished by all the amazing people in Austin that I’ve had the chance to meet and know and collaborate with on the porch! And we’ve done some very cool things–week in, week out; year in and year out.

Now, as I contemplate the future of The Front Porch, I’m going to embark on a new experiment. First, starting with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th, I’m going on a fast of sorts: no alcohol, no sugar, and few carbs until Easter. During that time, I’ll be resetting my intentions, keeping a journal, and reading deeply. Mostly, I’ll be opening myself up to the Spirit, waiting on God. That’s the experiment.

Of course I’ll also be doing other things…helping at All Saints’ and Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT). And I’ll be keeping my ears to the railroad, listening for the next assignment on The Front Porch.

Stephen W. Kinney, Executive Director of The Front Porch

Last Pub Church of the Year: Front Porch Celebration and Christmas Party

Rembrandt on Incarnation

Please join us at Scholz Garten on December 15th, 5:30-7pm, for a spirited end of the year Christmas celebration of the Front Porch.

We’re blessed to have Pittman McGehee, Sr. riff with us on the mystery of the season. Wendy Colonna and Erin Ivey will lead us in singing carols.

Pittman McGehee

Porch Time in November

Back in the days before Google conquered the earth and enslaved its people, families would sit on their front porches in the evenings and discuss the news of the day. Wandering neighbors and strangers would join those conversations and the strangers became new friends.

The internet keeps us connected 24/7. But are Facebook updates and 140-character tweets really an acceptable replacement for face-to-face conversation?

Margaret Mead was a cultural anthropologist who lived from 1901 to 1978. She authored 20 books, received 28 honorary doctorates and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Margaret valued and loved her front porch days, saying, “No society has ever yet been able to handle the temptations of technology… We have to use our scientific knowledge to correct the dangers that have come from science and technology.”

Our Front Porch Project may be an impossible dream in these painfully divided times, but when you learn to “think globally yet act locally,” we trust the value of human connection in the stormy sea of technology and strive to provide gathering places where ideas are exchanged, conversations begin and friendships blossom–the kind of place where Margaret Mead and James Michener and Stevie Ray Vaughn would come.

Margaret Mead left us this word of encouragement: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Join a conversation, attend a Front Porch event, volunteer some time or make a tax-deductible donation to keep The Front Porch in the here and now.

I want to call your attention to five important events in November:

  1. November 12Logos Collective with Nick Courtright and Kimbol Soques @ Lazarus Brewing, 7:15
  2. Pub Church at Scholz Garten on November 17th (5:30-7pm) with Dr. Kristin Neff and musician Wendy Colonna. Dr. Neff is at the forefront of the “self-compassion” movement, an approach towards self-development that goes way beyond self-esteem: it’s a way of understanding self and others that has been adopted by world leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Brene Brown. Wendy is one of Austin’s most popular troubadours, with her swampy, Cajun soul.
  3. Bailey Lectures: November 21, 23-24. This year’s Bailey offers perhaps the finest cultural thought leader we have ever hosted—Dr. Steven Shankman! See details in this newsletter.
  4. November 24—Interfaith Action of Central Texas (IACT) annual day of thanksgiving @ Riverbend, 3pm. This is hosted by the great Hindu community.

It’s Time to Get Back on the Porch!

It’s time to get talking on the Front Porch again

While we’re still grieving the loss of our dear friend and Front Porch associate, Riley Jackson Webb, we’re confident that Riley would LOVE our upcoming fall season. And so…the Front Porch is proud and excited to announce the return of Pub Church at Scholz Garten on October 6th! It will be so fine to be back together with the beloved community–those curious, open, and eager to reconnect through art, music, questioning, and communion with so many different others!

On October 6th, we’re hosting Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather renown to talk about his life quest as a human being through the perennial wisdom of China, particularly the I Ching Book of Changes. Robert has written and will play some amazing songs that interpret this uncanny wisdom in a way that will excite and inspire new ways of thinking about our quest to partner with God and each other for common good, across all the usual divides.

This inaugural Pub Church reunion launches us into the fall season! And it’s a great season with some amazing people who will inspire us to engage in conversation and dialogue about living more loving lives. Here is the line-up for the rest of October (check details in our Calendar):

+ October 13: Pub Church with theologian Tony Baker with Dave Madden

+ October 20: Unplugged on Front Porch concert with Carrie Newcomer

On any good front porch worth its salt, a spirit of compassion, humor, openness, and honesty prevails. These are the conditions for the kind of dialogue that builds community and inspires friendships across our cultural, political, and religious differences. Yet traditional front porches in our culture are disappearing. Our apps and social media remind us only of our own beliefs and allow us to ignore or dismiss those of the other. That’s what we’re up against. Let’s ditch our screens and start the edifying conversations. Hope to see you on the porch!

Practical Hope for Widespread Malaise

Dear Friends and Partners of The Front Porch,

I’ve been watching the documentary, “World War 2: The Price of Empire.” As a student of this war, with a Dad who participated in it, WW2 has always been a terrible, but romanticized part of the fabric of my life. But through this 2015 documentary, I now find myself waking up to the horrifying fact that an estimated 70-85 million people perished in under a decade through a contagion of violence and genocide that put  the whole world under a spell of hatred and fear. It was all out: everyone had to take sides, demonize the other side, and literally fight to the death; there was no in-between.

The older I get, the more it seems that World War 2 was not that long ago. And it really happened. Those of us born into the relative security of the post-war United States can not imagine the magnitude and grief of such a war. Yet there is something in the narration of this particular series that has me thinking it could happen again. I see how the first step–demonizing others–can happen rather easily. Entrenchment follows.  I see anew how vulnerable we are and how tenuous life on the planet can be.

It now feels like there is a widespread malaise. Young people especially are feeling more stress and anxiety over climate changes. The political climate is crazy making. People are on edge. Shooters show up randomly and kill people in public places.

Lest we get overwhelmed and give fear too much attention, let’s dial it back and look for practical hope: the kind of hope, for example, that finds ways to team up with others to better protect the earth’s lungs, the rainforests; the kind of hope that comes from treating other people–especially people who look or believe differently from ourselves–with more compassion and care; or the kind of hope that emerges from the simple human connections that can follow from good music, art, or table fellowship.

By hosting programs and events in festive spaces, The Front Porch strives to offer a practical solution for the malaise wrought by too much isolation and fear and suspicion of the other. Our increasingly compartmentalized culture makes it difficult to form trusting relationships with other people who believe or live differently. What can we do? We can keep trying to cultivate a culture of dialogue and respect that promotes ways of interacting that lead to understanding, acceptance, and friendly collaboration!

Hope to see you soon on the Porch!
Stephen 
Hiroshima in 1945 (above). Hiroshima in 2019 (below)

Summer 2019: Dedicated to Bringing People into Communion through Art, Music, and Open-Hearted Conversations!

Stephen Kinney @Unplugged on The Front Porch with Sam Baker

Dear Front Porch Family,

As many of you know, my dear colleague and friend on The Front Porch, Riley Jackson Webb, died in mid-May. The past two weeks without him have been surreal and grievous, though it has been beautiful to see how Riley touched so many of us during his time with us on The Front Porch from 2014-2018. His Resurrection Party on June 1st was filled with Spirit, Beauty, and Love.

Given the fact that we didn’t know if The Front Porch was going to survive beyond this past December, our rebirth in January has been extraordinary! It has the makings of a great story, a story of grace and adventure. While we’ve had to dial some things back and are currently operating The Front Porch on a part-time basis, we’ve been able to do so much in such a short time! More than that, we’ve been able to go a little deeper and our platform continues to give us access to so many amazing and diverse people in the Austin community. Call it luck, but it’s hard not to feel it as blessing.

Moving back to Scholz Garten on Sunday evenings was energizing and we’ve had robust attendance for each of our Public House Churches, aka, Pub Church! Getting to do a 3-week deep dive with artist/musician/trickster Sam Baker was a huge gift to all. Getting to know Rabbi Neil Blumofe more personally over a couple of weeks was fun and deep. We had an especially rich time with Muna Hussaini—her conversation with John Burnett and the short documentary based on a hate crime she experienced after 9-11 made us more compassionate to the plight of the stereotyped and stigmatized. The past three pub churches have focused on immigration, as we’ve discussed the displacement of millions of people all over the planet for political, religious, economic, and climate related reasons. Thanks to guests and musicians like Glenn Smith, Dave Madden, Gavin Rogers, Bekah McNeel, Tish Hinojosa, and Aimee Bobruk, we’ve been able to face the dilemma between security and humanity and to empathize and ask more questions about how we might respond to all refugees in kindness and love.

Over the past four months, we hosted, sponsored, or participated in so many beautiful community gatherings. We hosted five contemplative communion services during Lent that reenacted the festive meals of the 1st century. We were key partners in the New Story Festival that drew over 1000 people from all over Austin at Huston-Tillotson in March. We supported the Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ HOPE Awards. We hosted an Iftar Dinner with our Muslim friends from The Dialogue Institute near the beginning of Ramadan for over 100 people.  We also lead a weekly men’s group and are in the midst of developing a Front Porch type community with college students. 

Perhaps our proudest and most transcendent happening over this spring was the 4th Annual Easter Vigil.  There were about 400 adventurous souls from all over Austin, who gathered for the Vigil at the legendary Sam’s Town Point under the oak trees on their outdoor stage. Our gathering was a sacrament of creativity and love—we went from a bonfire to a Lakota Sioux prayer, to a New Orleans’ Second-Line dirge, to Biblical stories, to a slam poem on creation, to original songs from the Shinyribs’ savant, Kevin Russell, to a “Down by the Riverside” procession with seven Episcopal priests following and sprinkling the congregation from buckets of water, to a communion for all with 10 loaves of sourdough bread.

As we wrap up yet another season of incredible experiences on the Porch, I remain so grateful to all of you for continuing to support our vision year after year. As we near twenty years of Front Porch conversations over dozens of iterations, it is truly amazing that we continue to endure, to come together, to evolve, to grow, to dream a wider spiritual existence together through open dialogue, music, art, history, philosophy, theology, and so much more. The fact that we continue to adapt and grow shows that our message is resonating: that there are many here in Austin ready to come together to celebrate the gifts that each and every person and perspective brings “to the table.”

Over the summer, I will be participating in Sunday services, planning for a new season of porch programs, collaborating with the new missioner for the Episcopal Students’ Center at All Saints’, Rev. Dr. Travis Helms and his missional community, The Logos Collective. Finally, this September, Gwen and I will be joining one of the Front Porch’s originators, The Rev. Jimmy Bartz and his family, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for three weeks to serve as the guest chaplain of the Yellowstone Chapel.
As I begin looking forward to yet another season on the Porch–talks about a next edition of Unplugged on the Front Porch with Carrie Newcomer are already in the works for October, as well as the usual pub church planning–I’ve also decided to try and do some written reflections on the Front Porch in order to spread our message further, and I am still working on the editing of a book that Riley and I were working on together over the past two years—a book written by a mentor, Rev. Sherman Beattie, whose ideas have informed the Front Porch since its inception. 

Gratefully yours, Rev. Stephen W. Kinney, PhD

Keep going, Riley!

Riley’s Obituary; Resurrection Party this Saturday

Riley Jackson Webb, October 4, 1990-May 16, 2019

Riley Jackson Webb passed away suddenly on May 16, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio, after suffering from complications of undiagnosed congenital heart disease. Riley was 28 years old. He was born on October 4, 1990, in Jackson, Wyoming, but his family moved to Texas before his first birthday. Riley spent most of his youth in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Riley grew up the only child of Kevan and Donna Webb, and he was formed in a close-knit community that placed unique emphasis on relationships, art, music, and storytelling. He found passions for acting, reading, writing, and playing music. 
Riley spent summers in both the piney woods of East Texas, where his beloved maternal grandparents lived, and in the Rocky Mountains where his beloved paternal family lived.

Riley was always infatuated with the arts, and he pursued interests in both acting and music from a young age. In high school, Riley was lead guitarist in a band with his musician friends. Playing in spots in and around Fredericksburg with the “International League of Super Pals” brought him great joy and happiness.

Riley followed his passions to Southwestern University, where he enrolled as an English major in 2009. While he served in admissions, giving prospective students tours of campus, he was also active building unique and lifelong friendships, especially with the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Riley’s door was always open, and because of his great music collection and ability to talk openly and deeply, his room was always full. At Southwestern, Riley’s final project compared jazz musicians to dialogue, and he developed the idea of jazz as the art form that most embodied spontaneous human connection and interaction.

After graduating in 2013, Riley chose to live in Austin, Texas. He got a gig guiding Segway tours, gliding through Austin with strangers-in-tow, a job that provided him with endless chances to explore his love of human interaction.

In 2014, Riley became the program director for The Front Porch, an Austin nonprofit and mission of the Episcopal Church dedicated to bringing people into communion through art, music, and openhearted conversation. Riley’s impact upon this organization and the community it serves is immeasurable. His luminous presence “on the porch” gave joy to so many.

He energized hundreds of amazing efforts and events that brought people together in a spirit of love. As the director of The Window, a Front Porch interfaith outreach program for youth, Riley helped lead the effort to raise over $20,000 to provide rubber sole shoes for students at a school in Loro, Uganda—an effort he called “Love For Loro.”

In 2017, Riley served at The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, where, as usual, he wove his way into the hearts of everyone with whom he worked.

Along this path, Riley met Jess Hughes, the love of his life. In 2018, Riley and Jess moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Jess began work on a Master of Fine Arts degree at The Ohio State University. Riley was recruited and hired to work at Quantum Health. At Quantum, Riley served as Disability Care Coordinator and Patient Advocate, in yet another position that allowed him to help others. Riley and Jess were planning to be married in the near future.

Riley will be terribly missed by every single person who ever crossed his path. His singular spirit, effervescent smile, openness to all, and love of life make his passing tragic. In life, Riley was special; in death, Riley asks us all to carry on his work of meeting people where they are, with kindness, love and understanding, every single day. Those of us who survive him are so grateful for such a consummate gift.

Riley is survived by his Parents, Donna and Kevan Webb; Grandmother Joy Richards; Aunt Monica Rosowski; Uncle Curtis and Aunt Kristy Webb; Aunt Carolea and Uncle Bruce Wright; Uncle Barry Webb; Cousins Melanie and Anna Rosowski, Kyle Richards Ross, Ian and Amy Wright, and Katharine, Clark, Alexander, Nichole and Anne Webb; his beloved Jess Hughes, and Bandit.

Riley was preceded in death by his Grandfather Bruce Richards, his Grandparents Lloyd and Barbara Webb, and his Uncle Rodney Richards.

Riley’s life will be celebrated on Saturday, June 1st, at 3:00 pm at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 209 W 27th St, in Austin, Texas. A reception will follow in the UT Student Center next door.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Riley Webb FHS Scholarship for the Arts (c/o Debbie Tiemann, Treasurer, 421 Cross Mountain Dr, Fredericksburg, TX 78624) or The Front Porch (209 W. 27th, Austin, TX 78705 or www.frontporchaustin.org)